back to article Look, no handsets: How to do telephony without a phone

As I sit at my desk, I have two phones in front of me. One is a cordless Panasonic that talks to a base station via the DECT protocol, and thence to the public phone network via a knackered old piece of copper that broke the other day. The other is a snazzy mobile number with a picture of a piece of fruit on it and the ability …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    What is that handset in the picture?

    Boss man wants to know...

    Aha - google image search to the rescue...

  2. MJI Silver badge

    A few thoughts.

    Is it JCB again?

    Fruity phones, why did I think of Blackberry first?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Was this article just to, as we say here, "encher chouriços" (literal translation:fill sausage), or to mention Mitel, Apple and Microsoft?

    1. xj25vm

      Re: Uh?

      I'm afraid the Reg does sometime publish filler articles like this - written from the lofty heights of glancing over a bunch of spec sheets and manufacturers marketing blurb. No smell of greasy hands anywhere in sight (yes, pun intended). All is well and good in the world of theoretical stuff. In practice, a lot of stuff works nothing like the manufacturer advertises, a lot of stuff is full of extremely annoying bugs, a lot of stuff is utter non-sense in practice (in most companies it is just not practical to use a softphone on a computer - it just wouldn't fit at all with the employees workflow - unless it is a call centre). Also, you have to worry about practicalities - such as manufacturers promising the moon - and then 2-3 years down the line discontinuing features or entire products because it doesn't suit *their* business plans - who cares that you are stuck with a pile of expensive but unsupported junk. Also, plenty of other important considerations - such as Exchange providing full integration for various services - but actually being a steaming pile of hodge-podge pieces lumped together over the years - which require a whole team of sysadmins to keep in check and monster hardware to do the simplest tasks.

      Yes, at the coal face things look very, very different compared to fluffy airline magazine articles.

  4. Warm Braw

    Anywhere in the world

    Good luck with that.

    You may be able to get around SIP's default hostility to NAT and the distant (possibly mobile or totalitarian state) network's hostility to data that isn't HTTP if you go to the trouble of establishing a VPN (assuming said distant network permits), at which point you'll run afoul of the traffic shaping and network latency that turns any attempt at conversation into an exchange of whalesong.

    Meanwhile, the "proprietary plastic thing" will achieve the basic necessities of communication with little intervention - apart from dialling the number and footing the possibly excessive bill.

    VoIP can work well in a carefully-controlled environment. On the "anywhere in whe world" scale, though, it's a poor trade of cost against quality and convenience.

    1. Preston Munchensonton

      Re: Anywhere in the world

      'On the "anywhere in whe world" scale, though, it's a poor trade of cost against quality and convenience.'

      Cost is relative. If you have a really old series of key systems that aren't supported and don't include any IP phones, you'll be hard pressed to keep costs down without the approach described. Vendors like Cisco and Mitel aren't making bank on their IP's the desksets that drive the cost through the roof. Given the proliferation of mobile phones and wifi, it makes a lot of sense to give people options and take steps to keep costs from spiraling out of control.

  5. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Voip and softphone at work, which is fine until someone issues a short notice forced reboot.

  6. Bronek Kozicki

    SIP made small and easy

    I also have "cordless Panasonic that talks to a base station via the DECT protocol, and thence ..." except that this base station TGP500 connects to my service provider's SIP server and is capable of handling 3 calls concurrently, registering 8 SIP numbers and 6 DECT handsets in the household. And, given all these capabilities, it is actually very small, cheerful and cheap unit (if bought with one handset only). It is only using standard SIP protocols. I also have not 1 phone number for people to call me, but many more - so my family and friends can call different number than various bureaucrats or work colleagues. And thanks to support for wideband VoIP protocols and ability to attach a headset using standard 2.5mm port, the call quality is really really good - it's actually my preferred way of making phone calls, especially overseas (because it's so cheap)

    The only "gotcha" is that, like all VoIP communication, it requires good internet connection and works best on public IP address (as opposed to NAT). But then, both of those are not much of a problem for me, since I'm a lucky customer of AAISP :) Feeling smug, who, me?

  7. Terry Barnes

    I don't know that you need to keep the POTS trunks - you just need public domain SIP trunks.

    Don't try and run this over a domestic broadband connection though - you'll need an uncontended service with some kind of throughput guarantee - an SDSL or EFM based product.

    1. xj25vm

      I don't know - although technically an uncontended line is better and preferable in an ideal world, I have a number of small business clients (up to 15 workstations/phones) where we run the VoIP trunks (some SIP, some IAX2) down normal, garden variety business ADSL2+ (and some sites, more recently fibre) *together* with their regular Internet traffic on the same connection - and it has been working fine at perfectly acceptable quality levels for years. Yes, all this is passed through a carefully configured Linux server doing QoS. But it is perfectly feasible - even on 6mbs/500kbs ADSL at some sites. It is amazing how far technology can be stretched if appropriate tools are used and enough expertise and testing is applied to the matter in hand.

