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Obi, Codecs,WiMax, and the End of GV XMPP

It’s time for an Obi update.  As I’ve mentioned before, I really like my Obi 202; it’s a nice combination of reasonable simplicity and flexibility.  However, Google is dropping the XMPP interface to Google Voice on May 15, and Obihai isn’t going to try any work arounds, so I’ve had to re-configure my system.

What I’ve ended up with is this:

  • Currently keeping the Anveo DID (incoming phone number) which I’ve had for several years.
  • I’ve added Vestalink as my main service (incoming and outgoing).
  • I’ve also added Localphone, currently on a 800 minute/month subscription for outgoing ($1.60) and DID for incoming ($0.99/month; I’ll probably drop the DID).
  • Both Vestalink and Localphone are set up spoof our Google Voice number for outgoing calls.
  • I’ve set Google Voice to forward to Vestalink for incoming GV calls.

It’s working pretty well, especially by the most important standard: my wife hasn’t been complaining.

Consider I was paying >$20/month for basic metered local telephone service, I’m not worried about saving every penny.  I like having some redundancy, so if say Vestalink is having trouble, we can always use Localphone.

I did not use any install wizards; I prefer to enter the information in by hand, so I can tweak it if necessary, move things around, etc.

Codecs and Wireless

The only big tweak I’ve done is with codecs: I’ve setup both Vestalink and Anveo to only use the G.729 codec (GV and Anveo only support G.711).  The G.711 codec might have slightly better quality than G.729 (according to one study I found, 4.3 vs 4.0) on a fast wired connection, but it doesn’t recover well from lost packets, jitter, etc.

So I’ve been happier running VoIP on FreedomPop WiMax after I’ve switched off the direct Google Voice connection to my new G.729-based services.  I give the credit to the Obi forums; I’ve learned a lot from them recently.

I will also be experimenting with Android SIP clients.  In the past, my experience wasn’t too great, but I think using G.729 might help.  Vestalink provides their own client (a customized version of Cloud Softfone), and allows two simultaneous calls (so if I’m talking on Android, my wife will still be able to call at home).  For Localphone, I am evaluating CSipSimple and Zoiper.  I’m not planning on using SIP for incoming; SIP apps appear to significantly decrease battery life.

Vestalink

Vestalink has had its issues such as a few outages and issues with delays with calls forwarded from Google Voice, so YMMV (your mileage may vary), but I’ve been satisfied.

So far Google Voice forwarding to Vestalink has been great, with almost instant or very short delays.  Voice quality has been fine (considering I’m on WiMax).  It’s easy to set my outgoing Caller-ID.  I like the incoming CNAM (name lookup).  Vestalink does have a 30 day trial period.

Localphone

So far Localphone has been working fine, too.  I’ve tried some Google Voice to Localphone DID forwarding, and it’s been fine, even though the packets supposedly have to go Europe and back.

Other Options

I chose based on my priorities and current usage.  There are a number of other options worth considering, especially if you have different needs, including:

  • The Obi plans.  Current choices include three plans from Anveo and two plans from PhonePower.
    • The Anveo plans have fairly limited outgoing minutes.
    • You have to sign in to see the details.
    • These plans are setup over the internet, so it’s almost as easy to use as Ooma (but still more flexible).
    • I thought about the PhonePower plans, but passed  because I want to be able to tweak settings, including my Caller-ID spoofing (PhonePower doesn’t allow easy spoofing changes).
  • A free Callcentric DID for incoming + Localphone or CircleNet for outgoing.  Note: if provide a US or Canadian address, Callcentric charges $1.50/month for E911.  Localphone is typically about $0.005/minute, with US packages of 800 min/month for $1.60, and 5000 for $5.00.  CircleNet says most calls are under $0.005/minute.
  • Future-9, although you have to check the Obi forums or DSL Reports forums if you are interested in their interesting $5/month plan.
  • Callcentric.
  • voip.ms
  • Skype via a bridge.  I had thought about this, but decided it was too much hassle.
  • I’m sure there are others; I highly recommend participating in the appropriate Obi forum; for North America, it’s here — I have learned so much from there.

Additional Notes (Added Later)

  • Google Voice is currently still working with Obi ATAs, but there is no guarantee how long this will last.  I think it’s better to switch now; I have no regrets paying a bit and getting more (such as a better CODEC for my internet connection and  incoming caller name lookup).
  • With all services, results may vary.  For example, I’ve seen reports that LocalPhone has problems calling some Verizon land line numbers.

Even More Notes (October 2014)

  • After Obi changed the authentication method for Google Voice, it’s now officially supported again.  However, that could change yet again….from what I’ve heard, Google really was planning on shutting down XMPP, but changed their mind.
  • So if you want to save maximum money, Google Voice is probably the way to go.  However, you can get many extra features (such as Caller ID lookup (CNAM), E911, and such) with a SIP provider.  I’ve found I really like having CNAM.

Dec 2014 Notes

  • Looks like Future 9 is out of business.  Vestalink is still in business, and I hope they can find a sustainable business because VL has worked well for me.
  • My Anveo DID seems to be having substantial lag reporting the Caller ID number.  I’d also like CNAM on that number, so I’m considering porting it to another carrier when my pre-paid account gets down to $1 or so (possibly CircleNet.  Yes, they’re another small provider, but I think their business model is sustainable).
  • Newer Obi’s can also use Ring.to  service; it’s likely older Obi’s (like mine) will get it eventually.  I’ve played around with it a bit on my phone (since I’ve had GrooveIP for a long time), and so far it’s been a bit flaky (won’t authenticate over my LTE MiFi, but will over WiMAX).  Opinions on the Obi forums are mixed.

1 comment

1 Ryan Tilton { 01.31.15 at 9:25 am }

Thank you for supporting Vestalink on your blog. It would be great if you could do a updated story on Google Voice and the new Nova cell phone service and what it possibly means for OBi users as Google voice is being updated to hangouts and hangounts does not support XMPP calling. And of course somehow promote Vestalink in the post. Great blog, thank you!

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