Peter Dordal, Loyola University CS Dept
In the classroom we have:
We start with a Hello, world demo
(every computer class has to have this). We dial in to the Asterisk system,
using the Cisco phone which is configured to dial any of my Asterisk
- The standard phone (AT&T)
- The Cisco SPA504G VoIP phone that I connect
- Cell phones
- 2000: play "hello, world" (the voice is Allison
- 2001: play back I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that
- 2002: play back CallerID
- 2003: play back P-Asserted Identity
- 2004: menudemo (try pressing 6)
- 2005: dbdemo: enter an existing key (2001), and then a new key
- 2006: echotest
- 2007: voicemail
We can also forward 815-828-xxxx to any one of these, and dial in from
the PSTN (eg using the AT&T phone
Demo of call from the Cisco phone to the AT&T phone, and vice-versa. We
need to give the Cisco phone a number, eg 773-409-xxxx. The AT&T phone
has a number, too: 312-915-xxxx.
Where do we tie the 409-xxxx number to the actual phone? How does the
system know to route the call to this phone?
- extensions.conf: 1773409xxxx,n,Macro(phone,SIP/cisco55311eline1)
- sip.conf: [cisco55311eline1]: defines credentials
- phone internal web page (admin menu): declares userid/password
What do you think would happen if two devices tried to
log in with the same userid?
The first time I did this demo I managed to forget
to hang up after a speakerphone call from the classroom to my
815-828-xxxx SIP line (while I was trying to demonstrate
voicemail-to-email). I was connected for 9625 seconds (2.5 hours), costing
|Start (converted to CST)
Sigh. luser error.
I did subsequently add the following to my sip.conf:
- rtptimeout=60 ;;
terminate call if 60 sec of no RTP/audio activity (not including hold)
- rtpholdtimeout = 600 ;; terminate after 600 sec of no RTP/audio
activity even if we are on
How can we estimate RTT? (I got ~180 ms in my office). One
way is the "tapping method": try to tap the phone at a rate where each tap
coincides with the echo of the previous tap. Then check the time needed for
10-20 taps, and divide.
Now call the SIP phone from my cellphone. What is the RTT?
Call extension 2000 from the cisco phone, while watching the Asterisk
"console". What happens?
Now call 2001.
I wanted to change from CALLERID(num) to P-Asserted-Identity. But if the
latter is empty, nothing happens, and it is
empty if I call from my own phone. So let's change it to the 773-409-4359
An Asterisk extension is like a script, triggered by a matching dial
pattern. It might be a literal
extension, but it can be other names too. The Dial command tries to connect
that number to a channel, defined
If the Dial command times out, we generally want to pass the call on to
voice mail, but not if the Dial
command completes a call!
Dialing out with .call files
- to my cell: pldcell.call
- to my cell with a different callerID: pld2.call
- to the cisco phone: makecall cisco.call (what goes wrong? How can we
Here is a copy of the cisco.call file:
This is to copy a "call file" into the Asterisk outbound spool directory
/var/spool/asterisk/outbound, at which point Asterisk will place the call.
File permissions have to be just so, so I use the script "makecall" to copy
the .call file.
For Asterisk 13 , I had to manually start pbx_spool.so with
module load pbx_spool.so
from the Asterisk console (reached via asterisk -r)
Several software packages provide telephone emulation. One is Ekiga.
The ekiga softphone can be a bit peculiar to configure. On the Edit ->
Accounts dialog, the following should be entered:
- name: as defined in sip.conf
- registrar: the Asterisk server
- user: the name defined in sip.conf
- authentication user: probably the same
- password: the secret, eg sips3cret
You can probably leave the port number (5060) alone. If you wish to set
it, you will need regedit (windows) or gconf-editor (linux).
If you dial a number, say 2001, the url shown in the box below the dialpad
is often sip:2001. It needs to be sip:email@example.com, however, in
order to work.
The Asterisk open-source telephony project was started by Jim Dixon
(hardware) and Mark Spencer. Dixon was a telecom engineer who worked with
ATT 3b20's, and noticed that PC hardware was, in theory anyway, catching up
(or surpassing it). Around 1999, for an early Pentium system, he developed a
card with FXS and FXO ports. Because this promised to revolutionize
telephony, he named the cards for Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican
At one point I assembled a phone switch built around linux and asterisk and
an analog TDM410 card; the card had 3 FXS ports, 1 FXO port, and hardware
Asterisk can be used for many things (for example, it makes a darned fine
answering machine), but one of the most basic is as a private phone switch,
known in the telecom world as a Private
Branch eXchange, or PBX.
