Thread Number: 73218  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
1984-earlier telephones,MA bell era...
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Post# 967203   11/10/2017 at 18:51 by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)        

Who else here likes old telephones from before mountain bell was broken up in 1984?I have ~30: quite a few from WE from 1939-84, some GTE and a few other US made,an Italian made one and a Mexican one.The Western Electric one were of course superlative and they made most,if not all the parts in the phones themselves right up to the end-my newest WE phone made jan.1984.Cheap junk Asian import phones started flooding in after the breakup.Whenever I come across a vintage WE phone at a thrift shop,ETC. it is automaticly bought :)

Post# 967206 , Reply# 1   11/10/2017 at 18:57 by johnrk (Houston)        

I bought my first home in Stafford, right outside Houston, in 1977 when I was in college. The shock was when I learned I was on General Telephone instead of Southwestern Bell. The telephone weighed maybe half of what my Bell phone had weighed, and even weighed less than my red Trimline rotary. Crappy, awful phone service--but luckily, my next door neighbor, Evan, worked for GTE so I could walk over and he'd fix things.

I grew up in the 60's with that style of wall phone and desk phone. We had white ones. They never broke. I always saw those cool ads in the Geographic for different phones but we never got any of them. The phone was just something to be relied on--and it could be.

Our exchange was Cypress-7. We went on a long vacation in the mid sixties and when we came back it was '297'. And we had to dial all 7 numbers...

Post# 967213 , Reply# 2   11/10/2017 at 19:30 by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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My mother and I both worked for the phone company. I have several original Bell dial phones and one orange trimline. Keep two hooked up that always work if the power goes out, like twice in the last 12 days over half a million here lost their power as up here, you cant trust cell coverage. So I will keep my landline that has gone from Ma Bell, to AT&T, to Lucent, to Verizon, to Fairpoint and now Consolidated in less than 20 years.

Post# 967219 , Reply# 3   11/10/2017 at 20:06 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

My first collection was pre divestiture W.E. telephones. I have probably over 100 scattered about the house on display, in use, or in drawers. I have a black 500 on a phone table in the dining room, a beige touchtone square button (with LED backlight) Trimline in one of the bedrooms, an Ivory 2500 in the basement, and a beige touchtone Princess complete with dial light transformer in my room.
I used to have all rotary versions out but since going VoIP I've switched em to touchtone after discovering the pulse to tone converter I had bought introduces a buzz on the line when using it for the whole house, but doesn't do so when attached to just one phone, so the 500 is plugged into it. Surprisingly the little Obi100 ATA has no issue ringing two ringers. I keep just one ringer connected though.

Post# 967227 , Reply# 4   11/10/2017 at 20:30 by Supersuds (Knoxville, Tenn.)        

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I've got a Stromberg-Carlson version of a Trimline, that seems as well made as a Western Elecrtric, though I'm no expert.

I've looked over the years at some much older phones on EBay, like a Kellogg Redbar from the Forties, or some of the fancy "movie star" Stromberg-Carlsons from the Thirties, but they always seemed too expensive to pull the trigger.

Post# 967228 , Reply# 5   11/10/2017 at 20:34 by fan-of-fans (Florida)        

In the living room we have a beige rotary dial phone that looks Western Elecrric but it says Refurbco on the bottom. I think the year on it says 1980.

We kept it mostly for when the power was out but being on cable-phone now, it doesn't work anyway, and the rotary dial won't work with digital service.

It's still nice to have as its ringer is loud enough to hear outside in the yard.

Post# 967231 , Reply# 6   11/10/2017 at 20:55 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

Stromberg Carlson phones were just as solid as Western Electric. ITT and Automatic Electric were not.
My first rotary phone was a Stromberg Carlson 1543. The yellow one in the second photo was a SC 500 from 1983. By then it was cheapened down considerably, everyone had done so by then including W.E. The white 500 and the two pink 1654's are SC as well.

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Post# 967238 , Reply# 7   11/10/2017 at 21:43 by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

I have a 1960 WECO 554 wall telephone. I purposely found the old metal dial one because I disliked how the clear plastic dial seemed to stick to my finger as I turned it.

Post# 967239 , Reply# 8   11/10/2017 at 21:44 by johnrk (Houston)        

I remember seeing the Ericophone constantly in home decorating mags like 'House Beautiful' in the sixties and being intrigued. I bought one in the 70's in college. They were indeed a cool design from Ericsson and then they came out in digital instead of rotary. Comfortable? Not so much, certainly bulkier to hold than either a Trimline or a conventional phone. But boy, they sure looked good!

