Linksys SPA400 (4-port FXO gateway) Product Review

At-a-Glance

Product Name: Linksys SPA400
Spec Sheet: Linksys SPA400 Datasheet
Estimated Price: $299.95
Pros: The SPA400 is an inexpensive voicemail solution in a small form factor. The Setup Wizard simplifies basic configuration. 
Cons: Factory reset doesn’t clear the IP address. Complex environments will require manual configuration after running the Setup Wizard.

Introduction

Linksys SPA400

Linksys SPA400

The Linksys SPA400 offers an answer to a sticky problem facing small businesses adopting IP telephony solutions: affordably connecting existing analog telephone lines to an IP-based PBX.

In a single device, the Linksys SPA400 adds voicemail and 4 analog telephone lines (FXO) to the Linksys Voice System (LVS) product line. Up to four SPA400’s can connect to a single Linksys SPA9000 to create a PBX with 16 FXO ports and 32 voicemail boxes.

But beware: The SPA400 as shipped is designed to connect easily only with the LVS product line. Using it with other IP PBX products, such as Asterisk or Communigate Pro, but does require a bit of network tinkering.

Build and Design

The SPA400 has a small flat form factor in line with the other members of the LVS family. The ports are labeled and color-coded for easy setup. The SPA400 can lay flat on a table, vertically in an included stand or mounted to a wall via two screw mounts.

The small form factor also comes with an external 128MB USB flash drive for voicemail storage. Unlike traditional PBX voicemail systems with fixed storage sizes, the SPA400 voicemail storage can be sized to a customer’s storage needs. Linksys doesn’t have an official list of third party USB drives that work with the SPA400, so check the for user experiences, if you are looking to upgrade.

While Linksys says the SPA400 only works with the SPA9000, we were able to get the 4 port FXO functionality to work with CommuniGate Pro. A similar configuration should allow the SPA400 to work with Asterisk and other SIP-based IP PBX solutions.

Installation and Ease of Use

 

Linksys SPA400 Configuration Wizard

Linksys SPA400 Configuration Wizard

The configuration wizard for the SPA400 is included in the SPA9000 Setup Wizard, beginning with version 1.1.0.4. The Setup Wizard is available for download from the Linksys website.

 

The SPA400 and the SPA9000 can be configured manually, but we advise against it. The manual configuration has a lot of configuration steps. A minor typo could leave one troubleshooting for hours. If a configuration beyond the basics is needed, use the Setup Wizard for the basic setup and then make manual modifications.

Launch the Setup Wizard and it will display a diagram explaining how to connect the SPA9000, SPA400, and any SIP phones, like the SPA941. The diagram shows the Internet port on the SPA9000 connecting to the switch. Use the Internet port configuration if you already have a network in place with a DHCP server and will not be using the SPA9000 as a router. Otherwise, the SPA9000 should connect to the internal switch via the Ethernet port.

We did run into configuration problems with the SPA400. The Wizard didn’t always discover the device on the network. Our SPA400 would keep the old IP address between factory resets and would then not be locatable on the new network. This shouldn’t be an issue for an out of the box installation, but may cause problems if the SPA400 has already been configured and is moved to a new location or network. The workaround is to change the SPA400 IP address back to DHCP before moving the device.
The Wizard detects the SPA400 and steps through the configuration. The SPA400 should be configured with a static IP address. The IP address is hard-coded in the SPA9000 configuration, so if DHCP is used and the SPA400 IP address changes, the system will stop working.

The Wizard configures trunks to the phone company (PSTN) and Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) accounts. The Wizard-generated configuration may need some manual modification as the Wizard is pretty simple and assigns the same dial plan to both the ITSP and PSTN.

Features

The SPA400 has the following features:

  • 4 FXO ports
  • 1 10/100 Ethernet
  • 32 port voicemail
  • 128MB USB flash voicemail storage (approximately 90K per minute of voicemail and some mailbox overhead)

Performance and Innovation

Linksys is on the right track with the SPA400. The small form factor and not charging based on the voicemail storage size or voicemail mailboxes is what small business wants in a voicemail system.

Conclusion

The SPA400 is a good addition to the Linksys Voice System (LVS). The small form factor and ease of deployment should push adoption.

The Setup Wizard could use some improvement. There should be an option to factory reset the SPA400 and clear the IP address, before pushing the configuration.

We understand that dial plans can get very complex, but we would also like to see the Wizard offer additional dial plan options. Until then, support is available in the Linksys SPA9000/SPA400 Support Forum.

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