Basically, a phone switch (Asterix or proprietary ATT or something else)
We'll ignore call set-up for the moment. While you are making a call, your
voice data is collected one or two bytes at a time by the card with the FXS
port. The CPU is interrupted regularly, and the card driver turns that voice
sample over to the telephony software. The software figures out which call
it's part of, and puts the sample into the outbound-voice queue of the
appropriate outbound port.
- A CPU
- analog phones (maybe) connected to FXS ports on the switch
- Ethernet phones (SIP or otherwise), usually with power supplied over
- trunk lines to the telco, connected to FXO ports on the switch
- possibly digital connections to things like channel banks
One call can thus involve up to 8,000 interrupts / second. For CPUs, this is
not a very big number, although some older motherboard designs made
interrupts very expensive. The Zapata cards buffer the data 1ms at a time (8
bytes), so they interrupt the CPU once per ms (probably independent of the
number of calls). With efficient interrupting (and perhaps some buffering),
a standard single-cpu PC can easily support 24 lines.
An alternative to FXS ports on cards is a channel
bank: a hardware device with 24 FXS/FXO ports on one side and a T1
line on the other. T1 lines are, in the telecom world, bundles of 24 DS0
lines. You then connect the PBX to the T1 (using a T1 card).
To get your messages, dial your extension and press "*". Then dial your
password, normally the same as your extension.
Note that asterisk can be configured to email you your messages (in addition
to leaving them in your mailbox).
Demo of voicemail/email
Loyola has had some interest in this feature since the mid-1990's, but with
the Audix system it was too expensive.
(Also, we asked once, and were told, "nobody ever asked us for that
To set up an asterisk PBX that does not connect to the larger world phone
system, you can assign extensions arbitrarily. But in the real world you
have to get numbers from your provider.
If you are buying a separate line to the telco office for each of your
phones ("line" in the sense of both the physical line and the accounting),
then you don't need a PBX.
If you're setting up your own PBX, you need
Question: how many trunk lines do we need? If at any moment we have more
people wanting to call out than we have lines, some of them will get the
no-trunk-available signal (traditionally the "fast busy" or reorder
signal). The number of trunk lines should exceed the peak-hour average
number of outbound calls, but exceed by
how much? The margin of safety needed gets smaller (at least as a
percentage) as your organization gets larger.
- phone numbers from your
provider, usually one per phone (so every phone can be called from the
outside world, though some systems sometimes skimped here).
- trunk lines from your PBX to
the telco, sometimes "virtual", and usually much fewer in number than
Suppose we have a small number of trunk
lines from the telco that come into our PBX FXO ports, and many
more internal phones connected to our PBX FXS ports. Outbound calls are
straightforward: the telco doesn't really need to know who's placing the
call (except that we may want to cooperate with Caller ID by providing "CID"
information). But what about inbound calls? To which internal phone should
it be routed? Typically, we get a block of phone numbers from the telco, and
use those (or straightforward mods of those) for our internal phone
extensions. Then, when an inbound call arrives, our PBX uses Direct Inward
Dial, or DID, information attached to the beginning of the call (often in
analog form) in order to identify the desired extension. The PBX then
connects the call to that extension.
In most PBXes, Asterisk or not, everything is an extension:
Early on in the configuration process you typically need to set the number
of digits in extensions, eg 3 or 4 or 5 (Asterisk is more flexible in this
- voicemail boxes
- auto attendants
- call groups (all phones in the group ring)
- hunt groups
Extensions are usually allocated in RANGES, eg 2000-2999. Some extensions
(the "administrative" ones) might simply not be dialable at all by ordinary
extensions. Asterisk achieves this by allowing you to put different
extensions in different contexts. A context begins with a context
name in [ ]. An extension in one context cannot dial an extension in another
context unless some provision is made to allow it. In fact, the same
extension may appear in a different context, and represent an entirely
In Asterisk, we will usually define all phone features for an
extension. Then, to connect the extension to an actual line, eg from
flowroute, we use:
exten => 17734094359,1,Goto(default,3031,1)
This means that external number 17734094359 is connected to extension 3031
in the context "default", which in turn connects to the cisco phone usually
in my office.
The internal extensions may or may not exactly agree with the low-order
digits of the lines provided by your telecom provider.
A call path is a set of responses over time if a call is not answered; eg
sending to voicemail at T=20 seconds. Here is our notation for this normal
extension (ring 3x)
(Actually, ringing 3 times is traditionally 18 seconds, though with
ringtones counting the number of rings is sort of irrelevant.)