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Post# 967245 , Reply# 9   11/10/2017 at 23:50 by Ultramatic (New York City)        

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I have quite a few WE 2500's, a rotary WE Trimline, a WE 2702B, a WE A/B 500 set, a WE 554, 2554,  a GTE 80 rotary and a few phones from Canada, Germany, England.


And I do the same, if I happen to come across genuine phone company phones, I'll buy them right there.  

Post# 967246 , Reply# 10   11/11/2017 at 00:21 by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

This post has been removed by the member who posted it.

Post# 967247 , Reply# 11   11/11/2017 at 00:35 by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        
CYpress 5 Was (and still is) Our Exchange (aka 295)

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I bought a rotary Ericofon on ebay a while back.  I thought it would be perfect in the den.  It turned out to have switch hook issues and was so flimsy that attempting to correct the problem resulted in breakage.  I decided that if they were so poorly made, I wouldn't pursue another one.


That was just another affirmation of WECo's superiority in the telephone instrument arena.  Except for the Panasonic cordless/answering machine combo and the wall mount Trimline touchtone (an early model with round buttons) in the kitchen, all of my phones are WECo rotaries (or manual) and they all work.  The oldest dates back to 1931, an oval base D1 type with retrofitted E1 handset and noisy 4H dial, connected to a 1931 ringer subset model 554C.  The ringer is disabled, since this phone is in the guest bedroom.  I have a few 302 models, the oldest dated 1938 with metal case.  I have several 500s, all of them black with metal finger wheels and bakelite handsets.  The oldest one is dated October 1950, when the 500 was still in very limited and haphazard production and the network block didn't yet have an integrated equalizer, and sits on my desk as a daily driver.  There is no question IMO that the 500's G1 handset is the most comfortable and well designed type ever produced.   I like the feel of it in my hand, the heaviness of the bakelite, and the solid sound it makes when placed back into a soft plastic cradle.


I own one white late '50s Princess that includes separate ringer and AC adapter for the dial light.  It's not being used currently.   I also have an early '30s 201A "space saver" mounted on the wall above the work bench in my garage shop.  It's a manual type (no dial) so is used for incoming calls only.  It's just a box for the switch hook and handset connections, with cradle for the handset to hang from.  The cradle is designed for an early type E1 handset, but will accommodate the later F1 type, which is what I had on hand to use with it.  The dial version was typically found under counters or in bars.  I have that set connected to a 634A ringer subset, but since I have a 500 on a nearby desk that rings loudly, I disabled the subset's ringer.


Other miscellaneous sets are a late '60s not-quite-modular green rotary Trimline, a '70s brown simulated alligator rotary desk set with K-type handset, a clean 1936 manual D1 oval base with F1 handset, and various other rotary Trimlines.


The two unusual WECo items are teamed up in the den.  The phone is a model 5302, which was produced after the 500 models were launched.   Demand for the 500 was overwhelming and exceeded supply for several years, particularly because it featured ringer volume control, which had never before been offered.   WECo had tons of 302 models that had fallen out of favor, so they designed a new case for them that resembled the 500 and modified the ringer so it could be adjusted.  They issued 5302s in place of 500s and subscribers were in large part none the wiser.  Some 5302s had the old style F1 handsets, which looked out of place on a 500 case.  Others (like mine) used the newer G1 handset that was retrofitted with F1 transmitter and receiver elements.   Just another way Ma Bell got every last bit of mileage out of their equipment.  I like the 5302 for its legacy of deceptive marketing and clever adaptation.


The one drawback to the 5302 is the ringer itself.  It sounds clunky and not as pleasing as a 500 ringer.   For this reason, I disabled the ringer and connected a '60s vintage WECo chime box along the baseboard near the 5302.  Problem solved. 


The only thing I need to watch is how many ringers that are active.  I'm at my limit currently for what the line voltage will support.  If I connect another ringer, the chime won't work and will revert to a regular ring that's very loud.  If I wanted the shop 201's subset to ring, I'd have to disable at least two other ringers somewhere else.


I'm pretty much done buying phones, although it's tempting when I come across a WECo phone in a thrift store.  If anything, I need to get rid of some phones!


Here are some pictures of a few of my phones.  Except for the manual D1 oval base, all are currently in service.


1:  1950 500

2:  1931 D1

3:  1938 302 (metal)

4:  1936 D1 (manual)

5:  193? 201A (manual)






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Post# 967261 , Reply# 12   11/11/2017 at 02:18 by johnrk (Houston)        
CYpress-7 is my exchange

and I certainly had no 'flimsiness' issues with my Ericofon, though I didn't manhandle it or the digital set that I bought afterward. I won't pretend, though, that it's in the same league as the boat-anchor Western Electric phones; it wasn't designed to be.

