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Thread: Voip experiences with the $30 WalMart plan & Google Nexus

  1. #1
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    Voip experiences with the $30 WalMart plan & Google Nexus

    I'm about 3 weeks into using my Google Samsung Galaxy Nexus as my main phone on the WalMart $30 "unlimited data" (5GB @ 4G), unlimited SMS, 100 minutes plan. So far I've been concentrating on getting reliable outbound calling using SIP/Voip (inbound comes later, if need be). The current solution that's working pretty well is:

    • configure an extension on my Asterisk (PBX-in-a-flash) box to only allow the GSM codec and to set the outbound callerid to match my phone's T-mobile number
    • configure the built-in Android phone app to have an internet extension and to use internet for all outbound calls, no polling for inbound
    • respond to (T-Mobile regular cell network) inbound calls (except my wife of course ) with a text "I'll call you right back"


    About 9 out of 10 outbound calls are great. The bad ones (of course the ones to my wife!) get complaints of "all I can hear is static" though I can usually hear them just fine. Others who know my VOIP experiments from past times, talk of 2-5s bad patches that usually occur once in a call and not again. Strangely, with my house WiFi (which has a 15Mb x 1.5Mb ADSL2+ connection that is very lightly used), I get the least consistent results - to the extent that now I turn my phone WiFi *off* before I call, and rely on the 4G instead (which fortunately is pretty good throughout my house). (That might be caused, ironically, by the alpha builds of CeroWRT I'm running on the router with bufferbloat fixes enabled.) Other WiFi, such as hotspots at Starbucks, the local library and similar all seem to work surprisingly well. However, there may be a sample bias in operation there, as relatively speaking most calls are from home. I have done some extended SIP calls while driving (in the SF Bay area) and have been pleasantly surprised that they have all worked *really* well!

    Other solutions I'd tried:

    • Vonage app - poor quality overall. Vonage to Vonage was usually ok. Vonage to elsewhere was often ok. If I hadn't had my own PBX to play with, I probably would have stuck with that. The biggest disadvantage is that its outbound only (except, maybe, for V-to-V, but I never had much luck with that either.)
    • CSipSimple - this turned out to be really helpful for debugging which codecs worked well and which didn't. First I found a couple that worked well, then I went for the intersection of what works with the built-in Android SIP client that's integrated into the dialer along with what is supported out of the box on my (old-ish) PBX-IAF installation. Once I had found that, the advantage of CSipSimple (even the newer, better daily build version) was outweighed by the better integration with built-in client, as well as more reliable Bluetooth headset support.
    • SipDroid - also a great little app, but as I wasn't trying to get Google Voice going with this (via pbxes), I stayed with CSipSimple which I preferred for no particular reason that I can recall right now


    Other solutions I'm still planning to try:

    • Google Voice via https://simonics.com/gvgw/ - this is probably a new one to many people. This is a Google Voice <-> SIP gateway. In theory, you can plug in your Google Voice info here and then plug in the SIP account info it provides directly into your preferred Android SIP client, and voila!, you'll have Google Voice on your phone. I tried this enough to confirm that it works with both the built-in client and CSipSimple. However it only uses the ulaw / G711 codec which I've found to be less clear than GSM (perhaps because the bitrate is 100kbs vs 35kbs, but who knows). Currently its donation supported and I've used it enough to be very impressed.
    • Once I've validated using SIP over data on the phone enough to be satisfied I can survive on 100 mins / month (plus some extra occasionally I guess at 10c/min), I'll add the Simonics GV gateway to my PBX and do transcoding there to GSM - though I'm hoping he might add GSM too ... hint hint


    An aside: data usage for voip is a trivial amount. Obvious to anyone who has used voip much, but I get that question a lot. (E.g. currently, after hundreds of minutes of voip calls this month, I've used 50MB on calls (which seem to be bundled into the Android OS usage as listed under Settings -> Data Usage).

    Hope this helps someone!

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    I don't have a Google Nexus but I have the $30 plan with an Exhibit II. I use Google Voice with Groove IP. It has to be tweaked to the correct settings and speaker setting and mic gain are trial and error to get a nice clear connection. I have mine now setup so that I am very satisfied with the sound and clarity. There is nothing really more to do for incoming calls - they just call your Google Voice number and your phone rings as long as Groove IP is running in the background. If you search around about Groove IP you will come across recommendations for the settings. I have also heard that Talkatone when used with Google Voice works without tweaking - and it is a free app.

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    I tried Talkatone on iPhone and was unimpressed, but I'll take a look at Groove IP and GV in general, as soon as I've ported my old cell phone number over to it.

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    Vonage Mobile works great on that plan and my Exhibit II.

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    Is Asterisk free?

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    @adam1991 I probably didn't give Vonage Mobile a long enough trial. Apart from the inconvenience of using a separate app, it was simple to get going and mostly worked just fine. Can't recall how good/bad the Bluetooth support was ... seem to remember there was some issue.

    @MrObvious Yes, Asterisk is free. That's the underlying engine used in this distro: http://pbxinaflash.net/. Highly recommended if you want to geek. It does require a computer to be left on if you want to make calls as it runs in a virtual machine, but its a whole new world of telephone fun

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1776 View Post
    I don't have a Google Nexus but I have the $30 plan with an Exhibit II. I use Google Voice with Groove IP. It has to be tweaked to the correct settings and speaker setting and mic gain are trial and error to get a nice clear connection. I have mine now setup so that I am very satisfied with the sound and clarity. There is nothing really more to do for incoming calls - they just call your Google Voice number and your phone rings as long as Groove IP is running in the background. If you search around about Groove IP you will come across recommendations for the settings. I have also heard that Talkatone when used with Google Voice works without tweaking - and it is a free app.
    Care to share your settings? Thanks!

  8. #8
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    your using voip its not going to be the same quality not without using tons of bandwidth. out of all the apps i tried Talkatone worked the best be it over wifi or edge.

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