So I’m slightly late to the game with this post, but I wanted to let you know of yet-another way to do nearly-free phone calls! As you know, I’ve talked about this before with my post about How to Make Free Phone Calls. In that post, I spoke about a device known as an “Ooma” which allowed you to make free calls once you purchased the device. Thanks to a coworker’s recommendation, I’ve got another device to add to that list – the OBi110 Voice Service Bridge by Obihai.
Why did I say “Nearly Free”?
As announced at the end of last year, Google has been offering the ability to make free VOIP calls through the Gmail service for all of 2012. The OBi110 device actually leverages the Gmail VOIP provider to make calls for free to US and Canada numbers. This “free” service is currently scheduled to last through the end of 2012, but we’re still waiting to see if Google will continue to offer this service for free in 2013 and beyond.
However, Google’s normal rate for VOIP calls to US and Canada is only $0.01 (yes, 1 cent) per minute. This is one of the lowest a’la carte rates for VOIP phone service you’ll find. Most VOIP providers charge a monthly fee, meaning that you’re paying for the service even if you don’t use it! The lowest provider cost I’ve found is $5.99/month, meaning that if you’re spending less than 10 hours on your home phone per month, you’re better off using the Google solution!
So why did I say “nearly free” in the title? Well, it’s technically free through the end of 2012. After that, you’ll only pay for what you use! If you don’t use the service, it’s free! If you do use the service, it’s a penny per minute which is an extremely low cost!!
Setting up the OBi110:
Configuring the OBi110 for Google Voice
To make use of free calling in 2012, and extremely reduced-rate calling in 2013 (assuming Google doesn’t remain free), you’ll need to:
- Configure your OBi110 to work with Google Voice
- Configure your Google Voice account to forward calls to Google Chat
It’s a relatively simple process, and best described in this youtube video:
Configuring the OBi110 for Emergency 911 Services
If you’re using Google Voice as your primary VOIP provider, you will not be able to make emergency 911 calls through your VOIP phone. In order to make e911 phone calls through the OBi110, you’ll need to configure a secondary VOIP provider that allows e911 call routing. The most popular service for e911 services on the OBi110 is CallCentric, as mentioned on the Obihai blog post about calling 911 with Obi devices. To configure the OBi110 for e911 services:
- Sign up for an account at CallCentric.
- After registering, add Pay Per Call outgoing call service and add the 911 recovery option.
- Fill in your address.
- Go toPreferences | Billing to configure the auto-recharge so that your credit card is charged when you use the e911 service. (This prevents your e911 service from being cancelled!)
- In the obitalk website, click on Service Provider 2.
- Add your Callcentric account using your Callcentric phone number. Make sure you check the option to Use this service for emergency 911 calls.
- Click Submit and the OBi110 will power cycle.
- Find the number for the on-duty supervisor at your local 911 call center. Ask them if you can place a 911 test call.
- If you can’t find the number, try calling the non-emergency dispatch and ask them for assistance.
- If worse comes to worse, attempt to call 911 and simply state that it’s NOT an emergency and that you’re simply trying to verify your VOIP phone’s E911 address.
There are quite a few ways to make free and/or cheap calls. The OBi110 Voice Service Bridge by Obihai provides an inexpensive way to make use of the remaining “free” VOIP service through Gmail. Additionally, if Google decides to extend free VOIP calling, you’ll be making calls for FREE that entire time!! If they decide to NOT extend the free period, your service will ONLY charge you based on your actual usage. No more paying for services you don’t use!!
If you’re having trouble figuring out what solution is best for you, or would like any additional information on what I’ve covered in this post, feel free to Contact Me!
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