[kwlug-disc] Unlimitel/ATA pricing

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Thu Mar 12 22:44:15 EDT 2009

Insurance Squared Inc. wrote, On 03/12/2009 7:56 PM:
> Whoa, full stop.  You're saying that if I have an asterisk system, and 
> you have an asterisk system, we can call each other without paying 
> unlimitel or whoever?

Even better. If you have a soft phone, and they have a soft phone, 
voila. No costs at all. Nor directory service, even if free.

There's a few 'tricks' to this all ...

1. You have to know where the other person is. e.g. 
sip://glenn_at_insurancesquared.com. No different than your phone 
number being on a business card. sip://, or voip or voice 
glenn_at_insurancesquared.com. SkypeMe links are the same thing. 
(Replacing _at_ with the expected.) Remember, URLS - 

- which means you have to poke a hole in your firewall. Which you do 
anyways to allow incoming calls for VoIP in the first place. (Not 
strictly true. e.g. Registering.)

- this is no different than voice or video calling with live.ca, 
yahoo, or Skype. It's all the same thing. And these points apply to 
all of them.

2. Elements like FWD, many other providers, Unlimitel, Bell, Skype or 
whomever, the first primary service they're offering is a DIRECTORY. 
You sign up with them, they know you exist, people look for your 
contact information / mechanism there, just like they look you up in 
the yellow pages. When your soft phone, asterisk, ATA, or whatever, 
registers with them (voip wise), you're really just telling the 
DIRECTORY that you're connected and ready to take calls. (Like a 
trojan horse, you also open up ports / a conduit / an ip conversation 
- you phone home, as it were, from some dynamic port, so the directory 
knows how and where to get you when a phone call comes in.) [That is 
REALLY over-simplified, and not entirely accurate, but conceptually 
correct.] Some directories, having coordinated contact information 
between caller and callee, then step out of the picture - as the 
caller and callee are now talking directly. Or, you auto-forward your 
FWD or whatever account directly to yourself.

3. Elements like Unlimitel, add a second service - a commonly accepted 
identifier tied into the current universal directory system. Which is 
to say, a phone number. Everyone recognizes 519-555-1212, but not 
glennatinsurancesquared at unlimitel.ca, which equate to the same thing. 
IN EVERY WAY. (My format for the @ version there is wrong, I know, I 
can't recall the correct one at the moment.) From a user perspective, 
the fact that the real service Unlimitel is offering is a gateway for 
you from the physical POTS world into the VoIP world, is superfluous, 
irrelevant, and frequently more detail than they really want to know. 
(Hook this doohickey up, sign that Unlimitel contract, get on with 
your day. No change. And why are we doing this again? For $2.50/month 
phone line costs.)

If everyone you ever want to talk to has a computer, you could get rid 
of Bell.

- you publicize your phone number so that people you don't currently 
know can contact you. If, having contacted you, the first thing you 
say is please call me back at sip://glenn_at_myfreevoipprovider.org, 
or sip://glenn_at_insurancesquared.ca, you're only paying unlimitel 
for the time it takes you to tell the caller how to get to you without 
going through unlimitel. If both of you are VoIP, but all you have is 
a telephone number, this is insidiously / conceptually stupid. But how 
else are you to initially know HOW to get to the other person? If one 
side is on an analogue phone, then the value of the unlimitel pots / 
voip gateway is demonstrated.

- unlimitel is necessary for those on POTS lines to be able to get to 
you, they bridge the POTS and VoIP worlds. Even cell phones, with data 
plans, could contact you via soft phones on their pdas, instead of 
over the cell network. Which may make no sense, $ wise. Unless long 
distance charges were involved. Ignoring the very real problem of call 
quality on a high latency cell data network.

> Is there special setup for that or is it relatively automated?  And 
> who's got a directory running for this?  Because this seems like it has 
> a lot of potential.  I'm on the phone all day to people running 
> asterisk, and I'm paying both useage and inbound toll free charges for 
> most of that.  If there was a simple directory setup that my system 
> checked before calling so my call was free.....well, then I'd have free 
> calling.

Yep. (Which is why I find the concept of Home Phone service really 
irritating and all but fraud.)

This assumes the people you are calling have set themselves up to 
receive VoIP calls directly. (It would be almost silly not to, except 
due to ignorance. Like I keep saying, this stuff is COMPLICATED and 
convoluted - not technically, culturally. It's lego. These are 
learning curves we all will have to go through. We're changing 
infrastructures here. Convergence. And new and more realizations as to 
interoperability. Voice / Video / e-mail / txt / paging / and on and 
on. e.g. 519-555-1212 at pcs.rogers.com sends your e-mail to my cell via 
SMS. Or http://mypage.com for my web page, or sip://mypage.com to talk 
to me.)