I grew up with two white phones like #1 above at home, and a white wall phone from the same era. When I went to work in an old hospital in college as a teenager in the 70's we still had rotary desk phones with those old buttons with little lights behind each one. Those little lights were constantly burning out and getting replaced. We had to click the hook buttons twice to get the operator to transfer calls. The operators still had big push-pull switchboards. I was friends with a lady who'd worked there for 40 years as an operator; she had permanently red places in both palms from pulling cords. All got replaced with the hospital when we built and opened a new one in Houston in 1977. Replaced the elevators with ladies running them, too.

Post# 967270 , Reply# 13   11/11/2017 at 04:23 by iej (Ireland)        

Ericsson is basically the closest thing to a European counterpart to Western Electric that you could possibly get. Their switching systems have formed the backbone of many networks for a very long time.

They'd an extremely successful crossbar switch system called AR. It was sold as ARF (large local switch), ARK (local remote switch for small communities), ARM (transit/ gateway) and ARE (where it was upgraded up partially computerised.) They then had a system called AKE a so called "code switch" with computer addressable cross points.

They rolled out the Ericsson AXE in the 1970s which was a fully digital system and would go on to become the world's best selling central office system. It's been through lots of versions offer the years and is still hugely popular in mobile and fixed networks.

In the old days in Europe you had what were collectively called "PTT" monopolies. They were usually public companies that evolved out of the post office and in the 1970s and 80s most adopted the band Telecom.

Unlike MaBell, they weren't vertically integrated to the same degree. So they shopped around for equipment. So I think we had a far more competitive market at the vendor level. That's possibly why Europe ended up developing systems like GSM mobiles.

Ericsson is still huge but now Nokia's acquired a lot of other companies and is similar.

Nokia bought: Siemens Networks, then merged with Alcatel Lucent (a merger between the very large French Alcatel Group and Lucent (Western Electric and Bell Labs).

So Nokia now contains three huge European R&D houses and equipment vendors and Bell Labs...

Post# 967278 , Reply# 14   11/11/2017 at 06:26 by Gyrafoam (Roanoke, VA)        

I never paid the slightest bit of attention to who manufactured the phone we used on the old Southern Bell system. (I just went and looked, they are Western Electric, except one that must have come from Florida marked GTE Automatic Electric and it dials funny.)
All I know is that the service was PERFECT, no dropped-calls, and they NEVAH,EVAH stopped working or needed repair. Ever.

I still have four rotary telephones. A few from the family business back in Atlanta, we used to use as door-stops they were so heavy.
If I knew how to do it properly I would hook them back up and use them.

Post# 967285 , Reply# 15   11/11/2017 at 07:48 by johnrk (Houston)        

I've watched with enjoyment the many Bell Telephone vintage videos they have on YouTube, including the ones demonstrating party lines, when dial phones came to some towns in the fifties, direct long-distance dialing, etc. The ones that fascinate me are from the forties showing how long-distance calls went through long-distance operators, and the umpteen steps along with little hand-written cards that were required. No wonder those calls were so expensive!

We probably have good reason to be nostalgic about how well our telephone system worked in this country back before the government broke it up. However, I remember well how expensive it could be to get service back then, my granny in the country was on a party line until the late 70's, we couldn't own our phones, etc. My parents spent two years in Brazil in the 70's as my father was an engineer for Dow. Once a month he got a call from there at company expense; to call me for that 3-minute call was $33/minute.

I replace these crappy Panasonic cordless phones at my house about every 3-5 years, but I do own them and I can choose what I want. So I suppose it balances out.

And that doesn't even get into cell phones and 'smart' phones...

Post# 967290 , Reply# 16   11/11/2017 at 08:17 by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

IEJ--exactly right about Ericsson. They had a large presence in Latin America landline service (the business was to a degree split up between them and ITT). In Stockholm, Sweden is the Telephone Museum which was very interesting to tour (given my background working in that business)...Ericsson is to Sweden what AT&T is to the US (and what Northern Telecom/Nortel is to Canada). Being in the business for the last 25 years--it's been a great run!

Post# 967315 , Reply# 17   11/11/2017 at 11:29 by Johnb300m (Chicago)        

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johnrk, I've watches those old ATT vids too! Very fascinating.
The whole production they did when the NYC exchange burned down, really showed the Bell system at its best. (Of course that was their propaganda point)....nevertheless, they pulled it off!
I dont' know any company today that could recover from a catastrophe like that today.

