Our new Asterisk phone system at work has gone live, and then been taken off-line again. There are a few minor teething issues to do with the configuration, but the big, big issue is echo.
It has certainly been an eye-opener trying to take the experience of implementing a small home based system, and rolling it into an office based system. Echo is the most serious fundamental difference. In our scenario, echo is caused by interfacing a digital (ISDN) system with an analogue system (POTS). The interface (which lies in the BT network) generates an echo of our voices back into our ears, and because of the minor lag in voice over IP, this echo is really annoying and unsettling. Well implemented equipment cancels out the echo, ours doesn’t.
I don’t think that Asterisk will be successful outside of hobbyist systems until the hardware suppliers attitudes change – big time. BeroNet supplied the ISDN card, and the drivers (chan-misdn) were causing problem after problem including kernel crashes. Certainly not a good prospect for a production system with a deadline for going live. Reporting issues ended up being a near waste of time, and their sales department never rang back when they said they would.
Following up various leads I discovered that the card has other drivers, BriStuff from Junghanns.NET. The drivers needed patching with BeroNets PCI ids, but seemed to work OK. So, the phone system was finished off and went live. ECHO.
After several days of battling with options, we decided to try and hire a consultant from Junghanns.NET to try and fix our issues. They refused, even though we were prepared to pay, since they claim that the Beronet card is a stolen design from the Junghanns card and they won’t support it – even for cash. Fair enough.
So we’re now trying to get the Beronet card returned, and the Junghanns card is about 50% more expensive than the Beronet card.
The industry has a long way to mature if the manufacturers won’t supply drivers that work, FAQs explaining resolutions of common problems don’t exist, won’t do consultancy because you bought your hardware elsewhere, and can’t cope with a difficult problem that every digital based PBX has been solving for years.
Oh, and we had to send back the Digium TDM-400P analogue cards because they don’t work with analogue modems or faxes!
Conclusion. If its a hobby, or you know phone systems well – do it. Otherwise, wait a year or two until the commercial front to Asterisk starts to offer a real service.