Here is a more elaborate alternative:
manager extension (ring 3x)
⟶ assistant manager (ring 3x)
⟶ call group in sales (ring 3x)
⟶ outcall to somebody's cell
This means forwarding a call to an outside number. There are several common
problems with this:
- Your organization now has to pay the cost of the outbound (long
distance, international, etc). The person who placed the call has no
idea this charge will be incurred, and so may not use discretion.
- This means one call from the PSTN to the outcalled extension ties up
two trunk lines: one for the incoming call, and one for the outcall.
- People sometimes try hacking the outcall system to allow free
long-distance calls. If someone can break in and change the outcalled
number, they can change it to the number of their sister in Australia,
and then call the local extension forwarded to the outcall number to be
connected to her.
These are lines with simple programs on them to answer your call and ask you
to enter various digits to do things. Typically each AA will "live" on a
special administrative extension (perhaps not one normally dialable), and be
"connected" to a regular extension on an as-needed basis.
The AA messages can be set to change at different times of day; that is, you
can have a different message after hours.
Some AA systems take all their messages from voicemail systems; this allows
Some AA systems do mean things like telling you to dial 0 for operator, and
then forward you back to the top level of the AA system.
These are what you buy a bunch of from your telecom provider. Each of them
has its own number, eg 4106852808. Trunk lines are sometimes known as Direct
Inward Dials or DIDs.
Some trunk lines might go to individual desks.
Trunk group: groups of trunk lines, applicable only to traditional trunks.
They are not applicable to VoIP. If someone dials in on a trunk line, what
happens may depend on what trunk group the line belongs to. For example,
suppose we forward Trunk Group 1 (TG1) to the administrative
extension 8000, not normally dialable (perhaps it is an auto attendant). TG2
might forward to 8002.
Hunt groups are like trunk groups, for internal calls. It involves creating
a call path that tries several phones..
Make x9000 a hunt group, HG1.
1st: ring 3001 (ring 3x)
2nd: ring 3002 (ring 3x)
3rd: ring 3003 (...)
We keep trying different phones, SERIALLY
Often hunt groups simply ring the first available (non-busy) phone.
Weighted Hunt Group
Decide what to do based on who has not received any calls, or who has
received the fewest calls so far that day (the latter is the most common).
This distributes the workload more evenly over your operators (or
distributes the opportunities more evenly over your salespeople).
In a Hunt Group, different phones are tried in sequence. In a call group,
different phones are tried in parallel. A call group is what you get if you
register several SIP phones with the same username, although many PBXs also
provide a higher-level option for that.
Call groups seem to be used less often, perhaps because their utility is not
Good call group example: peter's cell, peter's office, peter's office at
Another good call group: everyone who is on call at the moment
A combination of a hunt group and a call group: the hunt group is
main_sales_extension ⟶ x8003.
x8003 is then a call group to all sales phones. This way, if someone doesn't
answer the main extension, everyone's phone will ring.
The idea here is to allow a call to be put on hold by extension A, and then
picked up by extension B. Often call parking is used in conjunction with paging:
sending out an announcement "would someone please pick up the call I parked
at extension 7000?"
To park a call, you transfer it to an extension in a parking lot.
Often there is a generic "park" button, and the phone tells you the
extension at which the call was parked.
Anyone else can pick up the call by dialing that extension.
One use of parking is for an employee to answer a call, park it, go down the
hall to look up a file, and then pick up and finish the call from the second
In asterisk's extensions.conf and meetme.conf, I have defined extension 4000
to be for conferences. To make that number accessible to outside users,
let's first connect the 409-4359 number to it:
exten => 17734094359,1,Goto(default,4000,1)
Now we can call in to this and join the conference.
Outgoing Trunk Groups
These are sort of obsolete, but for the record here goes:
TG1 might be only for local calls
TG2 might be for local + long-distance
Dial 1 first to get TG2 (a caller may get reorder if no
line in TG2 is available)
There may be other digits required, or which get special treatment.
The traditional justification for such things was that only some lines would
have long-distance service attached to them, which was a cost savings at one
10-digit NXX-XXX-XXXX : get TG1 or TG2
1NXX-XXX-XXXX: get TG2
9876-1NXX-XXX-XXXX: special code for managers
Starting in Maryland, and now spread to many other locations, all
calls, even local ones, dialed through public utilities must use (at least)
10 digits: NXX-XXX-XXXX. There's no more dialing 555-1234.
We can also ban outbound calls, for all extensions or for extensions of the
form 21XX, or whatever.