Today I had a chance to test it out on my Test Unit (Android  HTC Evo), and it worked out well! This is a report of what I did, a brief summary for the most simplified case.

Prerequisites:

  1. Android phone (I have Android 2.2) with data plan.
  2. PC with internet access (in theory you can use your data plan armed Android phone for this purpose too, but with PC it is much easier).

Step-by-step setup guide:

  1. PC: Get a Gmail account if you don’t have one : http://gmail.com. You also get a Google Account with the Gmail account.
  2. PC: Add Google Voice to your Google Account if you haven’t at: http://voice.google.com. You need to have a US phone number to get Google Voice service, because in the verification step Google will call this number. You may just use your mobile phone number. You can stop associating the phone number with Google Voice later.
  3. PC: Log in Google Voice, Go to Settings | Voice Settings | Phones, then make sure Google Chat (with your Gmail address) is checked under Forwards to. (A process setup by a later step will intercept the Google Chat and route calls to your Android phone.) At this time, you can uncheck the phone number for forwarding that you used for verification when creating Google Voice account. If you allow forwarding to the real phone number of your Android phone, you can be confused because a later step tries to forward the call to a VoIP app on your same Android phone in parallel.
  4. Android: Launch Market and search Google Voice. You should choose Google Voice by Google Inc. This is a free app. Download, install and run it. Set it up with your Gmail account above. This is required to setup the later steps, but you will not use this app to make VoIP calls, because Google Voice app will use your real phone number and can eat in your mobile minutes.
  5. Android: Launch Market and search Sipdroid. You should choose Sipdroid VoIP + video calling by i-p-tel GmbH. This is a free app. The version is 2.0.1 beta for me as of 2011/2/13. When you launch it, Sipdroid should show a long button New PBX linked to my Google Voiceat the bottom of screen. If you do not see this button, you may have an existing PBXes.org account using your Gmail account, or Google Voice app is not running. Check the other two threads for more information.
  6. Android: Click the New PBX linked to my Google Voice button. It asks for your Gmail account and Gmail password, and creates a PBXes.org account (with your given password). If you do not like to give out your Gmail credential, you should stop here. Click Create and wait for a while to get the plumbing done. Your newly created PBXes.org account will connect to Google Chat. PBXes will log on to Google as Google Chat with your credential. Then calls to your Google Voice number, which are forwarded to Google Chat, are forwarded to your PBXes.org account.
  7. Android:  With Sipdroid running in your Android phone, it registers to your account at PBXes.org. PBXes.org will further forward calls to your Android phone over the data link, when people call your Google Voice number. If you make calls in Sipdroid, it just uses the reverse route: Sipdroid – PBXes.org – Google Chat – Google Voice – Destination phone number. Both directions use data link of your Android phone and do not use your mobile minutes.
  8. Android: If Sipdroid is working correctly, it shows a green dot to the left of the status bar on your screen top, which means it registers to PBXes.org okay. If there is no dot, or dot is yellow or red, you need to make sure Sipdroid is launched, then press Menu | Settings | SIP Account, and make sure Use WLAN and/or Use 3G are checked. You should also check Android’s Wi-Fi settings too. When you change these, give Sipdroid some time to stabilize the registration status. You may try Menu | Exit, then re-launch Sipdroid, if necessary.

Notes:

  • On my phone, Sipdroid does not have to be the top-most app; running in the background is fine. To save battery, in Sipdroid I checkSettings | Wireless | Control Wi-Fi Power.
  • If there is an incoming VoIP call, Sipdroid will activate and ring. Slide up to accept the call.
  • Slide down to hang up an incoming or outgoing call.
  • VoIP calls over both Wi-Fi and 3G data seem to work fine, but I need more test, especially for 3G data link.
  • Other than data plan constraints if any:
    • Receiving calls is free;
    • Making calls is subject to Google Voice rates: free for calls to US/Canada phone numbers, low rate for international calls. For rate details check: https://www.google.com/voice/rates.

PBXes Method

So, to make free VOIP calls, here is the basic list of ingredients, as I understand it:
SIP Phone device: speakers and microphone with SIP capability.
High-speed internet connection: cable, Wi-Fi, broadband.
Operator: acts as a switchboard to route your calls; you tell the operator where to send calls.
SIP provider: many are available. most charge fees. some are useless because they don’t give you the info you need to plug in to your operator.
DID: a landline phone number.
Google Voice: if you dont know how incredibly awesome this is, you can find out by googling it. needed for this setup for the “free” part of things.

ok, so I may need to define some things if you are brand new to this. If you know these definitions, then perhaps you have already figured out as much as I have. lol. The setup I have, using the ingredients above, allows your voice to transform into a digital form (SIP), travel over the internet, and use Google Voice to talk to people for free. Like I said before, there are many SIP providers, and the charge fees for putting your SIP though to the landline world. Many offer free member-to-member calls, then you have to get all your friends to sign on as well, to make an sort of network of free calls. By using Google Voice, you have a way OUT of the digital world, since Google resides in the digital world and has planted its feet into the landline world.

I have listed the above ingredients in the most basic form that I understand, to make this tutorial applicable to different devices, services, etc. I have not tried out all methods of making this formula work. I know that my setup works because ive used it many times now.

I use Sipdroid on my Android phone to connect to my “PBXes” account over Wi-Fi. I then initiate calls from Google Voice, which calls “IN” to Sipgate (which offers free incoming calls), which is one of the “trunks” i have set up on “PBXes.” “PBXes” then puts the call thru to Sipdroid, and Google completes the call by calling the number i asked it to call.

