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FreedomPop WiMax and VoIP

I’ve been on a quest to find the best match for my home internet needs.  At home, we don’t use the internet much, because I don’t have time (too busy doing non-geeky things), my wife only does e-mail, internet radio, browsing and the occasional Youtube video, and we try to keep our kids in the real world as much as possible (Legos! Drawing!  Parks!).  We only use about 5G/month, so I don’t want to pay for a lot of Gigabytes we won’t use.

As I’ve mentioned before, we were on the Clear WiMax basic plan ($35/month for unlimited 1.5M down / 500K up), which helped since I could dump my rip-off of a basic phone plan (~$23/month for metered local calls).  Note that Clear service is no longer available since they are now fully owned by Sprint.

A couple months ago, I finally found a better fit: FreedomPop’s Home plan, which uses Clear (now Sprint) WiMax.  I’m on the top plan, which is 10G of whatever speed you can get for $19/month.  Here are my comments so far:

  • FreedomPop’s website and sign up process really reminds of GoDaddy.  You need to read carefully and know what you want so you don’t pay for unneeded extras.
  • Speed is good; I have maximum signal strength, and can get 12-14Mbps down and 1.3-1.5Mbps up (based on running speed tests a couple times).
  • Latency can still be an issue for VoIP (see below for more).
  • I like the modem’s included 2-port switch.  Its built-in WiFi has good speed, but seems to have poor range.  My Obi 202 ATA is still on power line adapters instead of WiFi.
  • FreedomPop’s plans are niche: if you do much streaming, you’ll quickly pay a lot, good WiMax coverage is limited, and FreedomPop’s LTE plan is way too expensive for my usage (5G/month would be ~$65/month).
  • If I need to change, I’ll probably go to LMI.net’s Fusion service.  It’s a pricier (~$52/month with taxes), but has good customer service, high speed, no usage caps, and unlimited long distance calling.

VoIP Notes

Even with the extra speed, Google Voice on the Obi isn’t perfect.  Most of the time it’s good enough.  I note that Clear was promoting Ooma for VoIP over WiMax, although I think only the newer Ooma models have the wide-band codec that’s better for wireless.

I still really like my Obi; I like knowing I can configure it myself, I like having 2 lines, I like the USB options (Bluetooth, WiFI, analog phone line adapter (FXO/FXS)  and I like having up to 4 service providers.

Initial voice quality using the FreedomPop HomeBurst wasn’t so great.  I made two changes that helped: I changed to  Obi’s configuration so that the Ethernet port was always at 100Mbs, and I paid for the mysterious FreedomPop “SpeedBoost”, which can’t boost my speed, but does seem to increase packet priority (voice quality improved — and even with the added expense, it’s still a deal: the cost is about the same as I was paying for just local phone service).

Sometime I want to try using LTE for VoIP, because it supposedly has much better latency than WiMax.

New Problems

Now the news is out that Google is dropping XMPP support for Google Voice during May 2014, so the Obi will no longer work with Google Voice.  I’m going investigate one or two options (which is easy, since my Obi 202 still has a couple free service slots).

  • I will definitely try LocalPhone.
  • I might try using Skype using the SipToSis bridge (Obi notes here).  This will require having a computer on all the time, but I have an old laptop with a broken LCD that should work.

I will write a new post when I have results.

October 2014 Important Notes

  • Google decided not to drop GV XMPP support (at least, not yet – there is no guarantee how long it will be available), so it’s still available on the Obi (with a better authentication method).
  • I strongly do not recommend getting a FreedomPop WiMax service (Home Burst Hub or WiMax MiFi) now, since there are reliable indications Sprint will be shutting down all WiMax service in November 2015.  The FreedomPop LTE services will still work, but the pricing is higher (and you need different equipment).

1 comment

1 Sagevone { 11.19.13 at 11:00 pm }

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