Even though it might seem like a joke to many, Raspberry Pi, the small single-board computer developed in the UK for schools and developing countries in 2012, is a huge success that managed to sell way more than its original target. And considering that this brutally simple, cheap and yet fully functioning computer comes with everything you might need, it’s no surprise that success would be guaranteed.
Every Raspberry Pi comes with USB, mini-USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports, and even lets you choose your own OS instead of the pre-installed Raspbian – including a compatible version of Windows 10. However, due to not running a standard OS, Raspberry Pi was initially not well suited for VoIP purposes.
Luckily there are now plenty of solutions to make your Pi capable of hosting a virtual Private Branch Exchange (PBX) and/or a softphone, provided that you are ready to follow a setup process and that you have a USB headset.
RasPBX: The Power of Asterisk
If you want to use your Pi as the base of a VoIP system, then RasPBX is the VoIP solution recommended for you since it is based on the Linux-compatible Asterisk, an open source toolkit for building communications apps. In order to make RasPBX work, you will need to put the image containing Asterisk and FreePBX onto a flash card with a minimum of 4GB space, plug it into your Pi, boot the device with the internet connected and finish the setup on a computer or Mac. However, if you cannot configure your Pi from a computer, you can always do so on the device itself. At this point you just have to create new SSH host keys, choose a time zone, and configure local settings. Once this is done you can then start making calls using the default trunk provided by Star Communications or by installing an SIP softphone. You can also set up an SMTP server to host voicemails, but it is possible to use any publicly available free email provider as well.
Elastix: The Multi-Faceted PBX
If you thought that the Asterisk and FreePBX combo was good, Elastix – or specifically its Pi-compatible version, µElastix – is a true powerhouse that not only provides VoIP, but also video conferencing, faxing, instant messaging and mailing. This PBX is based on the Asterisk call-report interface, supports the automatic configuration of IP phones, trunks and gateways, while you can place or receive calls from mobile devices as well thanks to 3CX, which powers Elastix.
Other Possible Solutions
Since Raspbian – the OS that Raspberry Pi devices run by default – is closest to Linux in regards to which features are available, it is logical to use Linux-compatible solutions to turn your Pi into a device capable of handling VoIP. In that regard you can subscribe to any cloud phone system provider’s services – including the ones we have reviewed – and look for a softphone that supports Linux (or the Pi in this case). Once you found a solution you are happy with, you can set up a new SIP account, have the system recognize the Raspberry Pi that will act as your softphone and you are basically ready to make calls via your Pi and a USB headset.
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