The vid where the woman had a literal meltdown because her named exchange was going to 7 numbers was hilarious too. LOL.

Post# 967317 , Reply# 18   11/11/2017 at 11:39 by 48bencix (Sacramento CA)        
I like the ATT phone

I got this one a year ago on EBay. I used these phones in business in the 1980's. I like the style.

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Post# 967322 , Reply# 19   11/11/2017 at 12:41 by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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Hooking up vintage telephones is easy.  I can walk you through it, or you can search through the Classic Rotary Phones site's forums for information (access via link below).  


Post# 967324 , Reply# 20   11/11/2017 at 12:49 by iej (Ireland)        

The landlines here, at least since digital switching rolled out beginning in 1980, were split 50:50 between Ericsson and Alcatel systems. Before that we used Ericsson crossbars and code switches assembled and localised in Ireland and Strowger step-by-step made mostly by STC I'm England.

In Europe generally in the digital era: Ericsson AXE. Alcatel's E10 and S12 (originally ITT System 12), Siemens EWSD (originally developed by Siemens, Bosch and DeTeWe), Nokia DX and then you've smaller national ones like : GPT/Plessey Marconi System X (UK), Thomson MT 25 (France), Italtel (Italy) and a few others. You'd find some non European, mostly Nortel, Lucent, Fujitsu and NEC equipment in some maskers too.

In recent years Huawei is the BIG challenger to those companies.

For phones here in Ireland they were mostly made by Northern Telecom, including an Irish version of their interpretation of the classic 500 phones, LM Ericsson, Kirk Telecom of Denmark who made some very cool ones, Hagenuk or Germany and and the UK's GEC and STC.

I just miss the old classic vibe the old marketing had. Yea, it cost ridiculous money to make a call compared to today and there was no competition, but it still had a sort of "solid" high quality feel :)

1987 Irish Telecom advert:

Lots of Irish locally made Northern Telecom Harmony phones.
I still have one in daily use! It's over 30 years old.

Post# 967327 , Reply# 21   11/11/2017 at 12:54 by iej (Ireland)        
Special offer Ireland-USA for "less than a pound a min.&

They used a very classic 1980s phone that was common here in those days. It was a licenced Daniah design.

With inflation (used an online calculator). That's Ä2.39 per minute or about $2.80 in 2017 money!

Post# 967342 , Reply# 22   11/11/2017 at 14:12 by firedome (Binghamton NY & Lake Champlain VT)        
We have pre-80s WEs strictly...

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with the steel bottom plates and bulletproof construction... a few Trimlines, some Princesses, in varying colors, some '60/70s wall phones, some rotary jobs. I absolutely HATE cellphones, and if the PTB get rid of landlines, they will have to pry the WEs from my cold dead hands.

Post# 967343 , Reply# 23   11/11/2017 at 14:19 by 48bencix (Sacramento CA)        
Sound quality

Of course I have a cell phone, for safety when I am out driving, if nothing else. But the sound quality is crappy compared with my landline. And the landline handset is much nicer to hold. Obviously there is not much enthusiasm for sound quality in anything. Much music is listened through Bluetooth speakers, and not in Stereo. Or earbuds from mp3's. Even "landlines" that are voip using the internet have crappy sound. I know the technology allows for better sound, there must not be a great demand for it.

Post# 967372 , Reply# 24   11/11/2017 at 17:06 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

In the Bell System prior to the break up everything was of course WeCo, after the break up there was a large push to transition all switching over to digital. This push was to greatly reduce operating costs, as all electromechanical switching equipment/offices required on site crews at all times constantly maintaining the equipment. With the switch to digital the crews were reduced dramatically, which nowadays is typically down to 1 person if that even.
But with that change was opportunity to use different network vendors, particularly Northern Telecom and Siemens. Those are the vendors Ameritech used in my area.
The earliest digital switch gear were WeCo 5ESS, then after the breakup and into the 90s they used Northern Telecom DMS100's, and in the late 90s and up into the current decade they used Siemens DE4 switches. Now believe it or not we had several switching offices remaining in Chicago that weren't digital, still using the 1AESS switch which was the last of the digitally controlled electromechanical switches. They took the last few out of service sometime between 2012-2014. The CO that served our house was 1AESS from when it was built in 1977 until the late 90s when it was replaced with a Siemens switch.

