It's a while since I played with (and, for that matter, wrote about) the Asterisk Open Source IP Telephony package. But as it happens I was having a pint with a friend from the telecoms industry last week, and he asked me if I new anything about it. It turns out that one of his clients is setting up a VoIP-based mini-telco-style service and has decided that Asterisk is the way to go.

This surprised me a little at first, because I couldn't help thinking how inexpensive commercial phone systems are these days. I know from my day job that you can pick up something like a Mitel 3300IPC for a few thousand quid, and they support shedloads of concurrent calls, work happily with SIP and other modern standards, interface natively to the PSTN, and so on.

Then I realised that even if you can pick up the commercial PBX hardware for a song, the killer is the licences (particularly with Mitel, actually). Adding SIP licences costs several dozen quid per concurrent trunk, then there's money for line cards, more hardware if you want redundancy and so on.

I'll be intrigued to see what comes of this carrier-grade Asterisk implementation, then. Not least because one of my “I'll get there eventually” jobs when the day job calms down a bit is to evaluate Asterisk as the way forward for equipping small offices with inexpensive but well-integrated IP PBXs.