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More Digital Shenanigans: Adding a Phone Number
Configuring a Cisco IP phone for Hamshack Hotline and a "normal" phone number
Hamshack Hotline installed and working
I like the idea of Hamshack Hotline. Even though it probably has very little utility for me, it was worth taking the plunge on a renewed Cisco SPA-303 IP phone and giving it a try. Was it difficult to configure? It couldn’t have been much simpler.
I sent the MAC address of the phone to the Hamshack Hotline folks and in a few days, I had an HH number assigned. Then I plugged in the phone, hit the special provisioning URL provided by Hamshack Hotline, and after the phone rebooted, I had an HH line with a dial tone!
Now what? Now I start talking with other local amateur radio club members about getting their own Hamshack Hotline phone! For now, I may be one of two people in my rural county that has an HH number. I’d like to see it expand as this is a relatively inexpensive way for club members to communicate. It could help some of our most distant members who have trouble hitting the club’s repeaters to communicate with their ham radio friends and to seek help when needed.
Struggles adding a second line to the Cisco phone
This phone presents an opportunity for me to learn more about voice over IP (aka VoIP) and SIPs. In the workplace, I’ve used VoIP services extensively but I never really understood how they worked. The best way to learn is by doing, so that is exactly what I am doing.
I purchased the Cisco SPA-303 phone from PCLiquidations. I also bought a small power-over-ethernet (PoE) switch, even though this phone model is powered by an adapter and not by PoE. Why would I do that? Because my wifi router didn’t have enough ports to add the Cisco phone to the network, and because I hope to upgrade to a better Cisco phone in the future that uses PoE.
As noted above, getting Hamshack Hotline up and running didn’t require much effort on my part. The hardest part was finding the IP address of the phone on the network.
Hint: for the Cisco SPA-303 phone, press the front page key (the one with the icon that looks like a sheet of paper with a corner turned), then use the round selector control to scroll down to option 9. Press Select and the phone’s IP address is shown in the display.
Since the Hamshack Hotline service only works with other HH users, I wanted to leverage the availability of the phone by adding a “real” phone number to it. Cue LES.NET, a Canadian company that I learned about while searching for how to do this. For not very much money, I signed up for their SIP service and got a Direct Inward Dialing (DID) phone number.
When I asked, LES.NET sent me instructions on how to configure my Cisco phone with their service. I followed those directions but the new phone number was unreachable.
Fast forward a bit and over the course of a few days, I had multiple email exchanges with the good folks at LES.NET. They didn’t understand why the new phone line wasn’t working, and I didn’t know enough to even ask intelligent questions. I sent them many screenshots and the answer kept coming back: it should work.
But it didn’t work, so I kept digging. I found references online to difficulties some people had experienced with voice-over-IP lines and Cloudflare’s 126.96.36.199 DNS service. And what service was I using? Cloudflare. I changed that to Google’s 188.8.131.52 DNS in case it would make a difference but that did not resolve the issue (pun intended: resolve the issue by changing the DNS resolver).
In the course of exploring this issue, I also ran across an instance where the user fixed his problem by changing the transport method from TCP to UDP. What the heck, I’ll give that a try, I thought. And the light on the phone immediately turned green.
And indeed, UDP seems to be the preferred option for VoIP because UDP is fast.
After that, we had a few more items to clean up but the takeaway is: it works.
I have to commend the folks at LES.NET for being very patient with me as I was obviously unprepared for the mysterious abbreviations and obscure settings required to make the service work. But at the end of the day (well, at the end of a few days!) I have a “normal” phone line I can use to place and receive calls at my home office desk. Very nice.
Bought a used Cisco SPA303 from PCLiquidations.
Signed up for a Hamshack Hotline account.
The HH folks sent me a link to a configuration script.
I plugged the IP address of the Cisco phone into the configuration script URL and within seconds had a working Hamshack Hotline phone.
I signed up for IP phone service from LES.NET.
LES.NET sent me guidance on how to configure line 2 on my Cisco phone and how to configure my DID (phone number) through their portal.
Line 2 did not work after following their guidance.
Many emails ensued, and eventually I stumbled on the transport method as being the reason the line wasn’t working.
Now I have a “normal” phone number on my Hamshack Hotline phone. Line 1 is Hamshack Hotline. Line 2 is my new phone number for making/taking normal calls.