Having recently moved to Canada from the US, I was surprised to see the implementation of long distance and roaming charges by cell phone providers even though essentially the two major providers (Rogers and Bell) exist throughout the country. I’ll rant more on the lack of competition on prices later. However, there aren't too many alternatives to the major carriers. Skype does not provide Canadian line numbers and Vonage Canada is twice as expensive and is said to be twice as horrible as the service in the US.
My other need was to have a simple way for friends and family in the US to call me in Canada without having them incur long distance charges on their cellphone. After some intense Googling and putting together the pieces, I have a solution that is currently being beta & quality tested by my wife.
Before we get started on the setup lets meet the players:
Many of you use and love this service. Essentially Google Voice allows you to provide everyone with a single point of contact – your Google Voice number. You can then setup GV to forward calls to your home phone, cell phone or Google Talk. You can then setup voicemail, get it transcribed and have missed call information sent to your Gmail. The only caveat is that it only allows forwarding to US numbers.
Stanacard touts itself as the “Calling Card of the Next Generation”. In addition to providing standard international calling card services, it also provides SIP services for calling using softphones. Users can also register their phones Stanacard’s website and assign a local phone to an international number which can then be used for pinless dialing. The registered numbers are also assigned a SIP URI in the format firstname.lastname@example.org.
IPKall is a free service which gives users a free Washington state phone number and lets them forward this number to any registered SIP URI. The only catch with using this is that if the number is not used for more than 30 days, it will get recycled.
When the SIP URI is called, it will ring any softphone that is registered with server.
Let’s see how these can now be daisy chained together to get cheap IP telephony. My main requirement was to have friends and family in the US call me on my cell phone without them having to incur long distance charges. So I registered my Google Voice number on Stanacard and setup a local US number which would forward the calls to my cell phone in Canada.
My second requirement was to setup a home phone where I could receive calls and also make calls without incurring long distance charges. To do this, I setup registered my Stanacard SIP URI with IPKall so that it rings on both my home phone and my wife’s Android softphone.
I can take this setup one step further to have my wife’s Google Voice number forward to IPKall and then receive calls on my Home phone. Now both of us can keep our single point of contact as our respective Google Voice numbers.
Note that all the components (Google Voice, Stanacard, IPKall etc.) are very modular and as shown above I can easily take one service out and replace it with another without the person calling us knowing of these changes.
One last point – price wise, Google Voice and IPKall provide free call forwarding services. The only component I pay for is Stanacard where I pay approximately 2¢ per minute for incoming and outgoing calls. It definitely beats having to pay $30 - $50 per month for home phone services by Rogers.
That’s it. Let me know your thoughts on this.