How to use the Internet to have a telephone without actually having a telephone
February 24, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Navigation of Google Voice and Skype: Can I use one or both of these (in tandem) instead of a landline?

Our organization is in need of a telephone and an Internet connection. I called AT&T and they told us that the cheapest combination available for telephone and Internet was $60, but we could get something called a "dry line" (Internet but no telephone) for $20. Rather than pay an extra $40/month for a telephone, we were hoping that there might be some way to juggle Google Voice and/or Skype to suit our needs.

We do have an invite available to use for Voice.

I know very little about the ways of Google Voice and Skype.

Thanks for your advice!
posted by aniola to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak for Google Voice (which is not available in my country) but I can't recommend Skype for this purpose. While you could do this by getting a Skype Online Number (formerly SkypeIn) for people to call you and SkypeOut when you need to call a phone, and it generally works quite well, there are a lot more glitches than you'll get with a real land line. If it's just for personal use that's not a big deal (except if you need 9-1-1, which doesn't work at all through Skype), but you said it's for an "organization" which I would imagine needs more bulletproof phone service.

You might look into a VOIP provider that has a business-level service. It might end up costing as much as the AT&T bundle, but you'll get a *lot* more features on your phone.
posted by Emanuel at 3:21 PM on February 24, 2010

Skype costs money

Google Voice is not the service you think it is. Google Voice will allow you to have one phone number, that will ring as many cell phones, landlines that you want it to. Google Voice is for use with existing services.

For instance, you could set up your Google Voice phone number to ring your skype number if you wanted to. But that would not get you anywhere really.
posted by lakerk at 3:21 PM on February 24, 2010

You could conceivably get a Vonage line for $25 / month- this would work over your internet connection. Probably not worth the complexity and hassle to save $15 a month.

A $20 / month AT&T internet connection is likely to be pretty slow- I suspect that you'll be unable to access the internet and be on the phone at the same time without slowing things down enormously / messing with the sound quality.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:38 PM on February 24, 2010

It's a volunteer-run community bike shop. We need Internet access, but slow Internet is actually a good thing (because then people are working on their bikes instead of checking their Twitter accounts) as long as it can still be used.

Any particular VOIP suggestions we should look into?

Why wouldn't setting up the Google Voice phone number to ring the skype number be useful?
posted by aniola at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2010

I think it would be useful to use Google Voice with Skype, because then you only have to pay a fixed fee for a SkypeIn number (and all your outgoing calls will be free since you're using GV with it). Using both services, you will have unlimited calling, voicemail (and texts if you want that) for $60/year.
posted by helios at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2010

A few things I wanted to add:

- Beware of really cheap VOIP providers. I've found them to be much less reliable than Skype.

- For Skype, you do need to pay for an online phone number ($18 for 3 months or $60 for a year), and also for outgoing calls to regular phones (per-minute, or $2.95/month or $30/year for unlimited US/Canada). Maybe just try them out just using SkypeOut and see how it works for you; not much investment (just the minutes you used). They might be good enough (their quality has actually been improving steadily, so some of my opinion is based on experiences from a while ago).

- The trouble with having low bandwidth is that if people are watching YouTube videos or whatever, it can degrade the quality of your phone calls significantly.
posted by Emanuel at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2010

lifehacker has done a couple of useful posts on google voice and the google voice/VOIP combo. (second link is a more direct answer than the first, i think).
posted by mercredi at 6:27 PM on February 24, 2010

I tried the Skype GV route and it's was a hassle, 1. You don't have a physical phone handset (unless you buy a Skype one), and even if you get a Skype handset, you'll need a browser open to GV to make calls.

I went with Ooma, which is lifetime phone service over the internet for ~$200, no monthly charges and allows you to use regular phones.
posted by wongcorgi at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2010

If anyone has a verizon family account with at least a 700 minute plan, here's the solution.

Add a line to the verizon account, cost is $10.

Set up a google voice account to forward to the verizon number.

Add the google voice phone number to the "friends" feature of the verizon number.

Only give folks the google voice number.

