I was paying about $50 a month for phone service to this house and I thought I’d share my experience with turning that into under $5. Google threw a wrench in the gears a little back in May when they divorced SIP phones from Google Voice, but there still is a way to hit Google up for a free phone call through Google Hangouts. You used to be able to do much of this for 100% free, but now it will cost pocket change.
The Obi device and SIP phones, both hardware and softphone, let you make and receive phone calls over the internet free or cheap. I am using Callcentric and Didlogic to make phone calls. Callcentric service includes a New York State free incoming phone number so people can call you for nothing. Callcentric charges $1.50 a month for you to have 911 service. Didlogic doesn’t offer 911 service.
You can get a free incoming New York State phone number (DID) from Callcentric. You can get a local phone number from Google and call forward it to your New York number. I have a 971 Google voice (Oregon) area code number that I forward to my free area code 613 number from Callcentric. That makes all incoming calls free.
You can still get Google to patch a phone call for you and Callcentric will consider it a free incoming call. You can do this through Google Hangouts. When your Google Voice number is forwarded to your Callcentric number, you have Google call you to make the connection. For Callcentric that’s a free incoming call to your NYC DID and it’s free.
There are a lot of different ways to access your phone numbers on different devices. I have 5. On iPhones I am using an app called Acrobits, which seems to be just fine. I think it was $8.
Acrobits soft phone for iPhone and Android
You can also activate Google Hangouts dialing feature from the respective iPhone, iPad and Android apps. These softphones are nice because if you have free wifi, you’ve got a very cheap or free cell phone in your hand. If you aren’t nearly always under free wifi like I am, you might want to check out Freedompop for some super cheap data service. It’s Sprint underneath, so your mileage may vary as to how good the service is for your purposes. Here, the Verizon “Can you hear me now” is what is really good.
Hooked to the Obi 100, I figured I needed a blast from the past and plugged this classic style (old)desk phone into it. I got it for $7 off ebay including shipping. The circuit board popped loose from it’s clips, but likely because it was made in America, a screwdriver solved the problem.
This is insides of the plain old desk phone. I’m liking and feeling nostalgic about a corded phone, mainly nice because I always know where I left it. I think I’m getting old. What I did with my cordless or cell phone gets harder to determine every day. Plus it has a real bell, not a special effect. It’s pleasant.
Of course, you can use X-Lite with the same services on a PC.
This is X-lite Soft Phone for PC. It’s free from here. This and a little change and you can call regular phone numbers or call other SIP phones for free. I don’t know why a guy would use Skype.
I also hooked up a Teledex 2-line SIP phone. It was designed for hotel use and is on the 1.9 Ghz band. It did need a 802.3af ethernet power injector to run it. It has a Lithium Ion battery. The speakerphone is kinda weak or my brute of a computer is fairly noisy. Both are probably true.
This sounds so nice, you won’t know it’s cordless. You might be able to find one of these in the $20 range. They are really expensive retail. Business SIP phones, especially ones that need a power injector are fairly economical on the used market. Quality is way better on commercial products.
My phone bill is now under $5 a month and I am using a couple hundred minutes a month. That beats $50.
These telephones and the Obi adapter are smart enough to talk to each other without the need for an external service at all. You can also run Asterisk, FreePBX and the like to really customize your phone experience for residential or business use. If you are calling from a SIP phone to a SIP phone, the call is always free.
My phone bill is now $1.50 a month for the 911 fee. If I call out with Callcentric it’s $0.0198 a minute and Didlogic it’s $0.0067 a minute for outgoing calls. I can dial either path. Redundancy is nice but probably not essential. Callcentric giving away free incoming phone “real” numbers is really nice. As I said above, Google Hangouts can negotiate the call and make it a free incoming call to your Callcentric number.
Since you’re here watching my free TV, I thought you might like my thoughts on almost free phone service. With a small hardware investment and a little money I’ve gotten my phone bill to be almost nothing. My bill has not been $5 a month for the last 3 months.