Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Freekin' Cheap: Free Landline Phone Service

Google Voice and a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) adapter give us free dial tone on all our landline phones.
Almost all calls within the US and Canada are free. International calls are near enough free.
We use our home landline phones the same way we have always used them. People continue to call our old landline phone number.
We've been using Google Voice since 2009. It has most of the features of regular POTS (plain old telephone service) and a few extras for people who like to travel. It emails voice mails, filters spam, and lets us have a single number for our home and cell phones.

It takes a few days to set everything up, but if you value saving around $4,000 over the next ten years, this is the way to go. There are five steps:
Step 1: Set up Google Voice
Step 2: Install VoIP adapter
Step 3: Set up 911 service (Optional)
Step 4: Move your landline number to Google Voice (Optional)
Step 5: Cancel landline phone service
Step 1: Set up Google Voice

Follow the prompts at the Google Voice site.
You will have the option to choose a local phone number or to port an existing phone number to Google Voice. Select a local phone number, then port your landline number later. (See Step 4.) 
Step 2: Install VoIP adapter
Google Voice provides free Internet phone service, but you need a way to connect Google Voice via the Internet to your phones. A VoIP adapter connects your home's phones to the Internet. 
It plugs into your Internet network using a standard RJ45 network cable. 
A standard RJ11 phone outlet on the adapter provides conventional phone dial tone and service. You can plug a regular landline telephone into the adapter. Our home's phone wiring connects to the adapter so there is dial tone on every phone in our home.
OBiTALK VoIP adapters work with Google Voice. I recommend the Obi202 as it supports two telephone lines. I'm surprised how often two lines are useful, particularly when there are family issues!

There are full instructions for setting up the adapter for Google Voice.

Step 3: Set up 911 service (Optional)

Google Voice does not provide 911 service, but you can add 911 service to your OBiTALK box. I set up 911 service with CallCentric:
Set up Pay Per Call service. You won't be making any non-911 calls, so this service will cost you nothing. Choose the option to have 911 service. The cost for this service is $1.50 per month.
Next, go to your online OBiTALK dashboard and add your CallCentric service. Click on "SP2" (Service Provider 2) then click through to OBiTALK-compatible service providers. CallCentric is one of the providers.
I know the 911 service works. Once I misdialed 011 when making an international call. I immediately hung up when I heard the first ring. A few minutes later a cop was at our door: I had dialed 911.

Step 4: Move your landline number to Google Voice (Optional)

You can move a cell phone number to Google Voice, but you cannot move a landline number directly to Google Voice. The solution is simple.

First, move your landline number to T-Mobile.
Buy a T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Starter Kit. These are often on sale at t-mobile.com for 99 cents.
Activate the SIM using an unlocked phone. Select the $3 per month pay-as-you-go plan. If you don't have an unlocked phone, borrow an old T-Mobile network-locked phone, or look on eBay.
Move your home landline number to T-Mobile using these instructions. There is no fee for doing this. It may take a few days for the number to move.
Then, move the number from T-Mobile to Google Voice using these instructions. There is a one-time $20 fee. It may take a few days for the number to move.

Finally, you can throw away the SIM: it's no longer useful.

Step 5: Cancel landline phone service

If one company provides both your Internet and phone service, switch to an Internet-only plan. 
If your provider won't give you a promotional rate, ask to speak with a customer retention representative. If that fails, switch providers. For example, if you are using cable, switch to DSL. At the end of the promotional period, ask the provider to extend the promotion. If they refuse, switch providers.
In Minneapolis, a local company provides fiber to our home for a non-promotional $35 per month, 50 megabits up and down.

If you don't want to pay for Internet service, you might want to try a free home Internet plan


  1. Thank you for the detail, I think even I could follow the instruction set!

  2. Thanks for this precious information i really appropriate it.

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  3. Very helpful tutorial, been looking for this all day. cheers

    1. Thanks. The setup continues to work great. It's hard to believe service is free.

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