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Yaztromo
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:02 am    Post subject: VoIP mobile phones: what's the verdict? Reply with quote Back to top

Hey Everyone:

At the end of this year, my agreement with my cellular provider expires, and to be honest, I'm not sure if it's worth keeping up. I'm not a heavy telephone user (I might make 5 to 10 calls a month on my cell, and not a lot more than that on my main Vonage line -- I never come close to using my 500 minutes per month, which is one reason why I switched to Vonage in the first place), and the reason why I'd really like to use it -- for data (currently GPRS, but if I renew I'd probably upgrade to EDGE) -- is sufficiently pricey and slow that I rarely use it.

I'm currently wondering if it is worth my while to get myself a hardware Voip mobile phone as a replacement. My initial instinct is that the answer is going to be "no" (primarily for the reason that coverage in an emergency situation, like the car breaking down at the side of the road, is probably going to be very spotty indeed), but I'd like to hear from some people who have made the switch. I already have the Vonage Softphone option, and use it at the office (where my desk phone is limited to local calls only, however yes -- the softphone is permitted in this case) and on the road (where WiFi to my laptop is available -- in both cases, a Bluetooth headset is a wonderful thing). I have WiFi both at the office (unencrypted, although the opportunity to run my own access point certainly exists) and at home (using WPA2 encryption).

So if you've ditched your cell service in favour of a WiFi Voip phone, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Likewise, I may just try to change my plan so that I get way more data at EDGE speeds (like maybe 25MB/mo before the 3˘ per KB rate kicks in), and way less voice minutes (or perhaps going with a prepaid voice plan, where I can top up the voice minutes as needed). In this case, I may just try to use the softphone over EDGE for non-emergency calls. Has anybody tried this? Is the bandwidth and latency sufficient when using EDGE to handle voice traffic?

Or, perhaps as I spend more than 90% of my time in WiFi enabled zones anyhow I should just keep the most basic $5/mo data plan on my cell, go with prepaid minutes, AND get a WiFi Voip phone.

Any data points would be useful. I haven't made a decision either way yet, and while I'd like to minimize my current cell bills, maintaining network availability would certainly be a huge asset. Thanks!

Yaz.
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scerruti
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Posts: 1424
Location: Carlsbad, CA (finally)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I am going to make a guess here that you are with Cingular, my experience with EDGE comes from T-Mobile.

EDGE for Voip

As far as using EDGE for Voip, you make be successful but even if you were you would be in violation of the terms of service (for all the carriers as far as I know). My experiences with EDGE have led me to believe that I could not make consistent quality calls because of latency and jitter.

WiFi Phone

The process for me of getting a soft phone client up and running on my PC is fairly long. I typically have a several minute startup time on my laptop. If I found myself using my laptop to make calls frequently then I would look at a WiFi phone. The other problem is that it is not convenient to receive incoming calls on a computer based softphone when you are mobile.

One current problem with WiFi phones is the inability to roam between networks. This means that if you want to make calls you will have to stay in one place. There does appear to be the ability to roam between access points on the same subnet with the same DHCP server so you may be able to roam around in an office environment.

Emergency Use

This really comes down to where you typically are and what you define as an emergency. Any mobile phone can make 911 calls without having service activated. That doesn't help you if you classify a call to the auto-club for a break down as an emergency.

Someone should sell the idea of the AAA working with cell phone companies to provide reverse billing for calls from inactivated cell phones. I wonder what kind of $ hit the mobile phone companies would take if such a scheme were implemented. But, I digress.

GSM with WiFi

The new VoIP/GSM phones that I am aware of use a special routing protocol that allows the provider to route your calls over WiFi and then through their switches. The advantage is that it provides seamless roaming onto and off of a WiFi network from a GSM network. The disadvantage is of course that you can't use a third party Voip provider.

This does not preclude the use of a separate Voip client on the phones. It simply doesn't provide the integration with the GSM side of the phone.

Prepaid Voice with Data

I have not been able to find a solution that allowed me to combine the two. That being said you could probably drop the voice off your data plan altogether and get a separate prepaid voice plan.

Carrying Two Phones

If you truly spend 90% of your time covered by WiFi then I think your final proposal has a lot of merit. However, you are going to have to carry two phones around instead of one. If I were you I would be looking for a phone that has a built in WiFi client that also could be used on a prepaid plan. I would make certain that the phone book could be addressed from both sides of the system. This might mean carrying a larger more expensive device, ike a PDA/Phone combo.

Of course the roaming issues I covered above prohibit me from considering that path at this time.

