Handset use

I use a laptop and currently calls are made and received through a headset plugged into the front of my machine. I want to be able to use a normal handset. Does the telephone cradle (I have a cordless) have to be connected to the laptop through an adaptor via an Ethernet cable? It sort of defeats the advantage of wireless internet connection if that is the case. What I was hoping to achieve is broadband wireless router downstairs next to telephone point and laptop upstairs. I then wanted to be able to use a normal handset with the laptop and hoped that my Speedtouch broadband router would link downstairs to a Linksys SPA3102 and that in turn to the phone cradle and I could have the actual handset upstairs with me to make and receive both landline and voip calls. Am I way off the mark or is there a way that I can get to where I want to be even if it means buying a cheap handset just for voip? Please keep any replies to words of one syllable as you can probably gather I do not understand what I am getting into here.

There's a range of VoIP telephone devices - understanding the difference between them is a crucial step!

There's hardphones, ATAs, softphones with headsets (that you use already) and softphones with USB handsets.

Hardphones are self-contained phones. They look like traditional phones and behave like them, but they don't (usually) have a socket for a traditional phone cable. Instead, they connect to your Local Area Network through an RJ-45 network port or in some cases Wi-Fi (I wouldn't recommend this as, generally speaking, Wi-Fi and VoIP don't mix well, for reasons I won't go into here).

An ATA is an Analog Telephone Adaptor. This has an RJ-45 network port on one side, and a telephone line port on the other. You plug one end into your LAN and the other into a traditional phone. This then allows you to use your existing phone as a VoIP phone. The only downside is that some advanced VoIP features may be hard or impossible to access (place caller on hold, call transfer, do not disturb), though this is more of an issue for installations with multiple extensions. You can plug a DECT cordless phone into an ATA and use the cordless handset elsewhere in the house. This is usually the best way (in single phone installations) of getting wireless VoIP capability - DECT is designed for voice use, Wi-Fi isn't.

A softphone with headset is what you have at the moment. This uses your PC to provide the main functionality of the phone (dialling, call connection, network packet encoding and decoding) and uses an audio device to provide the speaker and microphone. If you're using a headset, you are strongly advised to use a USB headset - this has the audio hardware in a "blob" on the USB wire. This audio hardware is specifically designed for headset use, and is usually much better for this purpose than the audio hardware in your PC (which is more likely optimised for gaming). The major downside of a softphone is that the PC is part of the phone - and if the PC is doing something else that's placing demands on the CPU or network, then the phone functionality will suffer and you will get distorted or dropped calls. The advice about Wi-Fi above holds true here ... if you use your laptop and a softphone over Wi-Fi, you are introducing yet more potential for quality and reliability problems.

What I think you're looking for is a softphone with a USB handset. This is essentially exactly the same as the softphone with headset, except that instead of the microphone and speaker being in a headset, they're in something that looks like a telephone handset with a USB plug on the end. Some of these USB handsets also have telephone keypads on them, and if the softphone you're using has support for them you can dial from the USB handset just like a normal phone. The one that I've used with some success in the past is the VoIPVoice Cyberphone K. Do a Google search and you'll find outlets for it ... I've ususally bought from Amazon in the past. It's supported by SJphone and X-Lite (X-Lite 3.0 includes support for it, but with the earlier version provided by Voipfone you have to ask for the Cyberphone version on the X-Lite support forums). Others may work, but you need to check compatibility carefully - most USB handsets only work with Skype. The advice on Wi-Fi still holds true though - not to be recommended in most cases.

Softphones are a great low-cost way to start exploring VoIP, but can have reliability and performance problems. Once you start to rely on your VoIP phone you should explore a more reliable method - either an ATA or a hardphone.

In your case, I'd suggest an ATA plugged directly into your router and a DECT cordless phone basestation plugged into the ATA.

That's great and thanks for the comperhensive coverage of the options. My thoughts were to go down the ATA route and I bought the Linksys SPA 3102 . However when it refers to connecting with the Ethernet cable I thought that my wireless set up was going to be compromised. The Voipfone support guys have come back to say that the Ethernet cable need not be used so I connected up as follows:
Long white wire (RJ-11 cable?) to phone socket and other end to Linksys box "line". From Linksys box "phone" an adaptor to an ADSL splitter with one wire out to the phone cradle and the other to the Speedtouch broadband router @ "DSL" connection.
However, the only lights now on the Speedtouch are the Power and WLAN lights and on the Linksys only the Power light is lit.. On going back to my laptop, the DSL connection is down.
Have I screwed up my connections or is there now some configuration needed?

I misunderstood what you were using at the moment - apologies!

Tha main issue is to get your router back online.

I'm assuming that what you refer to as an "ADSL splitter" is something that plugs into your regular phone socket on the wall, and has to sockets on it - one marked "ADSL", "DSL" or "Modem" and one marked "Phone".

Your Linksys SPA 3102 should be connected from its LAN port to your router using an RJ-45 network cable.

It should also be connected from its PHONE port to a regular phone or DECT basestation, and from its LINE port to the "Phone" socket of the ADSL splitter.

If that's how you've got it, first try disconnecting the Linksys from your splitter completely, and then rebooting your router. If that works OK, then you have a faulty (or poor quality) splitter.

If it's still not working, try connecting the router directly to the phone socket on the wall and rebooting it again. If that works OK, then (again) you have a faulty or poor quality splitter. If it still doesn't work, then something's wrong with either your phone line, your ISP, or your router.

I have rewired as you advise and the good news is that I do not lose my DSL connection. However, the landline phone doesn't work. It lights up as being in use. If making a call out from the landline, it seems to be ringing the number dialed but the other phone doesn't ring ( I tried to call my mobile). Likewise when ringing in, the ringing tone is there on the phone making the call but the landline phone doesn't ring. We seem to be edging closer but not quite there yet.

Every time I go to the next page to configure, the webpage comes up as not available. I have tried to confirm the information from the numbers I had to ring but now cannot get any answers. What liitle hair I had is now falling out!

Maybe it's time we had support call you and sort you out :-)

If you email support at voipfphone.co.uk with your account number a telephone number (preferably landline) and a rough time, one of or support people will get you up and running.

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