Siemens Gigaset A580IP Review
We upgraded the DECT phones in our household because we wanted to get some quality, cordless handsets that were easy to use and could use a VOIP service provider to act as a second line. Having looked around at what devices were available, we settled on the Siemens Gigaset A580IP as it seemed to meet all our requirements.
The basic package includes the base-station and one handset. There are other packages available that come with more handsets. The handsets are well made and have a solid, quality feel to them. They also use little power, thanks to an 'eco DECT' mode.
This isn't the only DECT base-station in our home. You can plug more than one into a single phone line. The downside of this approach is that calls answered on a handset connected to one base station are registered as missed calls on handsets connected to the other and vice-versa.
Connecting the A580 base station is simple. It has a 6.5Vdc (600mA) plug-PSU and requires a phone line and RJ45 Ethernet cable connecting it to your hub/router. By default it uses DHCP and is allocated a local IP address on the LAN. You can set a fixed IP address but there isn't much advantage in doing this. Once it's connected to the LAN, you can use various tools to discover its IP address and then connect to it using a web server, to configure the rest of the settings. We tend to use the iPhone iNET app for stuff like this.
The A58H is an additional handset as supplied by with the base station. You can have up to 6 handsets in total. We bought another three to go with the basic package as we require four handsets in total in our home. The handsets can be used in loud-speaker mode. These come with a stand/charger base and a plug-PSU rated at 4Vdc and 150mA. These have a huge standby time (210 hours), so we don't need to connect the base/charger to our 12V UPS
The basic configuration is achieved very easily via the web server interface on the base station.
Here you choose fixed IP address or DHCP. You can also set a web proxy.
The real power of this device is unleashed in the settings under this section of the configuration interface.
Here you can set up various VOIP providers and enable/disable them. Each one is assigned a suffix, e.g. #1 which can be used to decide how calls dialled are connected. By default the suffix #0 is the fixed/PSTN line. VOIP providers are covered later.
In this section you choose the call quality based upon your network connection. For each VOIP provider you can choose the set of CODECs used. The CODECs supported are: G.722, G.711 µ law, G.711 a law, G.726 and G.729.
Here you can choose when each handset rings (for PSTN and each VOIP provider) on in-coming call. You can also select which VOIP provider (if any) is used for each handset when making an out-going call. This is really convenient. As described in more detail below, our study handset is set up to make calls from a work phone line when making VOIP calls.
Allows calls to be forwarded to a different number if the VOIP service is busy or off-line.
Allows you to set a network mailbox number for each VOIP providers. For the PSTN line we are using the BT 1571 CallMinder service.
Sets DTMF over VOIP and ports used for SIP and RTP.
Here you can set up an IM (Jabber based) account and an email account.
You can configure information services, which are managed on the Gigaset.net web site. You basically tailor you information feed and personalise it (e.g. weather locations) and then you can enable the view on each handset as required. As an example we display the local weather on on the handset in our lounge.
A nice feature here is that you can name the handsets (we use room names), so that you know which one belongs where.
This part of the configuration menu lets you back up the directory entries on a handset and then send them to others. We master them on the lounge handset and keep a backup. We can then use this backup file to update the other handsets.
In this section you can set the base and handsets to update the firmware automatically. You can also set an NNTP time server so that the time on the handsets is always correct.
Provides basic information on IP address, MAC address, firmware version and EEPROM version.
VOIP Service Providers
There are loads of VOIP service providers but here we provide some information about some that we are using:
Sipgate is a well known UK VOIP provider (based in Germany) that provide a SIP/VOIP service with a lot of features. One of the main ones of interest to us is the free regional number (01473 for Ipswich). They can also port an existing number from your PSTN service provider if required. The web interface can also tell you what devices are connected to their SIP server, which is a good way to test your configuration is working. They also provide a free PC SIP client.
Also of interest is the mobile phone app for the iPhone and iPad, that allow you to make and receive calls to/from this number, from anywhere in the world.
In our case we have a pre-pay account which was topped up with £10 credit. The VOIP-out rates are reasonable and this money doesn't expire with time. The cost of calls in the UK are 1.19p/min to fixed lines and 9.90p/min to mobiles. 0844 calls cost 5.00p/min, 0845 calls cost 3.00p/min, 0870 calls cost 7.51p/min and 0871 calls cost 10.00p/min. These are not particularly cheap rates but VOIP to VOIP calls are free and we are doing this for the added convenience, not to save loads of money.
The web interface provides a view of all calls sent and received and these are synchronised with other clients and mobile apps. Likewise you can associate contacts with your account and these are also synched on the iPhone app. We have used this account to enable our children's iPod Touch devices and basically turn them into handsets for making phone calls. If someone is on the PSTN line, other family members use this account to dial out.
The account also features free voicemail and messages can be sent via email to an address of your choice. The audio files are sent as .wav attachments. You can also send SMS messages via the web interface at 5.9p per message.
I'm not going to bore you with technical details here. Sipgate provide configuration information and wizards for a large number of VOIP capable devices, the Siemens A580IP being one of them. Simply following their guide and settings resulting in us getting our VOIP calling working in just a few minutes.
As part of our work we have a Ribbit Mobile service associated with our work mobile phones. Ribbit also supports SIP/VOIP capability and this means that the handset in our study is configured to make calls out as if they were coming from a work mobile phone. This is really useful for home working and conference calls, as these handsets do not get as warm as a mobile phone and they can be used in loudspeaker mode too.
First of all, these are very good DECT / PSTN cordless phones. They are well made, sound really good and have a lot of useful features. This is isolation makes them worth the money. One of the key things I like about them is the usability. The family just assumed they were normal telephones and used them as such until I told them how to make VOIP calls. This is good because it means they have not added complexity to the basic calling experience.
The added VOIP capability is a real bonus though and brings with it a whole load of other benefits. We are really pleased with the phones and set up we have now.