  8. Daedalus

    In the closet

    I once showed up at a small satellite office to do an install.

    I was shown the office server, inside a coat closet with little or no ventilation. The temperature inside was like the Sahara. I called head office and they said not to bother.

    That's what your vision of computer telephony is up against: hardware abused by idiots.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The one thing that clunky plastic things have over all the software is the simplicity. How quick and easy is it to pick up the lump of plastic and start talking.... then put it back down and ....well....nothing else to do.

    I have found using soft phones on my laptop (even Skype) is fine when I am in a private location and I can shout at my laptop and don't care who hears my conversation. However, when I am engaged in more private discussions - my wife, kids, top secret work stuff or the highly paid phone sex line - I need to use an earpiece and microphone. So there is still a need for something to hold next to my head.

    Until we get telephones built into our hands (think Colin Farrell in Total Recall) we will still be stuck with lumpy bits of plastic to talk into.

  10. The Mole


    Combining everything onto a single network does have serious limitations though particularly if the network every fails and you want to call the IT team to tell them of that fact...

  11. k9gardner

    I still like POTS

    I sometimes still think about getting a POTS line installed at home, and wish I had it at the office as well. I just don't enjoy talking on the phone any more as the service is typically delivered today, via VoIP or whatever other protocols might be in use.

    There's that little bit of lag, always. There's that "CATNAP" sound quality (a mobile-home industry term: cheapest available technology, narrowly avoiding prosecution). To a hearing-compromised person (as more and more of us will be over the coming years), that's the worst part of it. And there's the dropouts, slapback echo and entirely dropped calls. And finally (off the top of my head) there's the security/confidentiality considerations (i.e. there is none).

    So while you can do telephony without the phone, it's just not what it could be. Compare a typical Skype PC-to-PC connection, where at least the sound quality sounds like you're sitting in the same room with the person (although there are still the lag and other problems), for the high bar of what can be achieved, and the typical cell phone to cell phone connection where every call is a series of "can you hear me now," or "excuse me," or "can you repeat that please?" for the low bar. It's a huge gap.

    The whole calling experience becomes counterproductive, frustrating, and just makes people sad instead of happy. Other than that, it's great.

  12. Christian Berger

    @The Reg want some non filler article about VoIP?

    I work at a medium sized carrier which mostly does VoIP and therefore am involved in both the carrier and the customer end of things. That means I do know a lot more about VoIP than whoever writes those filler articles.

  13. David Halko

    SIP Trunks: Will Net Neutrality put them out of business?

    Net Neutrality may put a hurting on SIP trunks over the Internet.

    "A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not engage in paid prioritization."

    Phone or Cable Company now have been given a legal way to drive Americans back to lucrative voice billing. All an ISP has to do is upgrade their Internet infrastructure slightly slower than forecasted large frame data usage until large packets/frames interferes with QoS needs of small voice (or video chat) packets. SIP over Internet and VoIP providers (Vonage, Magic Jack, etc.) will not have a legal option to purchase priority or QoS, users will flock to Carriers & Cable as quality QoS degrades, those companies may experience poor customer performance, and go out of business... current falling voice prices will stabilize & rise.

    Phone and Cable now have a way to offer high-definition video (over a dedicated, non-internet channel) which Internet providers may find it impossible to compete with. Once again, the ISP merely has to choose not to upgrade their Internet infrastructure and only upgrade their own Video delivery infrastructure.

    Video chat companies (like Microsoft and Apple) may not be able to provide a quality product, while the the ISP can provide their own "dedicated" non-internet channels! It feels like pre-internet ISDN networks all over again, maybe we'll get Video Phones like the old AT&T monopoly days!

    Amazing feat of political engineering, at the highest levels of the government, immediately after a huge election disaster - to tilt the playing field against from SIP over Internet, VoIP over Internet, Video Chat over Internet, and Video over Internet providers. With Net Neutrality, there is no longer a legal way for QoS dependent service providers to "purchase" their way out of capacity constraints.

    Capacity constraints WILL happen with 1080p, 4K, and 3D streaming! Hopefully that content will come soon, but now the new high-capacity content will most likely be guaranteed to occur over monopoly ISP providers, instead of by innovative small providers.

    When the government makes it fiscally beneficial for ISP's to delay infrastructure upgrades to the competition, in order to make more money, and in order to put competition out of business - that can't be a good thing. The opportunities for consumer abuse and innovation suppression are endless.

    I am only on page 7 of this 400 page document... not looking forward to the other "goodies". :-(

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