When it comes to wireless networks in the US, Nokia and Ericsson are the dominant equipment vendors. All four carriers use them. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint use Nokia in various regions via Nokia's merger with Alcatel-Lucent. Those carriers are now replacing that ALU gear with Nokia gear as time goes on. T-Mobile used Nokia when it was known as NSN, and continues to use them as well as Ericsson. Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T use Ericsson in various regions as well. Samsung also has a presence here as a network vendor via Sprint.
In the Chicago area for instance, Sprint uses Samsung and Nokia, Verizon & AT&T use Ericsson, and T-Mobile uses Nokia.

When I traveled overseas to Taiwan I discovered two of the largest carriers on the island use Ericsson. The Taiwanese will not let mainland Chinese gear into Taiwan due to concerns about them using it to spy on them.

Post# 967376 , Reply# 25   11/11/2017 at 17:21 by johnrk (Houston)        
phone quality

I was paying, a few years ago, a little over $40/month for my landline through AT&T. I purchased an Ooma Telo, and use it now with my cable internet. It costs me roughly $3.45/month. Does it sound as good? Probably not. And, of course, should my internet die, so does my phone service. However, I do have a cell phone, and being retired, that's a big monthly difference in cost for very little difference in usable quality. My friends and acquaintances didn't even notice when I switched services because Ooma kept my old, decades-long land line number.

Post# 967399 , Reply# 26   11/11/2017 at 19:09 by iej (Ireland)        
VoIP varies depending on how itís done.

Some of the best physical phones you can buy these days are all high end VoIP desk phones. The stuff they make for PSTN is usually very cheap junk in comparison.

Also depending on how the calls are being handled and routed, VoIP sound quality is potentially vastly superior to POTS services. If youíre using good hardware and wideband audio codecs, it sounds at least as good as FM radio.

PSTN uses pretty horrible codecs and companding algorithms to process audio.

If youíre using ďover the topĒ VoIP service on a public internet connection with suboptimal conditions, then VoIP is painful. If itís properly setup and using low latency connections and QoS (quality of service) management, itís far superior to ISDN.

G.729 = bad quality VoIP and is commonly used. Itís what gave VoIP a bad reputation.
G.711 = same CODEC as the digital PSTN uses. Comparable to a single channel ISDN line.
G.722 = wideband voice. This is also possible on the ISDN networks. Itís much superior to PSTN.

The problem is a lot of people experience bad quality VoIP and then assume itís all awful. In reality youíre likely to be already using VoIP as a lot of voice providers already use it in their core networks.

If VoIP is done right, your old Western Electric phone, plugged into an ATA that can handle pulse dialling, should sound as good or better than on POTS.

And a well built high end SIP phone should be as good as any of its ancestors.

Post# 967400 , Reply# 27   11/11/2017 at 19:23 by polkanut (Wausau, WI )        

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The 1930's WE 201A pictured in Reply #11 photo #5 is exactly what the parents of my mom's best friend had in their bathroom.  As a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever to be able to answer a phone call while on the john. 

Post# 967403 , Reply# 28   11/11/2017 at 20:32 by cadman (Cedar Falls, IA)        

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John, I'm also running an OOMA here and upgraded so that all calls to my cell number ring through to the house. Coupled with a vintage Panasonic PBX, all the rotary phones in the house are now touchtone capable, and all ring at full strength. Plus I can call any other phone by dialing a 2-digit extension.

I've actually got a vintage outdoor phone booth from an independent (red enamel panels) that I need to setup and wire into the network. Should be fun once it's all wired up.

Post# 967405 , Reply# 29   11/11/2017 at 20:41 by cornutt (Huntsville, AL USA)        
Land lines

A lot of land lines don't go directly back to the CO anymore. They go through muxes or concentrators that are powered at the site, and have batteries for backup. If the utility service and the batteries fail, you no longer have service, even though the CO is still operating. We found this out the hard way in the 2011 tornado outbreak, when our land line failed the next day and didn't come back until power to the neighborhood was restored five days later. So the reliability advantage usually touted for land lines isn't necessarily there. Cell service in the neighborhood kept working, although you had to try for a while to get a call through.

Post# 967413 , Reply# 30   11/11/2017 at 22:22 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

We used to have two landlines. The one with the DSL came out of the Remote Terminal. The original one came out of the CO about 3.5 miles away. When ordering a new line they will by default connect to the CO and not the RT.

