Recently I thought I’d give Google Voice a try on my PC and see if I could get free pc-to-phone and phone-to-pc calls, to ease my dependency on my cellular (I know, I know, Skype calling is only $2.99 a month for unlimited US and Canada calls, but I guess I’m just that cheap :P). I encountered a short list of problems, and thought I’d list them with what I did to resolve them, in case, like myself, there are any googlers out there looking for answers for a similar situation (I found the Google help pages to be too deep, and often difficult to sift out the correct answer for my situation, maybe you’re in the same boat).
First I should mention that my following setup was done in the standard Ubuntu Lucid Lynx. For port forwarding I had to add rules to my AT&T (2-Wire modem/router) Internet (also necessary in wired ethernet connection). I also signed up for a free California phone number through Sipgate (sipgate.com) to use with Google Voice in order to get free pc-to-phone and phone-to-pc calls.
Sipgate.com has a really great service, but only limited free call minutes, which is why I’d like to expand it’s freeness with Google Voice. Signing up is easy, it requires a cellphone number though (US only?) and texts it for confirmation, and it will only offer California phone numbers currently. After I signed up I found this page helpful for setting up my sipgate number in linux softphones.
Having an Ekiga.net ID, I had already opened port 5060 to UDP for SIP-based Internet telephony (in my AT&T modem/router, it hasn’t been necessary in recent releases for me to also open ports with firestarter), but I found my new sipgate number still did not register in Ekiga! I should also note that I need to check “disable network detection” under general settings>network settings in Ekiga for Ekiga to work. But It didn’t work in any softphone except SFLphone. So I worked around a little bit to find a solution and found (as the link above mentions) that sipgate uses a different port for it’s STUN server than Ekiga’s wiki recommended, so I had to add a new rule again to open port 10000 to UDP for communication on sipgate’s STUN server (NOTE: you’ll also need to open port 5004 for RTP communication; see the post). However after using Ekiga for a while I noticed that it didn’t always work as expected. Sometimes it would register, sometimes not (when it wouldn’t neither would my Ekiga.net account), sometimes when it was registered the website would still say my phone was offline, and calls would not go through to it, but calling out would work. SFLphone I found to be much more reliable and consistent.
For a list of softphones I’ve tested with sipgate check this post here.
Once I had my softphone set up, signing up for Google voice was very easy. Your sipgate number needs to be online in order for Google voice to make or receive calls through it, and you must first have a phone number to register on Google voice with. So since I was using my sipgate phone number to register on Google voice I had to set that all up beforehand. I was required to press certain numbers on the dial pad to confirm the number I was registering was in my possession, and I was good to go! Actually, I found I needed to tweak a few voicemail and call related settings to get things working as I would like (though this might have been due to my tweaking settings before ever placing a call, and so in reality I was resetting them). Anyway, I don’t really have to much to say about this, I’m loving Google voice and it’s unlimited free calling! I’ve also found that I am able to receive international calls and texts (at least to my voicemail and inbox) without any charges.
Here’s a short list of blunders I made when setting up my softphones:
I used my site password rather than my SIP password listed under SIP Credentials.
I used my site username rather than my username listed under SIP Credentials.
I opened the wrong ports for the STUN server.
And some problems I’ve experienced in Google Voice since:
Google Voice would not pick up when I answered my softphone, and would go straight to voicemail. This I believed was due to major latency from sipgate. When calling directly it would be more than 10 seconds after I first spoke before the sound began coming through. Unfortunately Google Voice had no option to disable it’s voicemail, or to increase the time before voicemail takes over. However, disabling call screening solved this problem (however this was not a problem last month, what changed?).
Trying to register a backup account from IPKALL (using my Ekiga.net service for SIP). Unfortunately, the number I received from them was already registered to 2 other accounts! Wish me luck in getting this situation cleared up, from what I read it will be a long time before I’ll be able to post a conclusion to this :D.
Google Voice is here.