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IP Hard Phones

Having used the X-Lite softphone to prove that I was going down the right lines (ooops, no pun intended!), the next step was to try using hardware IP phones. As ever, I thought that the best place to start was eBay where you seem to be able to pick up a wide range of hardware phones at reasonable cost.

So, which phone to choose ? Having had no experience at all of IP Telephony, that wasn't an easy question, the range of phones (and prices) on eBay was staggering, well, it surprised me anyway. As an aside, since IP phones are obviously intended for an office environment, many of the IP phones that are available are not "aesthetically pleasing", i.e., they are UGLY - particularly if you're planning on putting one in the lounge! Anyway, I did what "googling" I could and read a whole range of articles on different phones but was still very much in the dark.

I decided to take the plunge and look for a phone from one of the big name manufacturers which supported Session Initiated Protocol (SIP). I'd read enough to know that SIP is a standard protocol used for establishing sessions in an IP network, with SIP being a core part of FreeSwitch. For a detailed description of the SIP protocol, go here or see the Wikipedia page here.

So, a SIPv2 compatible phone from 3Com would do the trick - right ?

WRONG ! - I purchased a cheap (thankfully) 3Com 3102 Business Phone on eBay and tried to get it to talk to FreeSwitch - my first mistake ! Although I could get the phone to pick up its IP address from my DHCP server and it could "see" the FreeSwitch server, it refused to connect.

 After quite a bit more "googling", I eventually posted a question in the FreeSwitch mailing list and very quickly got the answer that I was starting to suspect.

"3COM phones are locked to either a 3COM PBX or the special Asterisk edition locked-down by 3COM. You cannot make them work with either FreeSWITCH or any other open SIP server other than 3COM IP PBX systems."

This was disappointing, not just because of the waste of time, money and effort trying to get the 3Com phone to work, but also, as the photo shows, despite my comment above, the 3Com 3102 is quite a neat looking phone that would not have looked too out of place in the home, although, not necessarily in the lounge !

So, the lesson here is pretty clear - make sure that you know that the phone(s) that you select will work with FreeSwitch, or indeed, any other IP telephony system that you plan on using it with before you buy it. The FreeSwitch Wiki has a useful interoperability list of different devices which have been proven to work with FreeSwitch or you can always post a message in the mailing list.

This a maybe a good place to mention phone provisioning too. The term will be familiar to anyone who knows about IP telephony, but not to those new to the field - like me! Obviously, manually configuring IP phones in medium/large installations would be impractical. Typically, the phones are configured by the system administrator using XML files which are automatically downloaded to the phone when it is powered on or rebooted. For a very small installation, i.e., a domestic setting, it may be feasible to manually configure your phones, but it is far better to become familiar with the provisioning techniques applicable to your phone(s). Phone provisioning will come up later as I discuss how I eventually configured other IP phones to work on my system.

After my aborted attempts to configure the 3Com phone, and after checking the interoperability list, I then picked up a Cisco 7940 Series IP Phone and had much more success. My experience with the 7940, as well as my experiences with other IP phones can be found by following the links in the table below :

Manufacturer Phone Type / Model Number

 Cisco Systems

 7940 Series IP Phone

SwissVoice IP10S






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