[SIP phone device] +[internet]+[operator]+[SIP provider + DID] +[Google Voice]
[Android N1+Sipdroid]+[Wi-Fi] +[PBXes] +[Sipgate (xxx)yyy-zzzz]+[Google Voice]

Therefore, i believe that similar setups can be achieved with different phone devices (ATA’s, computer “softphones”), different “operators (3CX maybe?),” and different SIP providers. But dont hold me to it, or ask me to explain how to set these things up. you can use the formula to compare your setup to, and maybe you can see where you missed a piece. you can then google the solution for your individual setup.

Please note, that if/when Google reopens the Google Voice/Gizmo combo, i will more than likely switch to that setup, as im sure the call quality will be better than the quality i receive with this setup, and the combo may well replace the need for a separate operator and/or
SIP provider.

So, you should now have a basic understanding of what we are going to do and why. First we’ll start by setting up the operator. once you go to http://www.pbxes.com/ and set up a free account (they allow 2000 free minutes a month, so keep that in mind) you will have an operator for your phone network that receives call from nowhere and does nothing with them. you will have to set-up the extensions that PBXes will ring when it receives a call. an extension is the same as a phone device with sip software. they allow you to have 5, so in theory, you could set up one for your android phone (100), one for your computer softphone (200), one for your ATA phone (300) and you could even set up some away from home, as long as there is high-speed internet access. you could have your mom in another state connected to the network and dial your extension directly. you can even have pbxes forward calls to your cell as an extension. havent tried that yet, because that would have to go thru as an outbound call thru the SIP provider, which in my case is not free. so, click on add extension, click SIP, give it a number (100) and a name (i used my account name, which may be required, because i think it links up your name and extension to connect you). so now you’ve given your extension a label, and PBXes is going to look for that label to connect to. this is like connecting bluetooth. you have to tell each device (your PBXes operator and your SIP phone) to look for each other. so then you have to put the PBXes information into your phone device. If you need step-by-step directions for this, they ARE out there, and maybe in the future they’ll be here too. i noticed when i was trying to follow other people’s step by steps, they wanted me to do things that i didnt understand, and they didnt work. i was told to add my SIP phone info as a trunk. this may serve a useful purpose, but didnt for me. so, when i understood the basics, i was able to plug it all in. (in some tutorials, they dont even define extensions or trunks, they just lead you to fill it in blindly, so if you want to do something different in YOUR setup than what they want, you won’t get it right.) i dont know if adding a ringgroup now is necessary, but i have added one due to someone else’s intructions, so go ahead and do that. tell PBXes to ring all, and provide an extension if no answer.

By now, you have told PBXes how to look for your phone by giving it an extension, and you have told your phone how to look for PBXes by adding your PBXes account info and password into the phone. They should now be linked similar to a bluetooth connection. they both recognize each other, but so far are doing nothing. if they are linked, your phone device should have some method of providing confirmation. my Sipdroid adds a green dot to the notification bar of my phone. As of now, the operator, PBXes, does not know to look for phone calls to come in. for that, we need a trunk, aka Sip provider.

Go to http://www.sipgate.com/ and obtain a free account. if receiving a text is an issue, have a friend receive it for you, just to receive the invite info. you can delete or disable the number once you can actually log in. the phone number wont come in to play at all for this setup.

So, now we tell PBXes that we have a trunk from which calls may come in. We add our Sipgate Credential information in the Trunks section of PBXes. its basically Sipgate’s SIP phone number. while our landline phone numbers look like (xxx)yyy-zzzz, SIP phone numbers are like sipphonenumber @ sipserver-dot-com. so under trunks, add your sipgate-dot-com username, the password they assigned you (not your account login password), and sipgate.com as the sip server. this is NOT like bluetooth connection; they are not always linked. PBXes just knows that calls could come in from sipgate, so when sipgate calls in, it pokes PBXes. PBXes wont know how you want it to respond to a poke until you set up a Calling Route. Since we are only going to use incoming calling, you can set up one generic INbound calling route. leave trunk and callerID blank, click extension twice, both under destination, one under regular hours, one under after hours. you see you can configure your operator to do many different things, if you so choose. if we just want free calls, one generic in route is fine, since google will call in when we want to call out.

At this point, your friends could actually call your Sipgate.com landline number, and ring your SIP phone, allowing you to talk for free. IF your number is local to them. I live in ohio, and my sipgate number is a california number. but Google doesnt care. Google has free calling to all US numbers. and although Google has restricted SIP calls to Gizmo only, they will STILL forward to landline numbers, which Sipgate gave you. Tell Google Voice to forward calls to your sipgate landline number.

For INCOMING calls, your friends can call your Google Voice number, which will forward to sipgate, which will transform the call from landline to SIP, send over the internet to your PBXes, which will ring your SIP phone.

For calling OUT, initiate the call at Google Voice. Google voice will first ring the number you told it to forward your calls to, sipgate will see that as incoming, forward to PBXes which rings your SIP phone, and once connected, Google voice will complete the call by connecting you to your destination landline number.

Hope this helps! sorry its not step-by-step, and doesnt have any screenshots. i just wanted to get this out there, since there was so much conflicting info out there for so many different setups. If you have further questions, i hope you at least understand the process well enough to accurately pin down what it is you need to search for more info on. there was so much info out there when i started, i didnt even know the basic formula i needed to make this work. i tried connecting landline numbers to PBXes, i tried connecting SIP numbers to Sipdroid, i tried doing all kinds of things with PBXes before it all clicked. when you get confused, go back to the formula with the brackets. some software acts as the SIP phone AND the operator. Some SIP providers dont give you the landline number. The formula, to the best of my understanding, should work several ways as long as all parts are included. Hopefully soon, Google will become everything from landline number to operator, eliminating confusion, extra steps, and decreased call quality as calls bounce around over the net.

Best of luck and free calls for you!

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