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Field Tested VoIP Internationally: It Worked, Here’s How

MisterTurtleLovesVoIP 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, 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.

Doug Simmons