Review of the Obihai OBi110 VoIP device, Part 3: 911 on the cheap?

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19 Comments

  1. jet101 said

    The Obi110 has the potential to really put many of the previous ATAs to shame. I’ve been wanting a product like this for some time. The one thing that would make this thing shine, would be the ability to route a call based upon a dialplan.

    For instance, adding 911 capability is huge, but you must decide whether to make this the primary line, whereas you would not have to dial a ** prefix, but that would mean your normal Google Voice calls would require the prefix. Now, if you could have it use one of the four available lines based simply on the number dialed, that would be “da bomb”.

  2. jet101, it actually does have that capability to some degree – if you look at the first screenshot in the article (remember that you can click on most screenshots to enlarge them), you’ll note that the OutboundCallRoute string can be used exactly as you suggest. By default, 911 calls go to the Line port even if you are using Google Voice for your normal calls, and that’s because the rule that includes 911 ends in :li. As long as your needs aren’t too complex, you could place whatever routing rules you need in the OutboundCallRoute string.

    Now, the other thing you should realize is that this device has a section under the “Voice Services” item in the left-hand menu of its web interface called Gateways and Trunk Groups. In this section you can configure up to eight voice gateways and up to four trunk groups. Unfortunately this section is not yet completely documented, but in each trunk group you can have a trunk list (for example, sp1,sp2 would first try Service Provider 1, then Service Provider 2) AND a digit map, which I assume lets you select the dial patterns that will use that trunk group. By default, it appears that the following is entered in Trunk Group1:

    TrunkList: sp1,sp2
    DigitMap: (1xxxxxxxxxx|[2-9]xxxxxxxxx|011xx.|xx.)

    The possibilities for trunks are:

    SP1 = the SP1 Voice Service (with ITSP A or B)
    SP2 = the SP2 Voice Service (with ITSP A or B)
    PP1 = the OBiTALK Service
    LI1 = the PSTN Line Service on the LINE Port

    And, you can leave off the “1″, so LI (or lowercase li) is the equivalent of LI1.

    So I’m pretty sure the capability you are looking for is there, but until the next round of documentation comes out you might have to experiment a bit to find out how to use it. If you haven’t read Part 2 of this series yet, there a link in there to the online documentation, and the OBi Device Administration Guide has an entire section on Digit Map Configuration, so that alone might give you enough information to construct a simple dialplan in the OutboundCallRoute string that would do what you want.

  3. jet101 said

    Thanks so much for you response. I had not ordered one of these yet, but I’m going to do it now! I can see all kinds of possibilities for value added services on one (or more) of these. I have several Asterisk test servers running here, so I’ll be especially interested in exploring the possibilities this device offers. The wheels are already turning.

  4. Gary V. said

    Have you tried routing 911 to the pstn port? I have GV and a home phone line, as cell is weak in the trees. I would love to have one if I could get 911 to go to pstn and everything else to GV. I think you don’t even have to have phone service to be able to dial 911 on any pstn line…

    Can that be done?

    Thank you for your time and help and really like the your site

    Gary V.

  5. Gary V., not only can it be done, it’s actually the default routing for 911 on the OBi110.

  6. Gary V. said

    Looks like I’m getting one then!!!

    Thanks

    Gary V.

  7. Marcelo said

    Hi Michigantelephone.
    Gary V. said “… I think you don’t even have to have phone service to be able to dial 911 on any pstn line…”

    Could you please comment something about that?
    Thanks!
    (And thanks also for all the interesting information).

  8. Marcelo, what he’s saying is that in some areas, when you have landline phone service disconnected the phone company will still provide dial tone that can be used for two purposes: To call the phone company to order new service (in case you had it disconnected because you were moving out, and now the new owners/tenants want to order service) and to call 911. If you can do the first you most likely can do the second. However, the only problem with that is that in most places there’s no guarantee that will happen, nor that if it does happen, that it will continue indefinitely. When you disconnect service you might not be left with dial tone at all, but if you are, it might disappear as soon as the phone company needs a pair for a paying customer in your neighborhood. Also, if your pair gets damaged (squirrel decides he needs more copper in his diet and chooses your pair to provide it, or something like that) it’s not as though you can call repair service to get it fixed, since they will no longer have an account for you (that’s assuming you aren’t getting DSL service over that pair — sometimes they will provide similar dial tone as “wetting voltage” on what would otherwise be “dry loop” DSL, and obviously they’d need to maintain that pair as long as you have DSL).

