Field Tested VoIP Internationally: It Worked, Here’s How
So before I lit out to Asia for my honeymoon I asked you all, putting up a $50 bounty, for the best way to blend in VoIP, wifi and Google Voice on Android as I was not interested in paying AT&T a just-having-gotten-married tax as I was overseas in Hong Kong, Macau, Jakarta (yuck) and finally Bali (sweet). The advice worked (thanks Perri), bounty paid, and I can report to you now that all calls home (both directions) to assure my parents that we hadn’t been kidnapped went through crystal clear and with no noticeable latency, even from a time zone twelve hours away, even on public hotspots in a congested shopping mall and airports.
The calls seemed no different in quality than if I had been making the calls normally to someone in the same city. There were no dropped calls either. The calls came in on their end with my GV number as the caller ID and calls they made to me that I didn’t answer went to my Google Voice voicemail properly which, were the transcribing not sufficient, I could have played the voicemail over wifi. There are a handful of ways you could do this yourself, calling US numbers from anywhere for free and non-US numbers for pretty cheap, though you’ll want a Google Voice account which you ought to have regardless of whether or not you want to do this because it’s sweet.
I realize that the instructions below stack up pretty high but you’re psyched now – keep the momentum rolling. I went through a lot of time and dropped fifty bucks to spell this out for you today. All right? So, for Android users, get a free Sipgate One account and number. Take note of your Sipgate phone number which probably begins with area code 415. Get into My Settings and hit + VoIP Phone on the right. That should add an icon of another phone named whatever you named it. Hover over that phone icon and on the dropdown hit Show Credentials. You’ll need that info so copy/paste it into notepad. Further below you may want to hit Caller ID and bang in your GV number if you’re so inclined. At this point I recommend switching to wifi if your phone isn’t already on it but that’s not mandatory if you have 3G but no wifi.
Next you need to install a SIP client on your phone. For Android I strongly recommend CSipSimple, specifically the development version you can get here and sideload or if you can’t sideload for whatever reason grab the normal version on the market or grab Sipdroid, another decent application if you end up not liking CSipSimple.
In CSipSimple, fire up Accounts, hit Basic unless you think you’re some kind of expert. Now here you want to bang in the Sipgate credential info I mentioned with your username not as what you use to log into the Sipgate website but the 107whatever123 number listed on that credentials and also listed the SIP-Password they give you for your password for the phone software, not the Sipgate website login password you created. And the server which is sipgate.com, then Save. If this went well you should see a green bar underneath the widget thingy on the left of the Accounts page. If it didn’t go well, it might tell you why.
Hit your back button to get to the dialer thing so that if you want to get under the hood of this software you can by hitting the menu softkey and then Settings, and then Network. Here you may specify when you want this thing handling outgoing calls and listening for incoming SIP calls (only if it’s on WiFi, only if it’s on WiFi but not Edge and so on). Hit back then go to User interface. I recommend checking off Dialer integration and Call logs integration, Don’t use slide unlocker and maybe Keep awake and / or Use partial wake lock if the quality isn’t good at first. Using 3G gets the job done in terms of not getting docked minutes for calls though the lag is noticeable, though not unbearable.
Now open up Google Voice on your computer and go into Settings > Voice settings > Phones tab. Hit Add another phone, giving it your Sipgate 415 number. On the list of phone numbers you want to check it off, your GV number forwarding to that number among any other numbers you may already have (it’s okay to have multiples). Now we need to tell Google that that number is in fact yours so hit Verify Now. What should happen is Google dials your Sipgate number, then Sipgate tells your SIP software on your phone (or on your computer too if you downloaded and installed their computer phone client) you’ve got an incoming call, you answer the call, a Google lady asks you to dial the two digit number Google presented to you when you hit Verify, and if you manage to dial those two numbers successfully the forwarding of that number may engage. This won’t screw up your existing relationship with Google Voice and if you don’t answer the VoIP number it should bounce back the incoming caller to your Google Voice voicemail box.
At this point you may make VoIP calls, though Sipgate charges like 2 cents a minute for outgoing domestic calls (defined as calling a US phone number from anywhere in the world) – though they give you about an hour of credit on the house — and about that much for the more developed nations or more. Here’s a full list of their rates.
