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More Voip ramblings

Ok let’s start with what is VOIP. VOIP stands for Voice over IP. It takes a normal phone call and uses the internet to route it and come out at a place close to the call reducing the long distance costs and eliminating cell air time replacing it with data use.

I decided to explore some more on VOIP on Android after my last article.. After playing with Dell Voice for quite a bit I gave up because of poor call quality. The person on the other end always complained about poor quality. Sounded ok on my end but not for them. Now Dell voice is one of the few complete solutions including the ability to do text messaging. Vbuzzer does text messaging but for me the price is not attractive.

Now my motivations for exploring VOIP are to reduce (although eliminate would be better) the need for phone services on my cell. I have a great data plan, 6G a month, so chewing up data to replace voice charges works for me! I also would like some kind of phone in the home for as low a price as possible. You can also have multiple devices ring so you can pick up the one most convenient. There are even data only plans intended for tablets that can cut your mobile cost significantly so on I go to explore.

This post is a rambling of many different threads. I hope you find it helpful.

VOIP.MS
A colleague (Johannes) referred me to VOIP.MS as a provider as well as CSIP Simple as an Android VOIP softphone. A lot of the learning I did with VOIP.MS is transferable to other VOIP providers.

So there are obviously two sides to VOIP, incoming and outgoing. Outgoing allows you to save minutes and long distance charges. Outgoing is a simple and easy thing to setup. You can even setup CSIP Simple to only do outgoing so it doesn’t get in the way of the usual Android dialer and doesn’t chew battery. It can also integrate with the Android dialer and logs. Call quality on 3G/4G and LTE are good but not great, and definitely not perfect. You can tell you aren’t using a normal phone. And obviously you need a decent data connection to make this work. I’ve tried it on WIFI and I had too much P2P activity in my home, so the call quality really sucked. By playing around with QOS (really traffic shaping) on the router and by prioritizing the MAC address of the VOIP devices I was able to improve the poor WIFI call quality issues,

I found if you mess around much with the CSIP default CODEC settings the ap became unstable. The defaults seem to be good enough.

Incoming is a little more complicated. First you need to buy a number called a DID. Then you have to decide how many devices you want simultaneously connected. Your best to have one account/sub account per device. You then setup a ring group to allow you to ring on multiple devices at a time. That way you can pickup the one most convenient. You can add a VOIP adapter to your home like the OBI100 (more on this one later) so that you can use your existing phones as VOIP connections. You can even setup call forwards to real phone numbers and add them to the ring group. Individual accounts can be setup with caller ID so the VOIP call can appear to come from any phone number you like and even hide the VOIP phone number! That way you can change VOIP providers any time you like with no consequences. I change the caller ID to my cell number. That also makes it easy because people who call screen unknown numbers see the call as if it’s coming from your cell!

For VOIP.MS they have a number of servers that can host the phone number. It’s called the numbers point of presence (POP). I first was playing with one of the POP and found it to be unreliable. Dropped incoming calls, unreliable voicemail, intermittent issues with connections. I changed my number to a different POP and these issues seem to get better although didn’t completely go away. I can only assume it means that this particular server is either having issues or is overloaded. I found you have to point your SIP client at the right POP for incoming calls to work correctly.

Adding voicemail to the mix tends to complicate matters a little. If the real numbers have voice mail associated with them and you want the VOIP mailbox to pickup then you need to insure the voicemail on VOIP picks up before the real phone numbers voicemail otherwise your message will be on the wrong mailbox. Whatever picks up first gets the call. Voicemail on VOIP.MS also has to be setup for how you want the call routed when your unavailable (out of cell signal, no data connection etc), busy, or no answer. I found it odd that the default (for VOIP.MS) wasn’t to set this to voicemail and the settings are hidden behind an Additional failover options menu. Odd. Note, if you change your POP as I did you have to re-setup your voicemail and voicemail options. This was a less than obvious, and less than a smooth move between POPs. VOIP.MS allows you to have the voicemail message to be sent to an email address attached. I love this feature. You can even have the system delete it after it’s emailed. Very nice!

In the end I gave up on VOIP.MS. Poor voice quality, unreliable call answer, unreliable voice mail. Everything you don’t want in voice. I want it all. Incoming, outgoing, text messaging, voicemail and VOIP.MS could not deliver.