    Bottom line is you may or may not still be able to call 911 if you have a pair from the phone company coming into your home, but even if it works today, that doesn’t guarantee it will work on the day you really need it.

  9. Eric said

    I am using a Cobra PhoneLynx Bluetooth Cell to Home Phone Connection System (BT 215) http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-PhoneLynx-Connection-BT-215/dp/tech-data/B0043D2IBE for 911 dialing.

  10. Jaffadog said

    I configured mappings for 911 and 411 in my obi100 using the information posted here:

    http://www.obitalk.com/forum/index.php?topic=339.0
    All the current/correct information is in the first/top post, no need to sift through the thread.

    i have 911 mapped to my local 9 digit police non-emergency number (there is no 9 digit emergency number :-( ), and the gall goes out sp1 to GV.

    and i mapped 411 to 1-800-BING-411.

  11. Jaffadog, I just want to echo your point about the correct information being in the first post. In particular, if you value your sanity, do not fall into the trap of thinking that user RonR is the resident expert on dial plans. The problem is that while his methods work sometimes, they are often NOT the most direct way, and if you are trying to learn how to do things for the first time, his methods may leave you confused.

    To put it another way, it’s like asking someone how to get from Chicago to Detroit, and while a person who knows what he’s talking about will send you up I-94 because it’s the easiest and most direct route, there’s one guy who will insist on sending you up through Wisconsin and across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and then across the Mackinac Bridge and down to Detroit from there on I-75, because in his heart he truly believes that everyone ought to go the scenic route. If you don’t know any better and follow that person’s advice, you will eventually end up in Detroit, and you will have learned a lot about Wisconsin and Michigan geography and scenery, and when you finally get there you might even think that the guy gave you good advice. But later on, when you find out that there was a much easier and faster way to accomplish the same thing, you might not be so appreciative of the guy any longer. For some reason RonR seems to have this philosophical objection to showing people how to do digit mapping directly in the PHONE settings. There may be situations where it’s not appropriate to do it there (and if you run into such a situation you are likely more of an advanced user), but for the vast majority of users that’s the easiest way to do it.

    Also, the page you mentioned was created in March, 2011, before the Expert Configuration mode of the OBiTalk portal was available. Now that it is available, I tend to suggest that people may want to use that rather than directly making changes on their Obihai device, because it allows you to make configuration changes even when you’re not at the same physical location as the Obihai device (of course you could accomplish the same thing using a VPN, but some people may not want to bother with setting up one of those). I don’t personally care if you choose to make configuration changes directly on the device itself or by using the OBiTalk portal (it’s YOUR device, after all), but I think most beginners with an OBi device would be better off staying with the portal. But RonR seems to hate the entire idea of using to OBiTalk portal for some reason, and as a general rule he won’t tell people it even exists if no one else brings it up. It just seems to me that RonR thinks his ways are the best, and that you shouldn’t even be informed that there are other, often better and more easily understandable ways to do the same thing.

    And I say all that without even getting into the way he occasionally responds to people, but that’s a whole other matter I won’t go into right now. All I am saying, as a cautionary note for new users, is that you should not automatically assume that RonR is a “resident expert” or that he is always telling you the best way to do something, because too often that’s not exactly the case.

    Al of the above is only my opinion, of course.

  12. Greg S. said

    I am getting ready to dump my landline (VoIP through AT&T U-verse) off of my U-verse account, keeping the Internet and Television. But due to piss poor AT&T cellular service in my house, I am hesitant. It sounds to me that using the OBi and GV is the way to work around this issue. Is that indeed the case? If it is, which of the OBi products (100 or 110) do I need, and can I set up the E911 (through something like CallCentric) with either of these products? Thanks (from a fellow Michigander) in advance for your response.

  13. Greg S., that is indeed the case, at least for the rest of this year. GV has not yet made any announcements about their plans for 2012. If you don’t have a landline and don’t have any other device that emulates a landline (for example, service from another VoIP provider that requires you to use their device) then an OBi100 is sufficient, though some folks don’t mind paying the extra few bucks just in case they ever have some sort of landline connectivity (or another VoIP device) someday. Each Obihai device will allow you to use up to two service providers (which may be any combination of SIP or Google Voice accounts) then IF CallCentric offers a type of service you want and they allow you to “bring your own device” then yes, you could set that up.

    Since you are in Michigan, I’ll just ask if the following statement would apply to you: I’d like to keep my existing phone number for incoming calls from folks who are used to calling that number if I could do it for free, but I’m not willing to spend any money at all to keep it. If that’s a statement you would agree with, then you should probably e-mail me privately (at the address in the right sidebar) and I can explain one possible way to hold onto your existing number, at least for a while longer. It comes with no service guarantees whatsoever, but what the heck, it’s free IF we can get it. On the other hand, if you’re willing to pay to keep your existing number and want it to be your Google Voice number then just do the double-porting trick (you port the number to some type of cell phone service, and once it’s ported there you can port it to Google Voice for $20 I think – this is described in posts on either or both of the DSLReports VoIP forum or in the OBiTALK forum, although I don’t have a specific link offhand, but use the search feature for the words/phrases “port” or “porting” and “Google Voice” and you should get some hits). The latter method is preferable if you’re willing to cough up the cash because then when you make an outgoing Google Voice call it will show “your” phone number (the one people are used to seeing when you call them). But remember, if you want to port your number away from AT&T you have to do it BEFORE you close your account with them — once you ask them to drop your phone service then your existing number is likely gone forever, if a port has not yet been completed!

  14. [...] my research, I found this great review over at michigantelephoneblog.com: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Part 3 covers how to get 911 service, which you don’t get with Google Voice. [...]

  15. [...] my research, I found this great review over at michigantelephoneblog.com: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Part 3 covers how to get 911 service, which you don’t get with Google Voice. [...]

  16. Ken Bonner said

    Lump me into the camp of those hoping that the Obi110 completely and forever puts previous ATAs to pasture.

  17. [...] service (don’t you just hate that!). A crisper introduction to some hacks on this front is in here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Published: February 10, [...]

  18. Universe said

    Do you know if you can set and configure using google voice the obi 110 in the united states, then take it to another country like Thailand, and plug it into a dsl line. Would it work to call to that number just like in the U.S.? Thanks

  19. Universe, in theory, with most providers you can take it anywhere in the world that you have a decent broadband connection and it will work. The only two things you really have to watch out for are the handful of countries that attempt to actively block VoIP (in which case you would have to use a VPN or some other form of encrypted “tunnel” back to the USA, so they can’t tell what you’re doing – however, note that doing so may be illegal in such countries), and crappy broadband connections that cause packet loss or significant delay.

    HOWEVER, Google Voice is an exception, in that if you try to connect to them from a non-US IP address, they MIGHT either reject the call entirely, or try to charge you a per-minute charge for such calls. The easiest solution I know of for that is to set up and use Bill Simon’s gateway – see:

    How to use the Simon Telephonics Google Voice gateway with an Obihai device to provide Caller ID Name on incoming Google Voice calls

    When you do that, as far as Google Voice is concerned, you are connecting from inside the USA. Therefore the call is not blocked and you are not charged extra because as far as Google Voice is concerned, the call is originating at a USA IP address. There are other possible solutions (set up your own PBX server in the USA and connect to that, or set up a second Obihai device in the USA and have it connect to Google Voice, then “slave” the device in Thailand to the one in the USA) but if you don’t mind using someone else’s server, setting up an account on Bill’s server is probably the easiest way to go.

    Note that you should still set up your Google Voice account and get it working BEFORE you leave the USA.

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