Bummed? Thought this was supposed to be free? Not to worry buddy, incoming calls are free. But how can I get my damn outgoing calls free you may be wondering. Be cool bro, simple solution: Sipgate does not charge for incoming calls. So if you get your phone to tell Google over data to dial a number for you, Google will call your Sipgate number right back, your SIP software snatches the call, and then call the number you want to call for you which makes that outgoing call, in the SIP provider’s eyes, an incoming call, which means it’s free for you. Though you may be able to receive such calls for free wherever you are in the world, unfortunately it is not free to call an international number regardless of your location where based on my studies. If you dial an international number with the Google Callback method, which I’ll explain shortly, Google wants to be paid as if you had dialed the number from your Gmail thing; so if you want to call international numbers for the cheapest rates I know of you need to add credit to your Google Voice account or, if you don’t use the Callback trick, you may need to fire up credit on your Sipgate account. Here are Google’s rates and again, Sipgate’s. Or you can just email your yayo contact in Bolivia asking him to call your GV number, which may be free (for you at least, not your dealer).
Back to free calling US numbers (or being called from any number anywhere), here’s how you make that step easy using the Google Voice outgoing/incoming switcharoo loophole: Go onto the market and grab Google Voice Callback (or the donation version if you’re badass for a couple bucks, though the free one has all the features). Bang in your Google Voice account info and tell it When to use callback – for now until you’re confident that this is working good hit ask every time.
Okay! Let’s test this badboy out, shall we? First let’s just keep it on WiFi, though 3G would suffice however EDGE ain’t pretty. Also if you’re not on wifi and get a call to your GV number your phone may ring twice, the regular phone and the SIP phone software, so you’d need to disable forwarding to your cell in Google Voice’s settings. In your status bar you should see that phone icon and if you pull down the status menu you should see something suggesting your SIP connection is green and happy. If you do, snag another phone if you don’t have one handy. No phone to steal? Call someone as you would normally, including bringing up your contacts and dialing through that. The Callback software, depending on how you configured it, should then offer to dial regularly or using GV callback – you want GV callback. Cross fingers, the other phone rings hopefully reporting your GV number as the caller ID, answer and talk to yourself, say goodbye, hang up.
Now let’s go in the other direction – dial your GV number from the other phone, hopefully your cell rings, you answer, then talk to yourself a little more. If both worked right, you’re in business my man. If you want you can also do this over cellular, not wifi, with your data connection but you’ll need decent 3G speeds. If you already use your data connection a lot, maybe keep an eye on your monthly usage to make sure you don’t go over your carrier’s quota. Also be careful that you don’t do this without wifi while roaming because that wouldn’t really save you too much money. Once success is confirmed, put the phone back on your wife’s bedside table before she wakes up and breaks your balls for screwing around with her phone again.
If you happen to own a phone of another platform, the odds are high you can accomplish all or most of this similarly: Search whatever equivalent of an app market or the web for a SIP client for your mobile OS (EG google sip client blackberry), create the Sipgate account, configure both of them accordingly (should be a similar deal to what I went into in this article), configure Google Voice for the new number and try to find a Google Voice callback client that initiates the callback over data and not the regular dialing thing.
Now if you happen to pull this off, please mention it in a comment as it would make me feel really good about myself, as if this was all worth it. Really, it was the only reason I spoke with my parents at all while on my honeymoon, testing it out from different countries and territories, and using your phone on your honeymoon especially costs you serious relationship capital. Likewise, if you try and fail, please mention that too and I’ll make an effort, along with other readers maybe, to field your problem because this is a good way both to get free calls and to stick it to the man (though it would be nice if Google made this require fewer days to figure out).
Thanks again Perri for getting me to this point.
Maybe if I lace in some other cute animal pictures you’ll be able to make your way through it. Hang on, digging…
That picture looks like it belongs in an early starwars movie….brrrr
I will be attempting this in australia at the end of the year but Im not going to lie, my heart sank when I saw the length of the post. I was like “Cool turtle! Free international calls to boot! Oh man I’m still scrolling….sigh”.
never thought of diong anything like that. cool stuff though! congrats on the wedding man!
hahaha! well at least the new picture breaks up the text so it doesnt all start to blur together 🙂
Nice I get it, The turtle face stands for the challenge ahead if you choose to undertake this but the bear (cool pic too!) stands for what you’ll feel like when you succeed. Too bad the last time I was on one of those (ahem, last year) it didn’t end well.
What a mouthful, Doug, but really great stuff! But for 2 cents a minute with GV, I’m not sure all of your machinations are worth it.
We’re spending a month in Spain next summer and I definitely want this for that trip. I’ll save the article for then.
And, yes, congrats on wedding, honeymoon, and marriage!
Quite a mouthful, Doug, but great stuff! But at 2 cents/minute with GV, is it worth all of the machinations?
