New phone system project, need help ideas

I work for a small city and we currently use Nortel Business Elements Manager to manage our phones, quiet frankly I do not know a whole lot about phone systems. Basically to sum it short… I would like to have someone give me some information on what I would need to integrate this FreePBX option.

What special hardware do I need to have freepbx be working correctly?

We need something that can have up to about 150 phones with future growth.

Will this freepbx solution, have what its called Asterisk server? therefor I can tie some of the options with spark messenger so that when a user is on the phone it can show if they are on the phone or not…


I appreciate everyone’s input.

First of all, FreePBX is not a stand alone that can be integrated with an existing system. It is specifically designed to interface with and configure the Asterisk telephone switch software. It is usually run on a dedicated server.

There are sever distributions of the FreePbx/Asterisk combo. The best two implementations are the FreePbx distro (which is put out by the folks who maintain the FreePbx code and is available on this website), and the PBX in a Flash distro. I’d stay away from anything else. (Don’t flame me folks this is just my opinion!!!).

You’ll usually need some special cards to interface your box with the outside telephone telephone world or Public Switched Telephone Network…PSTN.

Your PSTN connection can be the regular analog lines that you are familiar with, something called a “PRI” which is a digital Telephone Company (TELCO) offering which carries 23 voice channels. Both of these require specialized cards to hook them into your system. Another option is SIP trunks which are purely digital and come in via the internet. You don’t need anything to use these, but you do need a very good and stable bi-directional internet connection connection.

You’ll need some phones. I’ve had excellent results with the Aastra 6731i which sells for about $100.00. There are a number of phones in the Aastra 6700 line. It may help to know that the FreePBX developers use the Aastra phones extensively, and the FreePBX telephone configuration module (end point manager) works well with the Aastra phones.

Again, this is all from my personal experience and I’m sure others have other opinions.

I’m in a small city and actually have three FreePBX systems on line (Actually they’re the commercial version distributed by and I’d recommend them highly. One system has about 180 users, the other about 80 and the third 10 and is dedicated to the alert phones at our central Fire station. I also have a couple of very old Asterisk systems that use an ancestor of FreePBX called "[email protected] These have 4 or 5 phones each.

Anyway, hope this info helps.

My two

Bill, thank you very much for your information as I currently work part time for the City of South Padre Island in Texas pop. 5000+ and we are running Nortel phones for the time being as they were already here when I started, and the IT director is looking for an upgrade in about a year so I am trying to see if we can try one of these combinations. So I do know we currently have a PRI with the 23 voice channels, up to about that point I am not that familiar with how the Nortel works. He has mentioned to me that he is looking for some sort of cloud solution, so this SIP trunks option you mentioned seems to fit that as he says that if the building goes down, we can relocate and still have phones elsewhere.

So this SIP trunks option, I assume its something you buy from a SIP trunks provider? so the only hardware we would need would be the phones themselves correct? Or setup soft phones for free. So there wouldn’t be a need for this freepbx anymore if that would be the case correct?

There are providers that provide that, in fact, Schmoozecom has such a service. I guess, though, that you’re concerned about having to evacuate the barrier island and set up shop elsewhere in he event of a hurricane.

You could certainly use a hosted solution as you describe, then you could essentially plug your phones into any internet connection and be up and running.

With a VoIP system the number follows the phone. You could also have a local computer running your phone system using SIP trunks for PSTN access. You’d then take your server and some phones to your backup location, plug everything in, and go from there.

I’d be glad to talk to you about all of this, as I’m pretty well versed in disaster communications. Feel free to call me if you want.

Check out for contact info. Call our Action Line and ask for me.


Hey Billy, thank you very much, I have your contact information already as I had searched you prior when you first responded :wink: I definitely will be contacting you soon so I can ask you some questions and advise about this particular subject, it definitely seems like your the go to person as you also work in city government.


Best Frank. I’ll send you an email with my information.

I spent about 14 years as Comm Officer at State Emergency Management!