You don't have to have a directory, you have yourself. You merely, and 
they merely, have to get the word out as to how to connect. For 
example, modify your e-mail signature lines to include the 
information. Have them do the same. Not much different than including 
your PGP signature / key. This is world wide, long distance charge 
free, calling. 519-555-1212 is the dinosaur. Yes, the telcos are 
scared. Why else does Bell have it's own Home Phone (voip) service - 
for not much difference in $ out of your pocket. Oh, and new equipment 
sales to convert your current phone into VoIP, new gateways, and so 
on. How do we align such Bell costs vs. Unlimitel as not being usury?

(One reasonable answer, for businesses, is continued fire and forget. 
We can't all be dedicated computer geeks, and, in the end, when we 
pick up the handset all we want is dial tone.)

The beauty of FWD and soft phones is merely the ability to gradually 
step into this world and learning curve without cost.

Next logical step: bear in mind Lori's comments about soft phones. So 
get a 3102 or 2102 or IP phone, stay with FWD, and use a physical 
phone. Get comfortable. Moreover, if you use a 3102, you tie your 
current Bell line in, and become your own POTS / VoIP gateway. e.g. 
Call home locally from your cell to re-dial out VoIP long distance. 
Note: Asterisk has not entered the picture yet! Or, your long distance 
customer calls your home free via voip, and gets forwarded out your 
local POTS line to your local cell phone, without long distance 
charge. I have a 3102 but never got this far. Lack of time / learning 
curve. And stopped, without proceeding to asterisk, not even in a vm. 
Other lug members have gone this far. Again, without asterisk.

Next step: sign up with Unlimitel. AND MIGRATE YOUR CURRENT POTS 
NUMBER TO THEM. Goodbye Bell.

Next step, but could have been done earlier - add Asterisk. And gain 
calling features like caller id (and voice mail, remember, five calls 
incoming on same DID simultaneously, even if you're already on the 
phone talking to the first incoming call), and take control of your 
own call routing. Perhaps you set certain callerids to give a 
different ring or incoming in-call beep. Perhaps if your house phone 
doesn't answer, you auto-forward it to your cell phone. And if it too 
doesn't answer, take voice mail. Perhaps with customized prompts. "Hi 
Sweetie" vs. "You have reached Insurance Squared". And have the first 
notify your cell via SMS, leaving the second for when you get back to 
the (home) office.

PRESENTATION - swap out your current router with an OpenWRT one, add a 
2102 or 3102 or IP phone, and you've accomplished all of the above.

- remember, he said, by default the OpenWRT firmware duplicates the 
original proprietary firmware functionality that came on the box. Out 
of the box it's a router as you've always used, adding wi-fi if you 
don't have it already. Slap in the OpenWRT firmware, and you're still 
at the same place. You're still in a comfort zone, and taken gradual 
steps. You've neither broken your internet connectivity, nor your 
voice connectivity. Yet. But you've laid the foundation and 
groundwork. Add a 3102, hook up your current Bell line and house 
phones, and you've taken another step. It's not an all or nothing leap 
of faith.

Having said all this, there is a GOTCHA: It's damned annoying typing 
sip://me@myphone.ca into a cell or desk phone. On a soft phone, you 
just type it in, or click on a link. Solution: Enter it once into your 
phone's speed dial. Which you can't do for everyone who could ever 
call you. Enter things like IP phones and PDAs and so on. Convergence.

Whatever it is I think I know, I've acquired by lurking, by poking 
about at http://www.freeworlddialup.com/learnmore/ and other 
providers, particularly the faq and wikis, asking questions of 
unlimitel, and experimenting.

My first experiments were with soft phones on two internal computers 
calling each other. Lori mentioned Ekiga, I believe, http://ekiga.org/ 
(multi-platform). This let me start getting a handle on soft phones - 
and headsets and bluetooth (headsets). Then I signed up for fwd and 
one or more others. Then I called myself (soft phone) from the cell or 
home via a (free) voip gateway. You call the gateway number, enter the 
voip number (wherein digit only names are appreciated), then the voip 
network (e.g. FWD, rather than entering f, w, d, @ .. @? where the 
hell's @ on a phone keypad!!!) 

This led me through the router / port forwarding bits. And dynamic dns.

Then (independent of this 'voip' effort) someone called me via Skype, 
and/or via yahoo, or live.ca, or whatever, which led me into webcams. 
Let alone the whole call /route me wherever I happen to be at that moment.

Whereupon I became distracted and never got back to this stuff. Thus 
my apologies with respect to the specific sip://, etc., forms, above.

Note that, throughout, Asterisk has never yet been used, nor have I 
spent a penny. Except for a few cell minute test calls. And I have 
continued to watch Bell suck up my monthly fee. I should do something 
about that.

I do, however, have a slight, peripheral, telephony background.

To Lori's point about an asterisk distro, as convergence and other 
things (applications/functionality) come into play, beyond asterisk 
itself, I think I'm headed towards a LinuxMCE core on a laptop, rather 
than OpenWRT. There's more than just Asterisk on a gateway device I'm 
interested in. Think caller id coming up on the TV. Or the TV with a 
webcam on it for video calls. Free, to BC.

Yes, I know, sounds like presentation material. It's a consideration.

Sorry for the tome. I guess I'm kinda engaged with the topic.

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