We are spending a month in Spain next summer, so I will revisit then.
And congrats on wedding, honeymoon, and marriage!
Great guide Doug, but I’m having an issue:
I signed up for a sipgate account, set up my free number, went to Settings, but there isn’t an option to add a voip phone! What’s the deal?
Hmm. Did you try bouncing to the browserl to rule out a problem with the connection itself versus some bug?
Thanks for this guide. I have a problem, and can’t seem to find an answer anywhere. I got this to work perfectly over 3G, but when I get home and have Wifi, I get an error message saying “Error while registering – Request Timeout.” Any ideas why this is happening???
Yep… I tried that. Everything else (browser, a wifi radio app, etc.) was working. Just couldn’t get the Sipgate to register. As soon as I turn off wifi and use 3G, it registers immediately and the CSipSimple is functional.
All right, perhaps it’s your router. Give me a moment to dig around but in the meantime try switching it from using TCP to UDP or the other way around. Also, in case it is your router and I’m onto something, which one do you have and who’s your ISP? Probably not it but off hand that’s the only thing I’m coming up with.. but I’ll try to give you something less off-hand.
Heh, speaking of ISPs, my damn roadrunner just went down like it did for a while yesterday as I was typing that. Thank goodness for tethering.
Rocky: I’ve been blitzing IRC for answers, best so far is that your router may have some funky firewall or port or some sort of filtering blockade. I’m leaning toward the router too.
If you didn’t already and if it wouldn’t be to inconvenient in the interests of getting this thing to work, could you try it on someone else’s network? Or if you’ve got a family member or coworker nearby with a phone on which you could install some tethering thing, try it through that, or if you want to tool around with the router and know how to get in, i’d suggest just to rule it out disabling the firewall just long enough to test it, if that’s not it put the firewall back on and check the port forwarding to make sure it doesn’t have any kind of foward, or just hunt around for anything along these lines. But first do the udp/tcp switch on the phone and see if that helps. It might.
Believe me, I know the feeling you have behind those !!! marks. Hell I put up a damn bounty, and not a tiny one, to find the answer to get me up and running — even though it will be a long time before that $50 will have fully paid for itself as I just don’t really make phone calls much. But so what, gotta know, can’t wait who know how long for Google to implement it finally in GV.
We’ll get there Rocky. Test someone’s network and then we can rule one more thing out.
Though this may be a stab in the dark, alternatively, if you’ve got nothing better to do, download sipdroid from the market and bang in your info. Simple setup. See if it somehow succeeds. Longshot but then you can rule out a csipsimple problem and zero in on this damn thing.
I have a Linksys router — WRT54G. My ISP is Comcast. In my settings, both TCP and UDP are checked. I tried using one or the other exclusively, and that didn’t help. I’ll go to an open Wifi network ASAP — probably be able to do that tomorrow. I’ll also play around with the router tonight.
Thanks so much for your help. I want to get this working!!!
Just downloaded Sipdroid and have the exact same problem… that should help (hopefully). So the problem is not limited to CSipSimple. It must be a router issue, right?? But now what??? I have a feeling I’m going to spend way too much time on this! 🙂
Good news — I updated my router’s firmware this morning, and CSipSimple/Sipgate are working properly! Thanks for all your help!
Now are you using gvoice callback in order to get sipgate to treat outgoing as incoming so you get free domestic?
Yes, I am. Still trying to improve call quality. But overall this is pretty damn cool.
Nice. Maybe you did this too but in Sipgate you can have it report your caller ID as your GV number, that way you’re completing the GV circle entirely on this.
Don’t let yourself get too bummed out if Google includes voip Google Voice support to do what you’re doing but just by toggling a setting in the next release. Word is they will do that though no one knows if you’d be able to do it over cellular or just wifi. I’m betting against them letting everyone use cellular for the voip traffic, that’s a pretty hostile move against the carriers. So at least your victory includes being able to do this over 3G even though you probably won’t unless you forgot to change a setting from when you’d been experimenting with it.
My goal here was to get at least one guy on board, so mission accomplished. I appreciate your tenacity.
Works exactly as described.
I have a network counter on the phone to see if it is really using data or minutes. It seems to be using the data, but I also comes up will cell minutes use. If I call out from Sipdroid directly, only uses minutes, but using the google voice call back, minutes are also used.
Strange. Maybe this is T-Mobil’s way of getting something out of you for free.
Got it to work! Thanks so much.
Btw, CSipSimple (I think) wants me to answer the incoming call by touching a button (changed from swiping) and then press 1 to accept or 2 to send that person a vmail. Do you know how I can bypass all this?
