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Replacing landline with VoIP+Cellular

Posted on 2006-06-13
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Replacing landline with VoIP+Cellular

I currently have a landline provided by SBC/ATT costing me $25-$35/mo that I have been wanting to replace for quite some time.  I have 3Mb/s cable modem service, and was waiting for Charter Communications to come forth with its 'imminent' telephone service.  They finally called a few weeks ago and offered me unlimited telephone service for $39/mo - no savings at all.

The real issue with this (and Vonage, and my new mobile provider's 'unlimited' plan) is that I don't really need unlimited service.  Our combined local, long distance, and mobile (x2) usage is <300 minutes per month.

I want to completely replace my existing landline with some combination of my existing mobile and broadband services, and attempt to save the $400-$600/yr I have been paying to SBC/ATT.

Although I have done some research, I would very much appreciate some insight from those that have done this before.  Here are the facts:

- I want to drop my residential landline.  Residential, not business (or even small business).

- I currently have 3Mb/s cable modem service, via Charter Communications.

- VoIP local number (Skype-in, Vonage, Gizmo, SIP-in, etc) does not seem to be an option here on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo).  I have not found any VoIP service that can provide me a local telephone number.  None have a local point-of-presence. The closest would be up in Silicon Valley or down in Ventura county - either >200 miles away.  "Having a prestige area code" arguments aside, most of the calls we receive are placed locally.  Forcing our friends to call us using local-long-distance (the highest possible rates) would be very unfriendly.

- Number portability seems to not be an option here on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo). (Same reason as above, I suppose.)

- I am aware of 911 calling issues.  In our area, only Vonage supports it.  We still have 911 service on our mobile phones.  If we reuse our cordless phones, I can program an autodial number for police, fire, etc (although these are non-emergency numbers).  I can put the router and cable modem on a UPS in case of power outage.

- Our mobile account (via Cellular One) has 600 mins/month for 2 phones, with nation-wide long distance and California-wide local calling area (no roaming in CA).  This a very old plan that is much better than the currently offered plans.  If make any changes, I will be "promoted" to a newer plan, where the second phone goes from $5/mo to $19/mo and my local calling area shrinks to SLO county.  The latter would be a killer, since I frequently travel between the SF Bay Area and LA.

- I have a small network of machines, using a Linksys BEFSR41 switch/router connected to the Motorola Surfboard SB4200 cable modem.  I also have an Apple Airport wireless network (behind the router). I have read instances where placing VoIP hardware on the DMZ and/or between router and cable-modem may improve quality of service.  I am open to replacing the Linksys router, as it is a complete piece of crap.

- I was considering getting an analog-to-VoIP box so I could reuse my existing 3 satellite cordless phone system.  This benefits my wife ( the techno-luddite whose doesn't even use auto-dial ) as well as the convenience of cordless phones.

-  Although I run a small home business out of my home, I don't think I need an asterisk-like PBX.  Most of my business communication uses email, instant messaging, and video conferencing using iChatAV.

- My wife is English, with family and a small business in England (UK).  Most communications are via email, but she does make 10-30 minutes of calls to the UK each month.  Although we have 'free' US long-distance on our mobile phones, international calls from our mobiles are prohibitively expensive, so this should be covered by VoIP (or calling cards?).

- My primary desktop and servers are Mac OS X, so Windows-only software is not an option.  I am considering Skype or Gizmo software-only service as they are Mac-friendly (especially Gizmo).

- My goal is to reduce telecom costs, so I don't want to fork out $500-$1000 for new hardware.  I can probably justify $50-$150 initial outlay.  $25-$40/mo services are out of the question, since they cost as much or more than I am paying now for my landline service.

- I am reasonably technically competent (note my numerous EE expert certifications), so I am comfortable setting up hardware/software/services.  My wife, however, would not tolerate an overly complicated super-geek solution for daily use.

That is basically a dump of what I have been mulling around in my brain.  I look forward to hearing your advice and experiences.
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Question by:brettmjohnson
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by:brettmjohnson
ID: 16898377
>  VoIP local number (Skype-in, Vonage, Gizmo, SIP-in, etc) does not seem to be an option here on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo).

Actually, I don't know if Gizmo has local number (or number portability) support, since I have to sign up for service in order to ask.  If anyone out there is already using the service, can you check if area code 805, exchange 549, San Luis Obispo, CA can get a local number.
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grblades earned 500 total points
ID: 16900555
If you are up for replacing the Linksys router then I would highly recomend the Zyxel range of routers. They are 'small business' routers but are priced just a little more than Linksys etc... but no where nearly as expensive ad cisco for example. They can be a little technical to setup in terms of the detailed settings but you should be able to manage. These routers support QOS which will help to keep a good call quality even while the DSL line is being used for other things.

Here is a good list of voip providers. Perhaps one of those can give you a local number.
http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/VOIP+Service+Providers+Residential

Personally I would install Asterisk (see http://www.voip-info.org/tiki-index.php?page=Asterisk%20MacOSX%20Support for mac support) as it will allow you to integrate multiple providers together with multiple handsets if you require.
For example I am based in the UK and use voiptalk (http://www.voiptalk.org) for some of our international calls. There is no reason why you cannot get an account with them and set asterisk up so that when you dial the UK that provider is used.
You could also go with voipuser (http://www.voipuser.org/) who give you a completely free uk local rate number so that people in the UK can call you at low cost. I use them at home.
It is things like having multiple providers which will be possible if you use an asterisk like system.

I dont know much about mobiles in the USA. I have seen this nokia phone though which includes a SIP voice client that works over a wireless network.
http://europe.nokia.com/nokia/0,,81338,00.html
While at home you can use the phone to make VoIP calls and if you go out of range you can switch back to normal mobile.
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by:brettmjohnson
ID: 17084349
No objections.  I was hoping for a bit more feedback.  I ended up consulting a professional VoIP consultant.
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by:WMIF
ID: 17084438
>>I was hoping for a bit more feedback.

your hope doesnt get transmitted through the website.  if you need more information, you need to ask for it.
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