OpenSource telephony

OpenSource telephony

Paul White of NTA
Paul White of NTA

It’s been an age-old debate for many years: OpenSource v bespoke software, with many evangelists on both sides arguing feverishly and passionately about which route is better. Now we are taking this discussion to the telephony sector and specifically VoIP.

Paul White, Managing Director of hosted telephony provider NTA looks at the reasons why he believes the OpenSource route offers more solutions and flexibility than the many bespoke solutions on the market. His focus is on Asterisk-based OpenSource solutions compared with the Broadsoft software.

“OpenSource software is computer software that is available in source code form for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software licence that permits users to study, change, and improve the software. Some OpenSource software is available within the public domain. OpenSource software is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner.


“Asterisk is a great example of OpenSource and started life in the mid 90s developed by Mark Spencer of Digium. Since that time it has evolved into a number of commercial products, including our own product which uses Asterisk as a key element of NTA’s VoIP offering. Since Asterisk is OpenSource it means that other people as well as the original writers can contribute towards the product and create ad-ons or new versions that become available for others to use. As it has no licensing restrictions (with the exception of Digium’s business version – which is exactly the same as the version that everyone uses but comes with support), it gives whoever is using the software an edge when it comes to costs.”

Here are Paul White’s five key reasons for using Asterisk:

1. Lower Costs. Asterisk users report up to 90 percent savings over proprietary IP-PBX technologies, including the elimination of perphone licence fees. Costs are also cut by the software’s ability to run on standard, off-the-shelf hardware rather than high-end, proprietary systems,

2. Flexible Features and Power Functions. New functions can be created by writing scripts in Asterisk’s language, by writing modules in C, and by writing scripts in Perl or other languages. As a result, adopters can easily create powerful, programmable carrier-grade systems, incorporating features that otherwise would cost many tens of thousands of dollars.

3. Compatibility With a Wide Range of Platforms. Users aren’t locked into vendor-mandated systems. Asterisk users can choose between Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Sun Solaris.

4. Free and Abundant Support: The vibrant Asterisk user community provides no-cost support via the Internet.

5. Continuity. While telecom vendors vanish, merge, change focus and terminate product lines in a flash, the Asterisk community and support infrastructure will endure as long as a substantial user base exists.

White continues, “The telephony sector is a fast paced arena and is always looking for new features and ideas, so speed of delivery to market is crucial, and of course this is a key advantage of working with the Asterisk software. Proprietary solutions such as Broadsoft have a much longer lead time on releases of new versions, and these new versions don’t always guarantee including the features that the market wants.

“Let me just say at this point I don’t consider Broadsoft to be an inferior product, I just simply have an issue when it comes to paying licence fees for end-users connected to the telephone network. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s very important for end-users to pay a monthly fee and I believe this is where a reseller or white label solutions provider should benefit from a non-extension licence-based system.

“Of course for any budding open source enthusiast, Asterisk provides the perfect opportunity to develop some really cool userfriendly telephony solutions at a cost of some blood and sweat and fairly simple servers. The key is how the database (normally SQL) interacts with Asterisk to allow multiple servers unlimited amount of extensions to be deployed amongst the network. Our own solution uses a mixture of Asterisk, OpenSER, SQL, NFS and some Cisco hardware.

“Whilst I understand Broadsoft is a popular well known and liked product, I feel looking at the prices people charge for a Broadsoft solution it seems to be very regimental, almost a cavalry approach- ‘we charge for everything!’ Every additional feature has a cost associated with it. Whereas the Asterisk model includes all features. Again this doesn’t necessarily mean you as the reseller or white labeler wouldn’t want to apply some charges but it puts these charges in the hands of the reseller not the author.

“Now I know what you are thinking, ‘free must be flaky’ but think about this: next time you make an international call there is a good chance that your call will route through an Asterisk-based solution.”

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