In regards to voice quality, a properly done VoIP setup sounds just as good if not better than POTS service. POTS used G.711 and VoIP typically uses that by default as well, so VQ theoretically should be identical and it usually is. I have all the analog phones plugged into an ATA, one that I can adjust all the electrical parameters on and have set it to the same specs the PSTN ran on and have verified with a simple meter that it's working like it should. I even adjusted the receive and transmit volume on the ATA to be identical to the typical POTS line. Most ATA's by default come with the tx/rx cranked way up causing distortion. I am as close to a true landline as I can get on my cheap Obi100 ATA without having an actual landline.
The internet aspect of VoIP is the real tricky part, the public internet was never designed to carry time sensitive live voice packets and can be very fickle about transmitting them without major flaw. It is key to have a decent QoS setup on the home router to at least ensure the VoIP quality isn't being trashed by other data using applications running on the LAN. Once it gets past the router and onto the public internet, anything goes.

If you have cable VoIP or telephone company VoIP like AT&T Uverse voice, it is the same SIP protocol as any other VoIP provider but the traffic stays exclusively on their network where they have full control over it, and when it has to leave their network it travels over the PSTN where voice traffic has its own dedicated pathway. So none of the potential issues one may suffer by using standalone VoIP is an issue with these cable/phone company services.

As for Ooma, it's not the best quality in my experience. They don't use the G.711 codec by default, they use a more compressed codec called iLBC. My experience with it has not been so great. You may contact them and have them lock your device to G.711 (which improved things for me a good bit) by following the steps in the link below. I use an excellent VoIP provider, Callcentric, with my ATA and it works very good. Another VoIP provider that will provide an ATA with their service is VoIPo, it is plug and play. (Callcentric requires you provide and setup your own device).
Also, my best sounding phone is an IP phone.


Post# 967419 , Reply# 31   11/11/2017 at 23:12 by johnrk (Houston)        
I've Been On Ooma

for 3 years without incident, and heavy usage. Satisfied.

Post# 967477 , Reply# 32   11/12/2017 at 11:52 by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)        
early 1960s GTE EL dialight

there is a ~early 1960s GTE rotary model that had an electroluminescent panel lit dial (blue/green glow) one of those would be nice addition to the collection :)

Post# 967479 , Reply# 33   11/12/2017 at 12:14 by iej (Ireland)        
VoIP - get a good phone!

VoIP *done right* is great!

A lot of your experiences of VoIP seem to be badly setup, cheap systems with tons of compression..

I've a Gigaset VoIP DECT phone with several handsets as my "daily driver" and a Cisco desk phone that cost over Ä200 as I have a home office.

(I also still have an old Nortel Harmony phone from the 1980s plugged in too.)

The Gigaset devices and the Cisco desk phone are as good as any analogue or ISDN phone I've ever encountered. They are extremely solid pieces of kit and sound very good.

You have to remember that before they opened the markets and we used to rent phones from the telephone company, they were seriously well built and expensive pieces of kit that were designed to last for decades and be maintained by the phone co. They had metal chassis and heavy plastic or Bakelite parts, removable and replaceable capsule speakers and mics, modular handset, repairable dial / button modules etc etc ... they probably cost as much as a modern iPhone on the 1960s and the phone co easily made it back with rental fees and very expensive calls compared to today.

Since the markets opened and you bought your phone at the nearest supermarket, they're made for a fraction of the price and they very much feel that way. They're very simple devices (and always were) but they're so simple they've ended up being made very poorly.

I have a small business and work with a few people and we use a hosted PBX service. It gives us the ability to transfer calls between each other (and also to mobiles and actually any number in the world) with all the slick professionalism (including proper music on hold) as we would have had with a physical PBX in an office.

I can configure hunt groups, assign different incoming and outgoing numbers (including in other cities) to any extension or group of extensions. It has umpteen different voicemail options, including speech to text. I can send and receive faxes using email without any extra software which is handy for the very, very rare occasion that someone asks for something by fax.

On top of that it now fully integrated with mobile phones.

You can also use the service from any decent internet connection almost anywhere.

When I'm using it in the office is has proper QoS and uses G.711 sounds as good as ISDN voice.

Youíre likely already using VoIP as part of the backhaul of your classic landline anyway. A lot of networks are already using VoIP based trunks and core switching. Even if youíre still using an old Class 5 central office switch, itís very possible thatís talking over IP networks back to a soft switch.

Whether youíre using TDM and ATM or VoIP, the quality should be very similar. If itís some crappy equipment linking together using bad quality internet connections, it will sound awful. Thatís nothing to do with the technology choice.

Post# 967482 , Reply# 34   11/12/2017 at 12:22 by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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I had telephone service with AT&T for 43 years and I finally got tired of their regular price increases and their terrible DSL service, so 2 years ago I switched to VOIP with Comcast. The service is 10 times better than AT&T ever was, especially the WiFi. And I donít know how I ever got along without caller ID and all the other enhancements that are included with Comcast Voice. AT&T wanted extra for EVERYTHING, and I wasnít willing to give one them dime more!

And since our home has prewired phone jacks in every room I wanted to still be able to use our old corded phones and not be limited to cordless only. So, I checked out several You Tube videos on how to set this up, and its really easy. I just opend up the old Bell System service box on the outside of the house and disconnected the AT&T telephone wire connections and posted a note inside that house is connected to VOIP and to NOT RECONNECT the AT&T service wires. Then I backfed the voice signal from the modem/router into the nearest phone jack inside the house, using a splitter so I could also use the jack for a corded phone. Now all the phone jacks have active voice signal. And since the modem/router has a battery backup, if the power goes out, as long as the cable signal is still active we have phone service.

I will never go back to AT&T POTS. They treated me like a customer that they didnít care about after 43 years of loyal patronage, and 43 years of paying the bill, in full, every month, on time. They are dead to me!

This post was last edited 11/12/2017 at 13:09
Post# 967485 , Reply# 35   11/12/2017 at 13:13 by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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Well Eddie, I don't want to burst your bubble, but you played right into AT&T's hands.  I don't think there's a telco on the planet that wants to provide residential POTS, and that's nothing new.   Residential POTS has always been a losing proposition for them.  Business service has always been how telcos make their money. 


Since the advent of wireless service, they're all lobbying with the FCC and state PUCs to allow them to phase out residential POTS as we know it by not requiring them to maintain the copper network.  If they get their way -- and there's little reason to think they won't -- what we know today as POTS will be a wireless hybrid that doesn't require running copper from the CO.  If that level of deterioration in transmission quality doesn't make people switch to VOIP, I don't know what will.

Post# 967489 , Reply# 36   11/12/2017 at 13:44 by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

ea56's profile picture
Ralph, I did what was best for us at the time. Even if we had stayed with AT&T it wouldnít have had any influence over their eventual dismantling of the POTS. For the last year that we had them they we constantly on my ass to switch to their Uverse, which I had no desire to do. And not only that, they wanted us to pay for all the installation fees to make this change that would have benefitted them. So, you havenít burst my bubble, Iím perfectly happy with my decision and Iím not looking back. It is too bad though that a system that worked so well for over hundred years is going to be history.

Post# 967490 , Reply# 37   11/12/2017 at 14:03 by iej (Ireland)        
AT&T charge for Caller ID?!

Iím surprised at that, particularly as most of those services drive more traffic and thus generate money!

Caller ID and Call Waiting, 3 way calling and Call Forwarding and often voicemail are free here.

The telcos LOVE voicemail because it means more calls connect, no busy tones which means more revenue.

In some cases the mobile networks even make it difficult to remove voicemail for that reason.

The * # ďPhonePlusĒ services were introduced here beginning in 1980 as COs moved to digital tech. Initially they charged both a quarterly rental and also a per use charge for setup / cancelling.

The full list of landline services active on POTS lines here: Call Waiting, Three Way Calling, Call Forwarding Unconditional and Conditional, Hotline (call a preprogrammed number by picking up the phone for 5 secs), Abbreviated Dialling. (Store numbers that you can speed dial wirh XX# like 01#. Alarm Clock Call, Call Return (1471) and Ring back (letís you know when a busy number is free).
Caller ID is active by default.

You can also activate anonymous call rejection for free on a lot of plans.

The charging for services business model changed sometime in the very early 2000s they just began to turn everything on by default, particularly ďCaller DisplayĒ (Caller ID) and call waiting.

A lot of the other services like abbreviated dialling and hotline arenít reallly actively marketed anymore but are active.

Post# 967495 , Reply# 38   11/12/2017 at 15:17 by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

rp2813's profile picture

Eddie, I used to get the same thing from AT&T when I had DSL.  They'd tell me U-Verse is available in my area, but it's not the real thing.  It's just VOIP bundled with Direct TV, and the same low speed internet access as I got with DSL, a whopping 1.2 MBPS.   Every time I'd ask them if I decided to go with U-Verse, would my internet speed be faster than 1.2 MBPS, the answer would be no, and invariably the rep had a tone of disbelief in their voice when they'd say so. 


Now that I no longer have DSL, I don't call their repair service for assistance anymore, and that was when they'd make their U-Verse pitch.  I switched to Comcast for high speed access and haven't looked back.  However, if AT&T leapfrogs into fiber service here, I might consider it, as from what I've heard it's much faster than Comcast's best offering and far more reliable.

