It’s been a long six-year run, but the Cisco SPA3102’s reign as the most powerful consumer VoIP adaptor is over.
The device offers virtually all the features that have made the SPA3102 the chosen adaptor among VoIP do-it-yourselfers, and sports a slew of enticing new powers. These include:
- The ability to make US/Canada calls and receive calls for free using Google Voice;
- Call bridging capabilities from any phone and across any two VoIP services (i.e.: a PSTN line and a VoIP account, or between two separate VoIP accounts);
- Free seamless calling between any two OBi devices;
- Android and iPhone dialing connectivity.
First introduced by Sipura Technology in May 2004, the SPA3102 (then named the SPA-3000) has undergone only minor upgrades since Cisco bought Sipura in 2005 — the most significant being the product name change and the addition of an underpowered network router. Over the years at Cisco, the device has had few firmware upgrades; none for nearly two years.
Still, the SPA3102 managed to keep favor among adventurous VoIP users for its ability to bridge incoming calls out through a VoIP service or PSTN line and to provide PSTN connectivity to low-cost and free IP-based PBXes, such as Asterisk.
Last year, the core team of Sipura engineers and marketing executives that landed at Cisco when the company was acquired left the networking giant to form Obihai Technology. The team immediately went to work on designing a VoIP device that merged the most powerful traits of the SPA3012 (choosing, wisely, to drop network router functionality better handled by separate dedicated hardware), Skype-type peer-to-peer networking and emerging mobile technologies enabling Internet-connected cellular smartphones to use IP calling networks. This allows users to take advantage of prepaid phone plans to cut down on the number of cellular minutes used.
The OBi110 was introduced in October of last year, and was soon followed by a free iPhone client (called OBiON and available through Apple’s App Store) that uses WiFi or cellular 3G networks to make calls over a user’s OBi110 at home or office. A similar client, also called OBiON, was introduced earlier this month on the Android Market.
By April, the company expects to offer a smaller, $40 adaptor, the OBi100, very similar to the current model but dropping the FXO port that allows incoming PSTN line connectivity (multiple VoIP accounts will be supported).
This week, Obihai released version 1.1 of the OBi110 firmware, which can be easily installed through the company’s slick individual user web portal at http://obitalk.com. Cleverly using the XMPP protocol Google has employed in its communications’ products, Obihai’s firmware adds the ability to make or receive free Google Voice calls on any telephone attached to the device.
Google has offered a free DID (or inbound telephone number) and free calls to any number in the US or Canada since Google Voice left its protracted beta status in June of last year. Last month, the company announced through its blog that free US/Canada calling would continue to be offered at least through the end of 2011.
This means that an OBi110 owner is able to make completely free outgoing and incoming calls over his or her Internet connection. Google does not offer emergency 911 service on its Google Voice service, but does provide incoming call management capacity vastly more powerful than provided by existing PSTN carriers, at no cost.
The OBi110’s virtually unlimited bridging ability means that a user outside North America can configure the device with a Google Voice account and a separate VoIP account or PSTN line in their home country. A phone call to the VoIP/PSTN number from a list of pre-approved callers (identified via caller ID) provides dial tone and full calling capability over Google Voice to take advantage of free calls to the US and Canada.
The 1.1 firmware also permits any standard SIP phone to register with the OBi110 as a service. Thus a user with a multiple line SIP phone (such as the popular Cisco SPA504 and Polycom IP 335) can dedicate one line specifically to calls to and from Google Voice through the OBi110.
Over the coming weeks, Voxilla will publish a number of stories focusing on Obihai’s hardware devices and smartphone software, and detailed easy-to-follow guides to get the most out of them.