Offline phone - straight to voice mail

I have a client who gets incoming calls (sales leads) for 20 something dollars each. All of his employees telecommute and use remote extensions. Problem is that they all have different routers and internet service and from time time to time one of their 2 extensions becomes “Unreachable” as if the phone were off-line. That makes new incoming calls go straight to voicemail. Because the call is therefore answered in a few seconds he gets charged $20.

If the phone rings for more than 18 seconds he does not get dinged for $20. The default ringtime and ringtime on all extensions is set to 23 seconds therefore no charge. Problem if not obvious is that he pays when extensions are unreachable/offline and go straight to voicemail.

Question is:

If the phone/extension is down, is there a way to make it ring for 23 seconds anyway??

This system is:

  • Centos 5.3
  • Asterisk 1.4.26
  • FreePBX 2.6

As a stopgap solution, you could have another group of extensions (perhaps three or four VoIP adapters, each assigned its own extension number) on the same local network as the Asterisk box itself, so that they never lose connectivity. These extensions would never actually be answered (so you would not even have to plug a phone into the adapter), you just need some extension numbers that will ring but never answer.

Then for each “real” extension you set up a Follow-Me. For the ring strategy you use “firstnotonphone”, for the Ring Time you specify something greater than 23, and in the Follow-Me list you put the actual extension’s number first, then list all your dummy (never-answered) extensions. The idea is that when a call comes in, if the primary extension isn’t available, the call will go to one of the dummy extensions that never get answered, and just ring for the specified ring time (which you’ve set to be greater than 23 seconds), then go to the “destination if no answer.”

Now, there’s probably some way to avoid using hardware devices for the “dummy” extensions, but I’m tired and just can’t think of what it might be - and if you’re getting charged twenty bucks a pop, it might be worth it to buy some VoIP adapters and use them in this way (get charged for four or five calls and you’re well past the cost of a two-line PAP2 on eBay). Perhaps there’s some way to create a “custom” extension that would ring forever (until the Follow-Me pulls back the call and sends it to the no-answer destination), if so you could just create several of those and use them in the Follow-Me lists (well, maybe - I haven’t tested that theory, obviously). At least maybe these thoughts will help jog your thinking a bit (or inspire someone else to come up with a better solution).


I will give this a try if the situation doesn’t improve or I can’t find something simpler.

Each of these phones is using 2 lines and extensions via a ring group. If they are on line 1 and line 2 drops off and becomes “unreachable” that’s when the “straight” to voice mail" thing becomes a problem.

I have a couple GS BT201s that could be the dummies. I rarely see more than 2 extensions down at the same time. Do you think 2 dummies will be enough?