Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ditch Your Landline, Save $40 Per Month by Using Google Voice and an OBihai Adapter

I've been using Google Voice for years now, and it is a great, free service.  It used to be called GrandCentral.  Google Voice gives you a universal phone number.  Once you have a Google Voice number, you can give that one number to everyone, and your GV number will forward calls to your cell phones and landlines as you choose.  Google Voice also transcribes voice messages so you can get emails with a transcription of a voice message.  It has tons of other features like the ability to block phone numbers.  Folks can send texts to your Google Voice number, and you can send and receive texts using your email rather than your phone app.  All calls and texts using Google Voice to the US are free (and I believe Canada).  International rates are pretty reasonable. 

I've had one number for Google Voice for years now.  I've also kept a landline with my office number for 20 years.  This landline has been with AT&T for 20 years, and they kept increasing the charge on it -- the last bill was something like $40 just to have a landline, with "long-distance" charges and taxes extra!  I kept it so I could keep the phone number.  Also, with Google Voice, I could go to the GV website, select or enter a phone number to call, and GV would call my landline and place the call -- the call would be place by Google Voice but would ring my landline, and would be at no charge.  It was a good arrangement, until I could not take AT&T continued rate increases. 

I did some research and bought an Obihai adapter -- here's the official name: OBi200 1-Port VoIP Phone Adapter with Google Voice and Fax Support for Home and SOHO Phone Service. 

WOW!  The Obihai adapter was super easy to set up and works great.  I was and remain stunned at how easy this adapter was to install and how well it works.  This little box (about $50 from Amazon) connects via Ethernet cable to my router, and my usual landline phones connect directly into it. 

There's only one port to plug your phone line in.  Here's a tip: phone wires in most houses are two-way.  The source can be plugged into any wall jack, and the other jacks will get the phone signal.  I therefore simply connected the phone port from the Obihai to a phone jack in my guesthouse, and then plugged in my Panasonic's base station up in the main house into the home phone wires.  I've used a Panasonic cordless phone system with my landline for years.  Everything worked fine!

From the Obihai instruction pages:
Note: You do not have to plug the Obi device into the point-of-entry for the phone line; you can plug it into any phone jack in your home to connect it to your home phone network.

Now, I have one physical phone/base station (and the wireless handsets connected to it) that rings differently for three GV phone numbers coming in.  Line 1 is the GV number for my wife's phone.  Anyone ringing her GV number rings on this line at home as well as her cell phone.  Line 2 rings my GV number as well as my cell phone, and has a different ring tone so I know that it is my line.  Line 3 rings my office phone number and has yet another ring tone.  If someone leaves  a voicemail, that voicemail will be transcribed by Google Voice; and I will get those transcripts via email. 

If I want clients to capture and see only my office phone number, I dial "**3" before dialing the client's phone number. 

Everything works almost exactly as it did before, except I can't have GV connect my calls using a computer any longer -- I have to physically dial a number.  I am sure that if I care enough, I could figure this out. 

I wanted to save my work phone number, as clients still use it.  I therefore had to convert my office phone number from a landline to a Google Voice number.  It was a hassle, but a couple of websites described this process:
Google doesn't normally allow you to port a landline phone number to Google Voice. This step-by-step primer shows you how you can do it.
As of today we're saving $45 per month by using Google Voice and an OBi VoIP bridge for our home phone!

The process was a series of simple steps.

Check Phone Number Transfer Capability
Purchase pre-paid "burner" phone or sim card and VoIP bridge
Transfer your number to pre-paid phone
Transfer your number to Google Voice
Setup the OBi VoIP device
Configure Google Voice

I did run into a problem that was really just something where I could not wrap my mind around the concept. 

I have had a personal GV number, let's call it 831-375-5555, for years.  It is linked, as all GV numbers are, to a GMail address and also a Google Voice web page.  On the GV page, I could set phones that would receive calls to this GV number, such as my landline, a cell phone, and other options like Google Chat. 

My wife had her own personal GV number. 

In the past, if someone called my wife's GV number, the landline would ring.  The same if someone called me.  When I was gone on a month-long shoot, I'd go into GV settings and turn off call forwarding to our landline.  But I could no longer do this with the Obihai!  I wanted someone calling my wife's GV number to also ring the old landline number, just as before...Duh. 

I did an embarrassing amount of research on this.  My question was how to have a Google Voice number ring another Google Voice number.  It was generally deemed impossible. 

I finally figured out that even though the Obihai adapter had only one phone port, it could handle three GV numbers -- perfect for my situation.  Within the Obihai's setting page, calls to my GV line, my wife's GV number, and my old landline number (now a third GV number) would all ring the same physical phone handsets, but have different ring tones.   Like I said: Duh. 

One last note from a forum:
One word of caution concerning the Obi ATA and Gmail. As I mentioned above, the forwarding phone called Google chat "drives" your Obi ATA and also the Call Phone feature in Gmail. However, only one of these services can be active at a time. If you notice that Gmail rings with incoming calls and not your Obi, log out of Gmail and that will allow the Obi to ring. Do the reverse if you want to use your computer as a phone in Gmail but your Obi rings instead.

No comments: