16+ BLF Phones

I am currently searching for a set of phones to replace our 15 year old Panasonic PBX.

We are excited about going IP, SIP trunking, etc. However, we also don’t want to give up existing functionality. Therefore, what phones would you suggest for the following criteria.

- High-quality device: Our last system is 15 years old, and going strong. I don’t want to replace it with something cheap/unreliable.
- 16+ BLF: We are a small office with 11 extensions. We like being able to look at the phone and determine who is available at a glance.
- Easy Trasnfer to Voicemail: The receptionist often has to send the call to voicemail. They shouldn’t need to know extensions. Being able to press “Trasnfer to VM”, then the BLF is ideal.
- Auto-Answer: We constantly intercom each other which auto-answers. I believe FreePBX can handle this directly.

- Visual Voicemail: Using an IVR to retrieve voicemail seems backwards in this day and age. Visual voicemail would be great. I know there are REST apps, but compatibility is difficult to determine.

Based on these criteria, where would you look? To be honest, the number of BLF slots appears to be the limiting factor. This is hard to believe, since older systems typically had ~30.

That many BLFs means sidecars, unless you scour for older devices with the awful paper inserts. Phone Apps compatibilty is here: https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/FPG/Phone+Apps-Supported+Devices

Sangoma S series with expansion modules hit all your requirements.

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I think you are right. I was attempting to avoid the sidecar. However, perhaps I should embrace it.

They do seem to make the device fairly wide, but that isn’t necessarily a problem.

The Sangoma is a great suggestion, thank you. They do seem to have excellent integration with FreePBX.

Reevaluate your wish list, you’ll likely find not everyone needs (or wants) a sidecar.

You are probably correct. However, we really like being able to see the state of the office at a glance, quickly intercom, etc. This is basic functionality of our current PBX, and I don’t really want to go backwards.

Grandstream GXP2160 has 24 physical BLF buttons

You are crazy. On the one side you are complaining that using an IVR for voicemail is stupid and legacy, yet you want to retain the stupid and legacy one button per person concept of key systems.

There is a reason that all but no one makes a phone like this. Because no one actually wants or needs it. It is an extremely small niche market segment that earns no profit to the hardware makers.

That is basically a phone with a permanently attached side car.

I’ve been in this situation, and frequently encounter this with customers. When you have a group with varying degrees of technical competence, it can be difficult to get some to adapt to new technology or new work flows. Reproducing existing feature sets is a reasonable strategy in these cases.

Personally, I would only consider GS if budget doesn’t permit anything else. Paper inserts aside, they do not have a stellar history of firmware quality.

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I have had plenty of people ask for this. I have also successfully convinced every one of them that they actually don’t care enough to get a button for everyone.

Typically, moving up to the Yealink T46S with 10 visible BLF (9 if you paginate) is enough for most people when they see things in action.

It is always a small office because once you are beyond small offices, no one wants to see everything.

I am also 100% with you on the history of Grandstream quality.
FOP2 is an amazing thing for the hold outs.

This conversation has happened in the IRC channel as well. The OP was unaware that lines are BLF’s. The options of 24 line phone, phone with built-in expansion or side car(s) has been discussed and explained as well.

I have offices with 24+ BLFs and they had no issues with having side cars to support it.

The point of it being an intercom call makes it auto answer unless you disable it in the phone configuration.

Here is the config for a Yealink phone to have a button to send to VM and a button for intercom.
To send to VM press transfer (softkey on bottom of screen) then “To VM” and the the BLF of the person.

For intercom, press the Intercom button and then the person’s BLF.

For everyone? Almost always there is an “operator” phone or two with sidecars and BLFs for everyone. But it is rarely everyone.

In some cases, yes every phone has a side car. In others, a select few have side cars.

Note that the Sangoma S series phones have a feature which I believe is unique, in that you can have BLF buttons do different action depending if you short press or long press the button. Long pressing a BLF button can be configured to intercom or direct dial vm.

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Let’s not forget that most phones offer multi-function BLF. So when they all have sidecars it is because they want features like Speed Dial, Transfer and Call Pickup so they can just hit a button and either call the other user, transfer a call to that user or pick up a call for that user.

Edit: Plus not just the users, Parking Lots.

There are quite a few scenarios where every user having a side car is wanted/required for business logic. Hell, I have one place that has side cars for every user AND they use FOP to monitor/manage calls more deeply.

We have about 800 Grandstream phones, a mixture of GXP2130 and GXP2160. Whilst they are not perfect, we have had very few problems with them and they are a very good price here in the UK at least. Sadly no Sangoma phone could get anywhere near the spec/features for the price.

I can’t believe I missed this. The paper inserts don’t really bother me. However, I have heard less than stellar things about the Grandstreams.

I should probably clarify, I am one of the users of the system (not an installer).

While I have taken it for granted, the current Panasonic PBX really is pretty efficient. I was noting today how quickly I can pickup a call, intercom others, etc.

The discussion really does seem to boil down to sidecar, or not. Personally, I would like to be able to glance at the phone and see the status of 8-9 extensions. This is especially important when I am on a call, so BLFs seem like a good way to present this information at all times.

If you have 2-3 line keys, and 3 park keys, we are at 13+ BLF keys, which is more than almost any phone offers without a sidecar.

Therefore, I think I am in the sidecar camp. I am not opposed to sidecars, other than perhaps they are a bit wide on the desk.

To be honest, the Fanvil X210 is really exciting looking. However, the lack of name recognition, and some negative reviews online, make me too nervous to purchase it.

The Sangoma phones have some additional goodies that are tempting, in particular Visual Voicemail.

So, I have ordered a S705 & an EXP100 to kick the tires. I will be sure to report back. However, I am always eager for better solutions, in case I am stuck in an old way of thinking.

… which is more than most phones offer at a single glance without a sidecar.

An important distinction, many phones offer multiple pages of BLF buttons, for instance the Sangoma S500 can do 35 BLF buttons without a sidecar, you just have to scroll thru multiple pages to access the BLFs.