Post# 967500 , Reply# 39   11/12/2017 at 15:42 by johnrk (Houston)        

was good at first when I switched over from dial-up about 15 years ago. We had to wait a long time in my neighborhood for DSL. However, service really went downhill after they started pushing U-Verse, which I didn't particularly want.

I worked part of the time out of a home office for my company and I relied on that DSL. It went down one day and I waited SEVENTEEN DAYS for it to get back up! Oh, they'd blame it on my house, they'd blame it on this and that, they blamed it on some switching up in Houston, etc. Finally, on the 17th day they discovered that some ass had flipped a switch in my city's local station and it came back on. I lived on my 'smart' phone for spreadsheets, wp, etc., for that time.

As soon as it came back up I switched to high speed Comcast. They are much, much more reliable than they were here in the 80's and 90's and when they go down it tends to get back up within a few hours.

AT&T has an awful reputation in the city where I live, I know so many like me who left due to poor service and their tendency to nag the crap out of the customers. I still get their flyers for U-Verse in snail mail...

Post# 967512 , Reply# 40   11/12/2017 at 17:05 by 48bencix (Sacramento CA)        
Regulated Service

POTS is a Regulated Service and has a lot of taxes and regulations associated with it. My ATT bill includes $7.10 in taxes per month. Until recently my cell bill had no taxes but finally added $3.45 per month. I think that VOIP still avoids some of the taxes. Probably by the time I finally get VOIP the taxes will be there and it will not be any cheaper. It is good to hear that sound quality is possible with the system. I know it is possible with cell service also. I just think customers have not demanded it. It is so nice to be out of your home and be able to get any phone service that most of us didn't care about the voice quality.

I think there is some rule that all phone services must connect to receive a call for free. Except cell which charges for those minutes. So if you are calling using a VOIP you will be connected to all phones. With the regulated system all those charges were included if everyone participated. When all POTS regulated services are gone, the ones left will have to share the cost to run everything. Just seems that the copper lines were expensive to keep up but so is the whole internet, if not more so.

Post# 967517 , Reply# 41   11/12/2017 at 17:23 by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

ea56's profile picture
My sister and a friend of mine both had AT&T U-Verse and everytime I spoke with either of them on the phone the reception was terrible. And they both had problems with repeated outages, from what I could tell I believe these outages were mostly due to the inferior quality of the U-Verse equipment installed in their homes. And they both had LONG waits for someone from AT&T to get out to repair the problems.

Since I switched to Comcast, anytime I needed a tech, which has been twice, they were out the next day. And Iíve received generous credits on our acct. twice when there were some problems with the X-1 box. Comcast usually answers their phone right away and I can reach a human being with a whole lot less hassle than AT&T, and I always end up with a satisfactory resolution to whatever problem I may be having. Sure, Comcast isnít perfect, these days perfection from any service provider is almost unknown, but they sure are a whole lot better than AT&T.

And it pains me to have to feel this way about AT&T. I worked for PT&T for 3 years during the 70ís, and I was always very proud to work for them. Back then the customer was always king, and we all took pride in the work we were doing. Now dealing with AT&T as a customer is a constant run around, and the customer is anything but king.

Post# 967541 , Reply# 42   11/12/2017 at 18:12 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

I axed our last POTS line after it developed a loud hum and any time they swapped F1 pairs it would still hum, some splices underground became compromised. That was in 2014, I made the move over to Comcast voice but kept having issues with choppiness. Finally after a few months of that I just ported the number out to Callcentric and have been using standalone VoIP since.

My IP desk phone is a Yealink, and I have a Gigaset cordless IP phone still sitting in the box waiting to be set up. Right now the cordless phones in the house are all analog Panasonic's.

Post# 968110 , Reply# 43   11/15/2017 at 13:28 by petek (Ontari ari ari O )        

petek's profile picture

I've had Ooma now for 3 or 4 years with no problems. I've even talked a few friends into getting it as well and so far so good they're  happy with it as well,, and the big savings.   I keep reading on here all the complaining about robo-calls and can't quite figure out why after telling people that Ooma gets rid of 99 percent of them, they won't buy one..     Ooma could also do with better advertising I guess.   

Post# 968128 , Reply# 44   11/15/2017 at 15:22 by johnrk (Houston)        

My Ooma box died, I called them and they had a replacement by FedEx the next day at no cost to me. It was definitely out of warranty, maybe they liked my lilting voice. I'm very, very pleased.

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