Ditching your voice contract: The payoff
Last week I told you how to escape from your mobile voice contract by using a data-only phone contract and a VoIP service, simplifying your life and lowering your costs. So, exactly how did I do it, and how did it work out?
To recap, I purchased a Samsung S3 smartphone outright, with a data-only SIM from Rogers. This gave me data access to the Rogers LTE network from the phone. It also included a voice phone number from Rogers, because even data-only contracts must still have a phone number associated with them. However, this voice phone number is not designed to be used for calls, because it's horrendously expensive on a per-minute basis. So it's effectively an unusable, dead number. I don't even know what the number is.
The service provider
Aside from buying the phone and the mobile data plan, the other thing I had to do was choose a provider for my Voice over IP (VoIP) service. This is the company that would provide my voice service over my phone's data connection. I chose Anveo.com, because it was cheap, and got good reviews on the forums. It also provides some pretty snazzy back-end functionality. For example, you can use a flowchart-type system to make rules for what happens when people call you on each of your numbers. If you want calls from your friends to reach you after 5pm, but all other calls to be forwarded to voicemail, you can make it happen, simply by dragging and dropping boxes on a graphical user interface on the company's web site, and then connecting them together.
I also like Anveo because of their online support system. Setting up a VoIP service can involve some sticky technical questions, but I was always able to start a quick online messaging session with one of their support staff and get my questions answered. It worked a treat.
I wanted to keep my Rogers number, and the numbers I used for my other businesses, because a lot of people know these numbers. That meant that I had to port those over to my new provider. Anveo provides a simple one-page number porting form, so I filled one of these out for each of the numbers that I had with other service providers, scanned them, and emailed them back. Within a few days, the numbers popped up in my Anveo dashboard, and I was good to go.
On my phone, I installed CSIP Simple, a free SIP client that works with your Android phone. It's an app that works as an alternative to your regular Android phone interface. When you dial a number in this app, it calls via the Anveo phone network, rather than making a call via your carrier's voice service.
CSIP Simple actually integrates with my Samsung S3's phone interface, so that I can use the normal phone interface to make a phone call. When I hit 'dial', it asks me if I want to make the call from my mobile voice number, or via Anveo.
Anveo also lets me set up short codes so that I can send any of numbers as my caller ID when I make a call. If I dial *01 before the number I'm calling, it tells the receiving party's call display that I'm calling from my personal number. If I dial *02, it tells their caller display that I'm dialling from my business line, and so on.
Text messaging also turned out to be relatively easy. Anveo lets me send text messages to other people from the CSIP Simple client. The one drawback is that some carriers may not recognise that a text message is coming from my number, meaning that if someone tries to reply with a text message, their reply will vanish into the ether and I won't see it. After I made a couple of tweaks, this didn't seem to be a problem, but as a precaution, I asked the people that I text with most to install Viber, a messaging app that works on both Android and iOS phones. My friends have started using this in preference to regular text messaging.
Overall, call quality has been good. LTE has low enough latency and high enough bandwidth to maintain a good signal. There is the occasional glitch, especially if I'm in a city without broad LTE coverage, or if I'm on a WiFi network that's heavily congested. But it's no worse than it was with my iPhone 4 using the Rogers network, which would experience terrible call quality on a depressingly frequent basis.
Convenience and functionality
And the upside is the convenience. I spent nearly a month in Australia recently, and I was able to make and take long calls on the mobile using three different numbers on a single handset, all using a home WiFi network. I was able to record the calls I needed to, using the built-in recording facility in CSip Simple. And furthermore, I could have incoming calls ring any phone that I wanted (including a softphone on my computer).
So far, so good. I am loving not having a voice contract with a mobile carrier anymore. I don't think I'll ever look back.
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets