First look at the Obihai OBi100 VoIP device: Like the OBi110, but smaller and less expensive, and without the Line port

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17 Comments

  1. DaveSin said

    I might have missed this, but does any of the OBi ATAs support T38 protocol?

  2. DaveSin: Good grief, aren’t FAX machines and faxing EVER going to die? We have e-mail with file attachments. WHY are we still using technology that arrived on the scene back when computers occupied huge rooms and used punch cards and huge reels of magnetic tape for storage?

    Okay, I’m done now. :) But to answer your question, I don’t think so – I see no mention at all of T38 or T.38 in their documentation or in their online forums (though I may have missed it also).

  3. jb1 said

    Show us the inside!

  4. jb1, apparently you have me confused with one of those magazine sites that has a bunch of hardware geeks that love to tear into things. :) The truth is that there’s no obvious way to open either device up, and I’m not about to start breaking or tearing things looking for hidden screws.

  5. Brent said

    Correct me if I am wrong, but there shouldn’t be any problem at all with plugging a multiple handset Cordless Phone System into the OBi100 would there? Cordless phones are more popular than “wired” phones these days and if my assumption is correct, would greatly expand the functionality of the OBi100 in a typical home situation.

    Please share your thoughts on this.

  6. Brent, there’s no reason at all that you couldn’t use a cordless phone system with this device — it would work just the same as if it were plugged into a PSTN line.

  7. Gregg said

    Nice review, thanks. Any idea of when the Obi100 will come out? The Obi110 is all the rage and they can’t keep it in stock thanks to all the buzz.

  8. voip said

    Thanks for the great information. Very helpful.

  9. Cordell said

    Thanks for your excellent reviews and tutorials.

    The Obi110 reportedly requires a manual firmware update. Do you know if the new firmware for the Obi100 allows Obihai to push updates directly to its installed devices. My 2wire router conveniently takes this approach. It’s one less item to think about.

    Also, do you have any insight on what Google might do after 2011 regarding Google Voice? (The Obi110′s overwhelming popularity reflects Google Voice’s pricing: free.) Judging from comments by Google’s executives, they consider this service as a form of advertising, a way of maintaining customer goodwill and mindshare. Individuals who enjoy using the service at home for free are more likely to pay for the service at their businesses. (Google employs this same strategy in marketing Google Documents.) Sipgate echoes this mindset, offering their service free to single sip accounts, but charging when customers setup multiple sip accounts.

    The only downside with this strategy: by facilitating mass defections from traditional telecom carriers, Google disrupts the FCC’s longstanding, multibillion dollar telephone subsidies to rural carriers. In so doing, it makes it a target of FCC regulation, a fate which the company dreads. This explains why Google repeatedly states that Google Voice is only a call forwarding service. Obi’s devices make this declaration seem ridiculous.

    By the way, we have lawyers to thank for fax technology’s longevity. It is still used over e-mail scanned attachments because a signature on a fax is legally binding, unlike e-mail attachments.

  10. Cordell – both devices use the exact same firmware update mechanism. You can either update from within the ObiTALK portal, or you can download a firmware file and then upload it to the device.

    The problem with automatic firmware upgrades is that if the power is interrupted during an upgrade, it could “brick” the device. So you don’t want to do it if there’s any chance the user might not know it’s happening and pull the plug, or in the middle of a storm where the power might blink, etc. If users have to click an icon to start the update, there’s less chance of something bad happening.

    I have no more insight on Google’s plans than you or anyone else that doesn’t work for Google does.

  11. Gregg, I know this reply is a bit late but at the time you asked your question I really had no idea. Now my hope is that they will be available sometime in March, although I don’t know when. However, yesterday there was a message posted on the OBiTALK forum saying that Amazon should get some more stock of the OBi110′s in about a week, so I’m hoping the OBi100′s won’t be far behind.

  12. Cordell – In my previous reply I didn’t say anything about your comment with regard to Google Voice being only a call forwarding service. Technically, that’s exactly what it is. The fact that Asterisk and the OBi devices use technology to mimic things a human would have to do to place a calls (without any authorization to do so by Google) is something that Google really cannot control. You have to keep in mind that from the standpoint of Google Voice, they only make outbound calls — there are one-legged outbound calls, where a call comes in on one of their DID’s and they forward it to another destination, and then there are two-legged outbound calls, where you request that they call you back and call someone else and then bridge the two outgoing calls together. What the Asterisk channel drivers and the OBi device do is place the request and then hide the callback from the caller, by immediately answering the incoming call and playing a DTMF “1″ (which a human would normally be required to press to accept the call). Google should not be penalized if people use technological means to get around the limitations of their service.