Used on Samsung Fascinate, version 2.1, DL09, rooted. No other modifications to ROM. Instructions are very good, and were able to get me to get all parts installed as required.
The only problem that I have is that some calls coming in are missed because of all of the integration, some calls go right to Gvoicemail and I don’t hear a ring, but that might be another issue.
I’ve tried this on WiFI and 3G, and both work. I am not able to hear my voice very well during the call, but on both technologies I get anything from a slight delay by my recipient, to what was called a robotic sound. I can always hear my calls crystal clear, but my voice seems tweaked. Either way, it’s a free call.
The only issue I have is the integration of the dialpad, where I dial the number and then get a popup to see if I want a normal call or callback. I tap on normal call, then I get a box that asks me if I want it as a SIPGATE or normal call, and when I tap normal, I get a final box that asks if I want a normal call or callback.
Small hiccups for the benefit, but I’d really like to be able to disable all of those features in one fell swoop so my 8 year old can just make a simple call if ever he needs to grab my phone. If anyone has an idea, let me know.
I forgot to add that I’m going to port my home phone number to Gvoice, get rid of my internet phone (Lingo – good service, just tired of the $22 a month) and use a used Nettalk adapter that has unlimited domestic phone use and integrate that phone number into my ported Gvoice number so that people can still call my home phone and get me…. for free (sans the porting cost).
So now it’s free incoming and outgoing on my mobile phone to non Verizon phones
free incoming and outgoing to my home
free incoming to my home, but forwarded to my SIPGATE/Gvoice to my mobile phone
free outgoing to anyone, domestically
Now… what to do with all of those left over minutes on Verizon… and how do I get a used Verizon/Eris phone to work as a phone in WiFi zones without hooking it up to our service.
Hey Doug it worked just as you said! Your instructions were perfect: simple and easy. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Michael
All right, right on MP. Thanks for slugging it out, this isn’t exactly simple (in spite of one of the things you use having Simple in its title). But this info only made its way here because of the knowledge and willingness to help of our readers (plus my fifty bucks to pay the bounty to the first guy of course). And thanks for calling my attention back to this thread, forgot about Standupdad above you.
By the way people, Google Voice Callback has Locale support so that, for example, you can flip it to use your GV number when you hit a certain wifi AP. Also I noticed that CSipSimple lets you create a widget to toggle it. So, good to have both the GV Call Back and the widget next to each other perhaps. And the reason to use the callback program is because providers like sipgate give you free unlimited incoming domestic calls but not outgoing, with the gv callback you can initiate an outgoing call by prompting Google to make the call for you and then Google calls you back so the call is effectively an incoming call.
Got a Nexus S in December. Wife too. Overall pretty pleased though I had been hoping Gingerbread would bring us full voip from Google Voice, not just a native/embedded sip client.. but whatever. I have a feeling it won’t happen for a long time given that it hasn’t happened already, just too hostile a thing for Google to do to the carriers I guess. Interesting how Google sometimes buys companies like Gizmo5 and Blindtype only to apparently shut the things down.
The crown jewel now is porting your normal number to Google, if you can suck it up and pay your ETF. I just started a new contract so that would be a bit painful but damnit I want Google to have my number. Thing is, in order to let Google grab your number, when it yanks it from your carrier your account with the carrier is cancelled so you have to start over and create a new contract, so ETF plus $20 to Google plus reverting to the beginning of your two year upgrade cycle. Still though… argh. Anyway if you do it I’d advise calling your carrier first to try to ask them nicely to cut you some slack on the ETF and, if possible, to put you back online, assigning you whatever number (doesn’t matter), as soon as Google grabs the number, then on Google Voice you start by setting up a forward from your regular number which would now be in Google’s possession to your new cell number, and then do whatever you want without having to make a transition to a new Google number.
Standupdad: Sorry to keep you waiting this long, let you slip through the cracks. Let my coffee kick in and I’ll try to offer you something.
Standupdad: If you’ve got disappearing incoming calls, hmm. Grab a SIP client for your computer, maybe deactive the one on your phone and experiment with the reliability of incoming calls to your computer. If a similar portion of them go into your voicemail and don’t ring your computer, and your Internet connection appears to be fine, looks like you’d be in the market for another SIP provider as that would rule out your phone.
However if it works fine on your computer but not your phone, then we have a phone issue — I’d start by digging through all the network settings on your sip client to make sure everything’s kosher.