Anveo.com
I tripped over Anveo.com and it includes some nice features that are unique to them. They include 911 support. You define an address for your home. For $0.80 per month they maintain this database. I guess they get this from the cell carriers charging a 911 fee. If you call 911 they get the call, confirm your location and then forward you to the appropriate 911 provider. They also offer Text message support including a way to receive/send your texts through email. The 911 fee is mandatory so you can’t use this provider without setting up and account and transferring cash into it to try them out. With Anveo each sub account is considered a different user. And each user has to have money in it. You can transfer money between the accounts but it needs to be manually managed. You can change the sub account to share the same $$s but that’s not the default. Odd setup. Once you have your users setup you can create ring groups. This is a little complicated on Anveo. What they have is a visual call flow builder. You take out the default SIP device and add in transfer. Then you can add your users as well as external phone numbers into a transfer ring. You can even control how the call flows between them. Again you need to be mindful of timeouts on voicemail. The first one to pick up gets the call. And if you want to use Anveos voicemail then you need to make sure the timeout is set before the voicemail on the device picks up. Anveo’s voicemail includes the ability to have the message emailed to you with an attachment. Well done.

Texting is a bit complicated. You can send a text message from their web site (if enabled and you are on some kind of plan), you can send a text message from an email (again if enabled) or you can send a text using CSIP Simple. When you receive a text you can get it to your email, but it did not seem to work to the SIP client. I had issues with the callerid that comes through. It seems to be an international number and it is different than my phone number. So for now texting with Anveo is useless. I tried it with both Bell and Rogers as being the number I was texting and in both cases it saw an international number which would mean an international text charge to reply. Useless.

CSIP Simple Android Ap
CSIP Simple does not support video conferencing and bluetooth support is limited. I also had issues on the incoming side where it would say registered, and still not properly accept calls. Part of it seemed to be as it traversed networks for example going from WIFI to cell and back. In the end CSIP Simple was unreliable. There were times when it said it was connected and it would ignore incoming calls. Or I would go to make a call and it would delay me while it re-registered. I confirmed this behavior on multiple Android phones with multiple VOIP providers.

CSIP is suppose to support Dell Voice but I couldn’t get it working. Now since Dell voice has call forwarding and text messaging support (but poor voice quality) one of the things I played with was to use Dell voice on the incoming and have it forward to VOIP.MS. Fortunately call forwarding on Dell voice works even when you are not logged onto Dell voice so this is an option that works.

I found another Android SIP client called Zoiper. Zoiper was more reliable for incoming but didn’t change the less than perfect call quality. I guess the people I call are deaf, discering (read picky) or just like to complain 🙂

OBI100/110 VOIP adapter
I bought a VOIP adapter from Amazon. The OBI 100/110 is a device pointed at the masses. Johannes recommended this one too. For all the confusion of VOIP this device does it’s best to simplify things. You plug this adapter into your home network then connect your homes internal phone line into this adapter and it bridges VOIP into your home phone so you can use your normal home phones and lines already in your house. The 110 adds the ability to also bridge to calls made through your normal telephone provider.

Once plugged in by following your a few simple instructions which they provide the adapter goes out and talks to the mother ship at OBI and creates a portal for your adapter. You create an account, logon and follow some wizards to configure your device. It really couldn’t be simpler. It even supports Google Voice for outgoing calls in Canada. I am shocked how easy they make this. Well worth the money.

Call quality on the OBI with Google voice by the way was good, and better than VOIP.MS but still noticeable. It was usable as long as the person on the other end had some level of tolerance.

Call quality with the OBI setup with Anveo is stellar. Delays are excellent, call quality is good and it is reliable. This is a combination that really does work (and the only one after all this playing). By the way if your feeling generous and sign up with Anveo my referral number is 2545624 and gives me a bit of $$s.

I never did find a set of options on Android that ended up with a solid cell like signal without occasional drop outs with CSIP Simple.

I also played with Text Plus on Android. It does not include any free minutes you have to earn or buy credits. You can get numbers across Ontario. There are no call forwarding options. On my Motorola XT925 audio didn’t work. On the Nexus 4 the call had terrible echo and no cancellation options. So another dead end.

I have to say, this was a lot more complicated than I would have otherwise expected. Nothing really “just worked” other than Anveo/OBI. It all took a bit to get setup, a lot of time and patience and in the end, IMHO for the amount of voice calling I do not all that worth it. And the only thing I’ve kept out of all this churn is Anveo/OBI 100.

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January 27, 2013 - Posted by | Android

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