    However, I do suspect that’s a reason they aren’t charging people for the service. The minute they start accepting money from “customers” for providing service, it makes their position of being “not a telephone company” a lot harder to justify. I think this is why Skype is coming under increased scrutiny, not because of their free service but because they offer their SkypeOut service and regulators start to think, “hey, if they’re making money on phone calls, we should be getting a cut of that.”

    If you’ve ever noticed (and a lot of people wouldn’t, but I would), when you call someone via Google Voice, you don’t get “real” ringing signal from the distant end. Instead, the ringing signal you hear is generated by Google Voice. They could just as easily replace that ringing signal with short advertising messages, and that would be my guess as to where they might be going eventually — but people have been speculating on things like that since the service began, and so far none of those speculations have come true.

  13. Cordell said

    Michigantel – With all due respect, I have never heard of a 2wire router being bricked, and their devices employ automatic updates from a central server. The units have their shortcomings, but vulnerability to bricking is not one of them. Most likely, they have incorporated automatic firmware update within a ROM-based BIOS and make use of checkpoints, sanity checks, file checksums and the like to ensure that their devices always can communicate with their central server and never run corrupted code.

    Conversely, when humans with very limited technical knowledge do firmware updates that encompass the device’s BIOS, bricking inevitably occurs. Hopefully, Obihai’s engineers made the Obi ATA’s foolproof; there are lots of fools like myself around. I’ve applied two BIOS updates to my iMac and was holding my breath and crossing my fingers the entire time. This explains my desire to see automatic updates in Obihai’s units.

  14. Cordell said

    Michigantel – For Google Voice, an incoming “call” is probably just an SS7 connection setup request. Google Voice’s server then looks at the database entry associated with the GV number in the request and generates one or more SS7 connection setup request messages itself, ringing one or more phone numbers or forwarding the setup request to its voicemail servers. It’s all very similar to Domain Name Server translation which Google also supports for free, (e.g. 8.8.8.8 & 8.8.4.4). In essence, Google Voice just processes SS7 messages and routes voice packets.

    In my past life, I worked in the SS7 engineering group at GTE Sprint back in the earliest days of SS7 twenty-five years ago.

  15. Cordell — just because you have never heard of something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, or cannot happen. I think that how “brick-proof” a unit is depends a lot on how much memory the unit has. I’m sure you can make any unit nearly “brick-proof” by adding ROM (which would at the very least contain a “fail safe” image capable of re-downloading the latest firmware) but then you add complexity and cost.

    However, unless I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that under no circumstances can a unit be bricked, even if there is a raging thunderstorm outside and the power is flickering like crazy, or even if I decide to unplug the unit for some reason, then I WANT TO KNOW WHEN IT’S DOING A FIRMWARE UPDATE. The Obihai people specifically tell you not to interrupt the power while it’s doing a firmware update, so there must be a risk inherent or they wouldn’t say it, and the only way I’m going to know when not to pull the plug is if I personally initiate the update.

    As a counterpoint to your assertion that auto-updates are safe — last spring Charter cable had to give a whole bunch of folks a brand new cable modem for free, plus service credit for days they could not use the Internet. Why? Because an auto firmware update that they sent out bricked a bunch of Motorola cable modems.

    So considering that auto-updates can brick a device, I’d say that your attitude toward your fellow humans is rather pessimistic. I’ll grant that people do incredibly stupid things, but most really stupid people probably won’t be trying to update the firmware on this type of device.

    Now, having said all that, I will tell you that on an OBi device’s System Management, Auto Provisioning page, it appears there actually is a way to enable Auto Firmware Updates. By default they are “Disabled”, but you can enable them to happen at “System Start” or “Periodically.” Judging from the other parameters in that section, I think it’s really intended for use by service providers, but I suppose perhaps you could use it to do what you want (don’t know for sure because I have not tried it and will not try it – it’s a feature that I do NOT want to use).

  16. Anonymous said

    thanks you for a great review but OH how i wish OBi would have made this run with 5v instead of 12v as most laptops could provide enough power from a USB port (same for the OBi110) i have run my PAP2 from a laptops USB port even though you need ethernet it would make it a ROAD WARRIOR

  17. kumar said

    Sorry I am new to VOIP, ATA, etc. Need help and thanks in advance.

    I see many people talking Obihai in context of PBX, small business, asterix, etc.

    I need a free US and India calling. Hence earlier I thought of buying NetTalk for US calls and go for “web based VOIP calls for India.

    After I saw your article and similar ones on Obihai, interested to know if Obihai will be useful in my context and how do I use it?

    Thanks

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