My call quality from Hong Kong and Jakarta and Bali, even in airports with public wifi in addition to hotels, was perfectly normal. Had I handed the phone to someone else they would not have thought I had a lousy phone. Even the latency added on top of the latency you’d normally get from a call in the opposite time zone was better than tolerable. So if I got that quality and you’re not getting that quality, the good news is you probably can get the quality I got. If you don’t see any correlation between wifi and 3G having an effect on the amplification of your voice to the other phone or whatever, and you’re using SipDroid, CSipSimple or any other commonly used client that apparently is configured properly, I would first blame your SIP carrier. I’ve been using SipDroid though for the hell of it I bought a Gizmo5 account on eBay for which I don’t really have any use. If you’d like I’d be willing to lend that account to you so that you could rule out whether or not it’s your sip carrier. Yeah, free call, but let’s raise our standards. People call people like us computer geniuses; let’s act accordingly and get free awesome calls.
I’m using the latest CSipSimple dev build from here, not the market. I’ve got it set to integrate itself into Android (whatever that means) and also to automatically pick up the incoming call you get on they GV Callback (or maybe I’m thinking of GV Callback that picks up the return call). Now with the phone asking you all the time how you want to make your call, if you have CSipSimple set only to use SIP for, say, outgoing wifi calls but not 3G, then if you’re not on wifi and you make one call and your phone asks you if you want to use one dialer or another, go with CSipSimple, use always ticked. If you’re not in a condition you specified it will place the call conventionally. I think. Was that what you were asking?
Hey high five, porting to gv (as you can see I’m reading and typing straight through your messages). I have a share of Apple I think I’m willing to sell in order to cover the ETF.
With Verizon phones, CDMA, I’m pretty sure you can’t just switch accounts on the phone like you could by swapping a SIM with two GSM phones, you need to go into a Verizon dealership (or maybe over the phone) and have them deal with it. If you want to pull the carrier plug on that Eris though, can’t you just set it to airplane + wifi? I haven’t read any fine print on this but my bet is that you can’t transfer minutes from one account to another, maybe you can, but unless we’re talking tens of thousands of minutes here, given that you’re now living on free calls, I’d write off those minutes and move on.
Man I wish Google would just say What the hell, we’ve got some cash lying around, let’s give everybody sip access to GV while we roll out our own super wifi towers around the world and put these carriers out of business. At the least I’d appreciate it if they’d cover ETFs on number porting. And at the super very least I’d appreciate it if they could work something out with the carriers so that when people are signing a new contract the retail guy says Hey you want Google Voice in control of your number? and ports it right there while setting up a forward to whatever number they give you and hand you instructions on how to take further advantage of GV.
I’m a fan of Google and Google Voice you see.
By the way this week I just rigged up a small office this week with a remotely hosted PBX voip setup. Think I’ll write about that now, new article.
I just set this up for both our Gingerbread Evo’s for our upcoming Japan trip using ipkall.com to get a phone number and localphone.com to act as the voip server. Gingerbread has a built in SIP client and everything seems to be working great!
Thanks for the article, it reassured me that the setup I hoped would work, may actually give us cheap phones overseas!
Beautiful and thanks for reporting back. Seems like this Ask the Users format is a multi-bird killer. Get my question answered, get your question answered, get someone to feel like they answered a good question (and make fifty bucks), pretty good article / thread.
Hmm, what else do I need help with…
SIPgate – just tried to sign up, and no numbers currently available.
Any other service you recommend?
…. i got mine working. easy… but can you clarify this a bit when you said……
…”So if you get your phone to tell Google over data to dial a number for you, Google will call your Sipgate number right back, your SIP software snatches the call, and then call the number you want to call for you which makes that outgoing call, in the SIP provider’s eyes, an incoming call, which means it’s free for you.”…
1. if i am in mexico with my atrix and my mac and i call a number in the states, i will need credit on gv? i have gv call back working..
2. if i am in mexico with no smart phone and just want to use my mac (my parents will be in this situation due to no smartphone… using an old flip phone)…then i have to have credit on sipgate?
I don’t know how much this stuff has changed (other than Android 2.3 coming with its own SIP client embedded) but receiving calls with Sipgate is free, placing calls out is not. However, you can make a call to someone with Sipgate calling you, not you calling out through Sipgate, by using Google Voice to call (I’m a little hazy) … using Google Voice Callback to instruct Google to call the number for you, then ring your Google Voice number which you need set to forward incoming calls to your Sipgate number then you receive the call when Sipgate rings your SIP client which you tuned into their server and in doing so you are calling out while calling in.
I’m unclear on the ethics still.