Back in this post (was it really that long ago?) I laid out my plan to create an all-singing, all-dancing phone system for the home, with the first step being to get some Siemens Gigaset S685IP DECT phones. Having made the decision, and told you all about the plan, I’d then had a serious bout of prevarication over the price of the things. At £260 they are definitely not what you could call the “budget” end of the market.
However, earlier in the week I noticed that IBM had decided to file another of my patent disclosures, and a previous patent filing has finally been issued by the US patent office. The awards that IBM gives me to recognise those events will more than cover the cost of the phones, so I flexed the credit card, and ordered them from LiGo, who are based in Scotland. The ordering process was trivial, with lots of updates on the order progress, with the phones finally turning up yesterday in the form of a base unit and pre-registered handset plus four additional (unregistered) handsets.
As someone who has never had DECT phones before, I have to say that they are nothing like the DECT phones that I remember looking at (admittedly many years ago). They bear more resemblance to (chunky) mobile phones, in both appearance and capabilities. They also no longer require custom battery packs, which I seem to remember always being a problem with early DECT phones. These just use a pair of (supplied) AAA NiCad rechargeables.
Impressions of the handsets are that they are a nice size, weight and “feel”, with more features than most people (including me!) will ever need. And the internal (paging) call clarity is simply amazing, probably as a result of the wide-band digital codecs that they are able to use. It will be interesting to see what the call quality is like over the PSTN and VoIP networks as I start to get everything hooked together.
The base station on the other hand, is an extremely flimsy affair with a combination of ports on the side and rear, which makes it rather difficult to neatly cable up – especially to the house LAN. However, since it’s being tucked out of sight in our case, that probably doesn’t matter too much.
Being NiCad powered, I charged all the batteries up overnight last night and now have four of the handsets running internal speakerphone calls to fully discharge the batteries again, at which point we can start using them normally. In theory this should minimise any memory effects in the batteries and give a longer service life, though I’m dubious of the actual value in practice. Meanwhile the fifth handset is acting as our main phone, and will have to be discharged separately once the other handsets are conditioned. According to the manuals, talk time is about 10 hours or so, so we should be ready to start playing more seriously with the phones this evening.
So I really need to do some research this morning into which VoIP provider I’m going to select – probably either Tesco or Vonage – and get an account or two arranged.
Update: The Tesco offering is now £2.89 a month for “unlimited” calls of up to 70 minutes duration to geographical UK numbers, ie, those starting 01, 02 or 03. Beyond 70 minutes, there is a 2p per minute charge. There is also a monthly fair use limit of 3000 minutes (about 33 hours) on those “unlimited” calls. Calls to mobiles are about 10p per minute, and non-geographic numbers are subject to complex rules to determine the costs. International calls vary significantly too … from 2p per minute upwards depending on destination. The inbound number can be chosen from a long (but not complete) list of area codes. For me, the nearest area code to my house is Southampton, which is close enough to count as local to anyone likely to want to call me.
Overall it looks like it will meet my needs, so I’ll probably go with it, though at the moment the Tesco website is failing to allow new registrations, so I can’t sign up until they get that fixed (they’re aware and “urgently working on it”)