Welcome back! In Part 1, I took you through the thought process that led me to want to add cellular-based access to my home's VoIP system. I ended up with the following project goals:
- Ensure the ability to make outgoing calls should our DSL fail
- Provide access to 911 service
- Provide access to 411 service
- Provide a low/no cost way to stay in touch when I'm travelling
- Provide a means of making oversea calls from my cell phone without paying cellular carriers oversea long distance rates
In this second and final part, I'll focus on the little box that makes it all possible.
Normally in a product review I would not dwell upon the purchase process in any detail. However, in this case I feel it’s worth sharing the experience of buying a system directly from a manufacturer who is located in the Far East. While this might cause some concern, the experience was good and I feel I was dealt with promptly and fairly.
Having made the decision to buy a GSM gateway and researched the various products available, I decided to order the Portech MV-370. I was a little surprised to find that Portech, a Taiwanese company, doesn't really have solid distribution system in the US.
While Portech lists a distributor on its website, that dealer’s web presence left me feeling that I should buy the unit elsewhere. Out of curiosity, I checked E-Bay and found that the device was available for purchase directly from the manufacturer. So that's the way I went.
There are, in fact, several variants of this device, so check details and specifications before ordering! I initially purchased a tri-band variant with a 220 V power supply because the voltage on the power supply was not clearly stated in the catalog (but was detailed in the email confirmation of the order). Since that power supply was inappropriate, I contacted the manufacturer and modified the order to include a 110 V power supply. During that contact Portech also recommended the quad-band model that would cover all possible US GSM carriers and was only slightly more expensive.
Before the MV-370 arrived, I paid a visit to my local T-Mobile store to get a SIM card for the gateway. During that visit, I changed my calling plan from a zillion minutes/month on one line to a "family plan" with two lines sharing the pool of minutes.
T-Mobile was only too happy to do this, as I was very near the end of a two-year commitment. Since I was providing my own hardware for the second line, they required a further commitment of only one year to make the change.
The change didn't cost me a penny, although T-Mobile may have had the impression that I was going to use my old Motorola RAZR for the second line. That may have come from the fact that I brought that phone with me to the store so they could "install" the new SIM card, although we never actually spoke about it.