Higgins International

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Will this item work with phone company voice mail?

No and Yes...
We have two types of products. For one type (tone detection), officially we don't recommend using phone company voice mail. For the other product (distinctive ringing) we do.

That said...There are many people including myself that use phone company voice mail with a switch. The only thing we use it for is if the phone is busy. Of course, the ability to record a message while you are on the phone (when your line is busy) is the only real advantage of voice mail over an answering machine. Any answering machine that will let you call in for messages is as good as the phone company voice mail. A good answering machine usually does a whole lot more (time stamping for example). When we are not home, we use an answering machine to retrieve our messages. When the line is busy, we receive our voice messages on phone company voice mail.

Once you understand how this works, you will see that using phone company voice mail is actually the best way to get the most out of your switch because without it, if your line is busy, callers get a busy signal. With the phone company voice mail, you can get messages while you are on the phone and if it's a fax call it that comes in while you are on the line, it will be the same because most fax machines will automatically call back if the line is busy or if it can't make a connection (fax machines require a handshake between both machines before it registers as sent). If it's a manual call, the caller would have to resend the fax later anyway. Using voice mail is actually an advantage as long as you also use an answering machine. Because you need both, this is why we don't officially recommend it.

The type of product that we recommend to work with phone company voice mail is called the SR. What you will need to do is call your local phone company and be sure that your distinctive ringing service will transfer calls separately. In every area that I know of the distinctive ringing service will transfer calls from your main number only if you ask them to set it up that way. You might have to call your phone company to be sure that's the way yours is set up and if not have them change it but most likely this is the way the service works. When you call them to see, just ask them if you can forward your main number and not your distinctive ringing number to the voice mail. I think they will say yes. If you can, it should work fine.

Most likely you should go with the distinctive ringing product (SR) but let me explain how each of these units works so you can weigh the pros and cons for yourself:.

There are two ways we route calls: tone detection (The Stick) and distinctive ringing (SR Series).

Tone detection: Here the box immediately answers the phone call but the caller (if it's a voice call) doesn't know it because the switch (The Stick) generates a ring tone so the caller thinks the phone is ringing but what the box is really doing is listening. It listens for one of three things: cng tones (the tones a fax machines identifies itself with), dtmf (touch tones pushed on the keypad or appended to the dialing string - typically used to transfer incoming modem calls), or the lack of a signal (this is the default port typically used for voice or answering machine).

The box (The Stick) listens and quickly identifies what type of call it is and then routes it to the proper device. In the default application, the box would screen for fax tones, if its a fax automatically send it to the fax, if it hears the modem access codes, it sends the call to the modem or if it's voice, the call would be automatically sent to the phone and/or answering machine. This product is called the Stick (http://faxswitch.com/stick.html and http://faxswitch.com/stick_next.html) and it requires no extra phone company services.

The problem with the voice mail is...since the Stick answers the phone it can't send the call to the voice mail. You must use an answering machine when you are not home or if your phone line is not busy. If you are not home, all voice calls will ring your phones for how many times you have your ringer set to, then your answering machine will pick up. If the call is from a fax or modem it will automatically be routed to your fax or modem respectively. If your phone is busy (you are on the phone or a fax or modem call is being processed), the second call would go to your voice mail. You simply leave a message on your voice mail to the effect of "Thank you for your call. All of our lines are busy right now. If you would like to leave a message, please leave it after the tone. If this is a fax call, please try back in a few minutes when the fax lines are free. We look forward to serving you."

For many people including me, this works great. Maybe it's not the perfect solution because you need two types of answering devices but it's much better than not using the switch. As long as your phone line is not busy and you are not able to answer the phone, you get your messages on your answering machine. If the phone is busy, you get your messages on the voice mail. Actually this application is better than using an auto switch without the voice mail because you receive your voice mail while you are on the phone whereas without the call processor callers would get a busy signal and not be able to leave a message. The most economical tone detection unit we have is called the Stick. http://www.faxswitch.com/stick.html

We also have a two line Stick which will allow up to five devices on two phone lines. If one line is busy, it automatically finds the open line. For incoming calls you must subscribe to the phone company's "circle hunt" or "busy line transfer" in order for it to switch to the other line when one is busy. Since the box is routing on two lines (always finding the open line), it's not as likely that your phones will ever be busy. You probably would not even need the voice mail for your busy calls (because usually one of the two lines will be open to route your calls) If you have two lines, the Stick II might be the best product for you. You can see the Stick II online at: http://www.faxswitch.com/stick2.html

The best way to detect calls with phone company voice mail is with Distinctive Ringing Call Processor like the SR. With this approach, you would not need to use an answering machine. You use the phone company voice mail to receive your all of your messages when you are not available to answer the phone.

Distinctive Ringing: Distinctive ringing is a service offered by your local telephone company that you pay about $2.50 a month per number for (similar to the way you pay for call waiting and other features). What it does is gives you up to three phone numbers on one line. Each number issues a different ringing pattern so if it's a normal ring you know its phone number one, a double ring is phone number two and so forth. What a distinctive ringing box (The SR) does is monitor the line and then routes the calls by phone number to the specific device for that phone number.

The box never actually answers the phone to listen like the tone detection models do so calls can be forwarded by phone number thus your phone company voice mail will work just like it does now plus anyone who calls your fax number will be routed to the fax . The SR constantly monitors the phone company patterns so it just passes the phone company signal to the correct device as soon as it detects the phone company ring voltage . With the SR Series , you have two or three phone numbers sharing one line. In this application, you actually have a fax number and a modem number (and a voice number or other number with the SR-3). If the line is busy, you still need to use the message on your voice mail as mentioned above but you don't need an answering machine.

Using one of our distinctive ringing switches is just like having 2 (or 3) dedicated phone lines except you can't have more than one call going at a time on your single line. You call one number for your fax, another number for your modem and/or another number for voice. Each device has it's own phone number.

This product is the SR. We have 2 SR products (http://faxswitch.com/sr.html and http://faxswitch.com/sr_next.html ): SR-2 (two phone numbers) or SR-3 (2 or 3 phone numbers).

Either of the solutions could work for you with phone company voice mail . It just depends on your preferences . The main differences are: how many phone numbers you want and whether you have or are willing to buy an answering machine, .

With the Stick, you have one phone number for both fax, modem and voice The Stick routes the call on one number and one line to the correct device (voice, fax or modem). The Stick requires no additional phone company services. It does require that you have an answering machine to answer you calls when your phone is not busy.

The SR-2 would give you two phone numbers, one for your fax and one for your voice. The SR-3 would give you the choice of two or three numbers on one line and allow for future expansion (it has a toggle switch on the front). The SR products do require that you subscribe to your local phone company's distinctive ringing service for them to route calls to the right device. You do not need an answering machine.

I hope this answers your question. Most likely the SR is the best product for use with phone company voice mail but I wanted you to be aware of your options.

Click on one of the links above for your application or review the products below and click on the link that suits you best. Chances are you will find a switch that will meet your needs. Any of these products could save you thousands over the next few years by reducing your local phone bill.


The Stick

1 Year Warranty
High quality Voice/Fax/Modem/Data automatic call processor for the home or small business. Automatically routes calls to the right device every time!

Your Price only Delivered*

The Stick II

1 Year Warranty
A true two-line Voice/Fax/Modem/Data call processor.
Unique Features include:
• Call In/Dial Out Long Distance Saver
• Port-to-Port Communication and Data Transfer

  Your Price only Delivered*

SR Series

2 Year Warranty (SR2, SR3), 1 Year Warranty (LPSR)
The Selective Ring call processor for distinctive ring customers. Only ring the device intended for that call. Choose from 2 or 3 selective ring lines and AC powered or Line powered devices.

SR-2 (Two Devices)
Your Price only Delivered*

SR-3 (Three Devices)
Your Price only Delivered*


2 Year Warranty
Offering two models that, in addition to functionality similar to The Stick (voice/fax/modem call processor), can process selective ring detection, DIP switch programmability, phone line surge protection, and an internal busy signal. Highest quality automatic call processor in the world. The ultimate in reliability and dependability.

ATX-250 (Two Devices)  
Your Price only $196.00 Delivered*

ATX-300 (Three Devices)
Your Price only $299.00 Delivered*

ATX-300/6 (Six Devices)
Your Price only $479.00 Delivered*

Polnet® ACP 3,5,9


2 Year Warranty
An Industrial Grade Automatic Call Processor eliminates dedicated phone lines by expanding the number of devices you can connect to a single line. Use the Polnet for modems, data and credit card terminals, storage and monitor systems, and more! Typically used for multiple location modem applications. Email us about our RAD (Remote Access Dialer) for use with this equipment.

ACP-3 (Three Devices)
Your Price only $249.00 Delivered*

ACP-5 (Five Devices)
Your Price only $309.00 Delivered*

Other Products


1 Year Warranty
Advanced call management system that routes or blocks calls based on:
• Caller ID
• Fax Tones
• DTMF Touch Tones

Your Price only $399.00 Delivered*

The Power Stone®

1 Year Warranty
A call-activated AC power controller. Reboot and power up/down off-site computers and other devices by phone.

Your Price only $129.00 Delivered*

*Note: All prices include shipping and handling in the US and most of Canada. We reserve the right to charge up to the actual price of shipping on all orders outside the continental United States. All orders shipped UPS Ground unless specified. For air and express shipments, appropriate charges will be applied to your order.

All products are made in the USA.

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Call toll free (866) 337-0965 with your questions or to order by phone.

Comments: info@faxswitch.com