ALL calls to the google voice number (which are forwarded to the verizon number) will be free...and, if you make outgoing calls through google voice, they will also be free..

you now have unlimited local and long distance calling for a total cost of $10

memail me if you want more info on this.
posted by HuronBob at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gizmo will give you a free sip number and it's integrated into Google Voice so there's no need for Skype. That, and an internet tablet or laptop that can run the Gizmo client should be good enough for a personal telephone line. I don't know about reliability or multiple users.
posted by rdr at 11:43 PM on February 24, 2010

For Skype, I've had really good experiences when working with a wired internet connection, and really bad experiences with a wireless connection. So if it's a DSL-to-router-to PC setup, then Skype should probably work alright. You won't have any emergency calling ability using just Skype, though, and will have to pay per-minute even for local calls.

It's also true that most students in a college town (like, say, Davis, CA) will have long-distance cell phone numbers, but there are actually many townies that your bicycle collective might be serving who might be better served by a local number. Additionally, it's worth noting that most cellphones sound like shit due to high rates of compression, and that, if anything, Skype is worse on this front. In terms of understanding what people are actually saying into their phones, I'm pretty convinced that a land-line is the way to go. (Though I might just be a Luddite on this front.)

I seem to remember paying $15-$20 a month for telephone, and a similar amount for internet at one point to AT&T. While it is quite possible that prices have gone up while I've lived in my little pirate utopia, I recommend aggressively asking AT&T about minimal telephone options, such as discarding all long-distance service (which Skype really is better for) and all other frill options for the landline. I bet the $60 for internet+phone will end up being closer to $30 or $40 at the end of the day.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:44 AM on February 25, 2010

How about this: get a dedicated Skype handset that needs no computer, like the Philips VOIP841. Then you get a Skype subscription for the US, starting at around two dollars a month for free national calls (apparently free to mobiles too). You can get your own number so people can call you from telephones, as well as voicemail for a little more.

I have the same setup at home and it has numerous benefits. All it needs is an internet connection (dry line); 90% of the time the Philips phone works fine with great call quality (I do get occasional dropped calls but it's manageable); if you move location, you can take your number with you without any hassle (just plug and play); you can make and receive calls using your number from anywhere in the world you can log in to Skype; you get email alerts for voicemail and can listen to them wherever you are. Plus you can make and receive multiple calls at the same time (from the the phone + any connected computers) so it's like having several fixed lines at no cost. Oh, and anyone can still call you via Skype for free because with this setup you're available on Skype 24/24 with your computers off.

You'll recover the cost of the phone over a short time, rather than paying monthly for a telco's idea of the perfect voice/data combo.
posted by scrm at 2:05 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just yesterday I tried to set up Skype over 3G with SkypeIn and Google Voice on my iPhone. It worked, but not very well. Google Voice would forward to my SkypeIn number, which would then cause Skype (running using backgrounder) on my iPhone to ring. Sound quality was horrible as you might imagine. But the worst part is that when I tried to call Google Voice from Skype (on a different computer, different account), 75% of the time it would simply say "Invalid number."

As for calling out from an iPhone, the GV webapp will still try to call from your actual handset instead of calling your SkypeIn number then connecting you when you pick up. Calling straight from Sykpe works but then the number displayed is the SkypeIn number, not the GV number.

I was hoping that this would work as I'll be using a Canadian unlocked iPhone in the US but now I have to think of a better voice/SMS solution.
posted by pravit at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2010

I am moving in a few months and plan on doing this:

-T Mobile pre paid cell phone for when I am out of the house (already have this)
-Skype $2.95/mo for unlimited calling and $60/year for a phone number
-This highly-reviewed wifi Skype phone
-Google Voice number that will ring both phones

This way, when I am out of the house I use my cell phone, and when I am in the house I use my Skype Phone. The GV number rings both. This may not be 100% ideal--I expect the call quality to be mediocre, and I could only dial 911 from my cell phone--but it's better than paying $20+/mo for a landline I will use maybe once a week.
posted by jckll at 7:12 AM on February 25, 2010

For the record, Gizmo got bought out by Google and is currently not accepting new users.

Thanks for the advice, y'all!
posted by aniola at 2:57 PM on February 26, 2010

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