Sunday, January 13, 2013

No monthly fee landline replacement with Google Voice and Android wifi soft phone

Now I have a working system paying nothing.

I opted for a soft phone in Android.  Although it's a mobile phone, but it is classified as a soft phone.  A dual core will be fine but a single core isn't much far behind in benchmarks.

You need to check your wifi reception around your house.  Actually my 900MHz analog cordless is superior in range.  There are no problems inside the house and around the yard.  On the same floor with the router upstairs, the front rooms have interference from across the street.  The signal drops a lot downstairs.  I used to think wifi signal has a large range.  But no, my old wireless router was just sufficient to browse the web in most places indoors.  I never did much on wireless other than browsing.  With my new router, with careful placement of it, I manage to get 3Mbps in most indoors areas.  That figure is from  I think that's megabytes.  That's the minimum speed provided by some ISP and typically for DSL.  My ISP is 30Mbps and I can get almost that when I'm close to the router.

One of the soft phone said it requires over 1 Mbps to work properly.  Double that is safe as link speed fluctuates a lot and depends on how your neighbors operate their routers.  I use my Android phone with wifi apps to walk around and check the signal and link speed.

For the soft phone I use sipdroid.  It setup Google Voice during install without problems.  For now allows HD voice codec for free.  If you are not talking to another soft phone, or a sip phone, it doesn't mean a thing.  But that's the cool factor.  It sound pretty good if you try the echo test number *43 or the 909... number for PSTN. 

Using a dedicated Google Voice account is recommended because you have to give out your password.  Also, sipdroid acts as if it's talking on the computer via Google talk/chat all the time.  So you must not use it.  Don't login to gmail, but if you have to, logout of Google talk/chat there.  At the Google Voice account, you have to set forward to Google talk/chat, and that's forwarding to your softphone.  You can ring other numbers too as well.  Your softphone will ring first on your mobile before your carrier does.

Sipdroid is pretty much integrated with Android.  But ...  the native dialer won't work with sipdroid without a sim card or perhaps a valid carrier plan.  But any other dialer will work.  You can put the icon of your new dialer in place of the native dialer if you have to.  There are dialer widgets that you can put on the home screen.  Remember that it is supposed to be a landline replacement that kids can use.

The native/Google contacts work.  The call history works.  Sipdroid is transparent if you set it as default if there is wifi.

Now for a change, the Google Voice app is able to send and receive text via wifi only.  The GV app can run any time without interfering with Google Talk/Chat, which is connected to your softphone.  But make sure to set the app not to make any calls.  Confusing enough?

Those talking to you will certainly hear echo of themselves if they are on PSTN.  It's a characteristic getting across different networks, the PSTN and the internet or other networks.  Cell phones have echo cancellation I think.  On the PSTN side, I think echo canceling is done on the carrier network.

Your caller's echo is due to sound from the earpiece coupled into the mic on YOUR phone.  In the echo test number, you can hear the 2nd echo of yourself.  To reduce that set the mic gain to low in sipdroid.  If the echo is still bad, set the earpiece gain to low.  For some phones, if the sound level is too low, you can set the earpiece gain to high.

There's no doubt about it, the voice quality is good, sounds like a landline and better if both ends are soft phones or sip phones.  Using Google Voice, there is a delay that may or may not be noticeable.  The only issue is calling some call centres when you have to use DTMF tones.  You have to slide it out in Sipdroid, not as convenient and responsive as physical buttons.

Can't do fax at home.  Have to find an online account.

There are reasons not to use Google Voice.  When you call somebody, you will be connected to the pbxes server probably in Germany.  They will forward the call to a Google talk/chat server probably in US.  From there your call goes into the PSTN.  If you don't use Google Voice, your call will not bounce across continents.

Before I sorted 0ut my wifi problems, I almost wanted to get service from a VOIP/SIP provider.  The reason I returned my SIP phone is because I have no confidence to find myself a good provider.  If you pay $20 a month there's no problem.  A reasonable provider seems to be callcentric.  First, their website is update - copyright 2013.  They seems to be the real deal full service provider with 911.  You can pay as you go.  The monthly fees are like $1 and the setup fee is free or at most a few dollars.  Calls are a bit expensive at less than 2 cent a minute.  But then if you don't use the phone much you pay almost nothing.  You can try out their services with very little upfront payment.  They also promise to refund any unused prepaid credits.  But they are for geeks who know what is DID and understand why you have separate packages for calling out and receiving calls.  There's a little bit of catch as they will port your home number for $25.

I might still do, for 911 for less than $2 a month.  I'm sure you can still call 911 on the go phone with an expired sim card.  I'm not so sure on the Android.  Some people dial 911 as their first call on their new phone.  It's true, that's the only way you can be sure.  But emergency services is very much against that.  The position reported from my always online Android is not bad at all, mostly fall in the right lot.  But there were exceptions that I didn't look into.  I will.

Even with sip providers, you can still port your number to Google Voice (via wireless first).  For outbound calls they can put any verified phone numbers as the ID.  People can just call your GV number and get forwarded to your DID number.  Since GV is a redirection service, the calls are not bounced across servers as in Google talk/chat.

One more thing, is totally for geeks.  Of course people who manage pbx are IT people for a company.  And don't mess with the settings too much.  If you messed up, HD voice won't be free any more as per their plans.  However you can still delete the account and reinstall sipdroid.  They don't ban the same email after you delete your account.  I don't know if I can keep their free account for long.  Their emails to warn of deleting your accounts are a bit threatening.  I like to pay them reasonable charges but they don't provide sip services, just pbx.

One step further will be having your own PBX.   From there your call goes straight to Google talk server, which will be the same as talking on your computer using gmail.  That's way too complicated but it's all because Google has strategic reasons not to become a free sip provider.

The most popular Asterisk pbx server is actually available on jumbo versions of DD-WRT, that are preinstalled or can be installed on many wireless routers.  The one time cost are adding up fast if I actually buy a new router.  However, I might just do that because the whole house need better wifi coverage.  The old router can be used as a repeater.  Also, I was amazed how many things can be installed on a router nowadays.  A printer server - you may want that in large offices as the router has a large antenna while wifi printers don't.  File server of course.  In relation to that bittorrent clients.  VPN of course but so far I see no openvpn.  For files I must need file encryption like truecrypt of better still the Linux version that do not have pre selected fix sizes "folders" for all your secrets.

But most of it can be installed on Android stick computers too with minimal power consumption.  I don't see why not as you can even install Linux over Android.  But then may be I'm the only one who want Asterisk on an Android stick - until Google Voice shows it's next move.

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