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Yaztromo
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Hey Steven:

scerruti wrote:
I am going to make a guess here that you are with Cingular, my experience with EDGE comes from T-Mobile.


Sorry -- I completely intended (but forgot) to mention that I'm using Fido here in Canada.

scerruti wrote:
As far as using EDGE for Voip, you make be successful but even if you were you would be in violation of the terms of service (for all the carriers as far as I know). My experiences with EDGE have led me to believe that I could not make consistent quality calls because of latency and jitter.


Good to know. I couldn't find anything on Fido's website about TOS restricting how you use their EDGE service, but it's probably something to look into at some point. Admittedly, this would be an edge-case for me -- I wouldn't see myself using it (unfortunaetly, since the last time I looked my provider seems to have dumped their $50 (CDN) Unlimited data plan. Ptth.).

scerruti wrote:
The process for me of getting a soft phone client up and running on my PC is fairly long. I typically have a several minute startup time on my laptop. If I found myself using my laptop to make calls frequently then I would look at a WiFi phone. The other problem is that it is not convenient to receive incoming calls on a computer based softphone when you are mobile.


The same task is actually very quick over here -- but I'm using an Apple PowerBook. The Vonage Softphone software requires no installation on a Mac. And as I only ever put the system to sleep and never turn it off, the system comes up in about 5 seconds of opening the lid (most of which is spent typing in my password to unlock the system from sleep).

scerruti wrote:
One current problem with WiFi phones is the inability to roam between networks. This means that if you want to make calls you will have to stay in one place. There does appear to be the ability to roam between access points on the same subnet with the same DHCP server so you may be able to roam around in an office environment.


The WiFi standard allows for such roaming so long as the access points share the same SSID and are on the same subnet, so I don't see why a phone wouldn't support this. So as you say, roaming inside an office shouldn't be an issue. Roaming between networks during a call would be, but I don't tend to use my phone much while walking down the street or driving anyhow.

scerruti wrote:
This really comes down to where you typically are and what you define as an emergency. Any mobile phone can make 911 calls without having service activated. That doesn't help you if you classify a call to the auto-club for a break down as an emergency.


I do Smile. Admittedly, I have only used my CAA membership twice, but as the gas gauge is somewhat stuck, I'm often a bit concerned about running out of gas (which has also happened to me twice -- both times when I was driving to the gas station and was less than 1 block away from arriving, so neither time did I have to call the CAA! Razz).

scerruti wrote:
The new VoIP/GSM phones that I am aware of use a special routing protocol that allows the provider to route your calls over WiFi and then through their switches. The advantage is that it provides seamless roaming onto and off of a WiFi network from a GSM network. The disadvantage is of course that you can't use a third party Voip provider.


If I went this route, I'd want a pretty damn advanced phone. I can happily do without the camera and MP3 playback capabilities a lot of phones have these days, but I do like the PIM features, and really want the data features (which I find too slow and too expensive to use as much as I'd like to) of my current cell phone. And as a developer, Java is highly desirable as well (I was once going to do some work on my T610 in this regard, until I discovered it doesn't support the MIDP networking profile. Bastards!).

scerruti wrote:
I have not been able to find a solution that allowed me to combine the two. That being said you could probably drop the voice off your data plan altogether and get a separate prepaid voice plan.


According to Fido's website, this isn't a problem. Right now this is what I'm leaning towards -- just keeping my current phone, going prepaid for voice, and continuing my $5 per month GPRS plan.

scerruti wrote:
If you truly spend 90% of your time covered by WiFi then I think your final proposal has a lot of merit. However, you are going to have to carry two phones around instead of one. If I were you I would be looking for a phone that has a built in WiFi client that also could be used on a prepaid plan. I would make certain that the phone book could be addressed from both sides of the system. This might mean carrying a larger more expensive device, ike a PDA/Phone combo.


I'm already gadget man anyhow -- what is one more phone going to hurt? Wink

Yaz.
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scerruti
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

FIDO's Fair Use Policy is either very permissive or very out of date. (Who still runs a gopher server? Most people I know don't even remember gopher.)

The only section that I can find is 17c;
Quote:
or otherwise generating levels of traffic sufficient to impede others' ability to send or retrieve information;
but it is really intended to apply to abuse and not normal use.

If they don't have an unlimited data plan and their per MB charges are enough to pay the bills then there is no reason to prohibit Voip, especially if it doesn't work very well. I use the Sony Ericcson GC89 for my EDGE connections (also for my 802.11G access). As I said, Voip was spotty because the connection was very bursty. I am in a low signal area however, an urban area might fair better but may be more subject to problems stemming from congestion.

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