Taking a SIP of VoIP

It’s time for me to jump on the VoIP bandwagon..

This was the post I made to the CLUG list the other day. Why? Mendy is moving back to Australia permanently in December (yay!) and in the mean time I want to be able to call her at reasonable rates. Currently this means calling her Macau mobile at a hefty price through Telstra. Once she is back I also want for her to be able to call her parents in Hong Kong for cheap.

I knew about VoIP and had played a little with Ekiga (the open source VoIP client for GNOME), but that was about it. Looking into it seemed pretty complex, with a myriad of providers, software and hardware. I wasn’t quite sure which provider to go with, what hardware I needed and what was the best way to set it all up. What traps were there? As usual, my fellow CLUG’ers came through with great advice, so thanks!

It appeared that the general consensus were things like:

  • Make sure your router supports QoS (Quality of Service), so that the quality of your call doesn’t drop when someone is downloading
  • Get a provider in Australia (preferably your ISP) to reduce latency and help with billing
  • Get an ATA (Analogue Terminal Adapter), so I could use my current analogue phone
  • This is how I got it working..

    Step 1: High quality VoIP provider
    After researching it some more on places like Whirlpool, I discovered that my ISP, Internode (of whom I am a big fan), has one of the best VoIP networks in Australia which they call Nodephone. Their rates appear to be a little more than some other providers, but in just about every post I read on this issue people said it is worth it for the quality of service. Sounded good to me, so I signed up. 3 hours later I got an SMS saying that my account was ready. Awesome.

    Step 2: Router with QoS support
    My home Internet is ADSL 1.5MBit, connected through a dodgy old Linksys router that I found under a pile of computer junk. It does the job, but it was hardly up to the task of providing QoS support for my network. That was until I realised I also had a Linksys WRT54G and that I could flash the firmware with dd-wrt which supports QoS and lots of other cool stuff.

    I set my WAG54G to bridged mode and connected it to the WRT54G, now running the open firmware. Once I had configured my Internet connection I then started to play with VoIP specific settings. I enabled the following:

  • Port triggering – I enabled this for Ekiga. Outgoing port 3478 opens 5000-5100
  • QoS – I turned this on and set both the up and down links to 85% of my connection speed (218 and 1306 respectively). I also added “SIP” to the service priority.
  • Well, that wasn’t so hard!

    Step 3: Software to connect to provider
    As I don’t yet have an ATA to connect my phone, I wanted to test the service out with a software solution. Naturally I chose Ekiga for the task. I recently built Ekiga version 3.0 for my Debian box, so I thought this would be a good test 🙂

    Configuring Ekiga was pretty simple. I just entered the provider sip.internode.on.net, my username (which is my VoIP number), and the password they gave me.

    This registered successfully, so I performed an echo test which worked really well. On the other end was the SBS guy who does those voice overs, you know..

    SBS advises that the following program is recommended for mature audiences. It contains adult themes.


    Step 4: Make a call
    Now that I had my provider, hardware and software all configured and working, it was time to test it out! I added Mendy’s Macau mobile into the Ekiga contact list and told it to call with “Nodephone”.
    Ring.. ring..

    “Hey, it’s me.”
    “I’m calling you from my computer. How does it sound?”
    “Really good! Very clear..”

    In conclusion
    So there you have it. I was impressed by the quality and ease of configuration. I think I’ll stick with Internode, as I much prefer a dedicated VoIP service direct from my ISP rather than a cheaper one somewhere else that’s lower quality.

    Now it’s time to go and buy an ATA device and get my home phone working. Thanks to everyone for their advice, it has been really helpful and I appreciate it!

    6 thoughts on “Taking a SIP of VoIP

    1. Hey… didn’t know that you had to go through some many steps for calling me!
      I know you said it was easy, but for a non-computer expert like me, I won’t have any clue!! Thanks Chris.. and thanks for people who had helped him!!! 🙂

    2. G’day Chris,
      +1 for Ekiga. Definitely “the pick of the crop” of softphones.
      However, when you get around to using a “proper” ATA, you will find that even the least capable ATA with any decent pots telephone is decidedly better than the best softphone. If you have not got an ATA by mid/late November, then let us know – KG will be in Canberra by then and can take down a couple of (spare) ATAs for you to try. I notice that Nodephone hardware is seriously overpriced.
      Cheers, Glen.

    3. Hey Chris,

      Nice one. 🙂

      I moved over onto VOIP/SIP just this year. If you’re looking for a great Linux based VOIP phone (not just an ATA) take a look at the Snom phones.

      They are brilliant. Highly recommended.

    4. Thanks Glen and Matt,
      Yesterday I purchased a Billion 7404VGP-M (the ones that Internode officially support) from the computer markets. It was a reasonable $188 compared to $299 from Internode. It seems to be working OK so far.. I’m sure I’ll blog about it shortly.

    5. Chris,
      As you know for the past two weeks I have been trying to get ekiga working on my system. Just got it to work last night. Some pointers.

      1) there is a mailing list ekiga-list@gnome.org

      2) On the list there were many people like yourself who said they had no problems compiling ekiga on an OpenSuse 11.1 system. As far as I could tell they were all gnome users. On my kde desktop it would not compile. Note I did an upgrade from 10.3 to 11.1. It would be interesting to see if anyone can compile on a kde desktop after doing a fresh install of 11.1

      3) I eventually got over my problems by downloading the lastest version 3.0.1-1.22-i586 from repo-oss.
      The previous versions did not allow me to select a V4L2 camera.

      4) On setting up ekiga one is tempted to set up a ekiga test account. I did and it worked fine. As part of that process you set up a stun server stun.ekiga.net. Unfortunately nodephone will not work with it installed. You do NOT need a stun server for nodephone.

      5) gconf-editor is your friend. You will need it to remove the stun server and to check/ammend other parameters.

      6) I have two voip numbers, one goes to my ATA the other goes to my laptop. By default both listen to port 5060 for calls. In ekiga using gconf-editor I changed the listening port to 5065 and the port range to start at 5065. I did not have to make any changes in the router. YMMV in this case as you may have to do some port forwarding on older routers.

      7) I ave used amsn and have been stuck with the pokey little box that msn restricts you to. I am currently running ekiga at 320×240, it allows you to go up 640×480. This can be changed by going into preferences–video–devices and changing the size.

      Have fun

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