Playing with VOIP

I mentioned in my previous post that as my HTC Desire is a work phone, I will not be using it for calls while I am in the States, due to roaming costs. Which is why I wanted to look at VOIP again.

I have had a VOIP/SIP client on my phone for some time – SIPDroid. It is a popular client, and I could use it to make calls through my work VOIP phone system. However, it would never ring when a call came in, which limited its use.

I thought that this might be to do with the nature of our work VOIP system, or perhaps the fact I already had one (hardware) VOIP phone pointing at the account; although I thought what should happen is that both phones ring. The SIP client showed itself as permanently registered to the account, but it never rings.

Googling told me that I am not the only one having such problems with SIPDroid, so I decided to abandon it. However, it is fairly ubiquitous – “Does anyone know an Android client for SIP?” “SIPDriod!” – so it took a while to find an alternative.

I now have the following working – others may find this useful.

1) A SIP Account with Draytel – www.draytel.org. Their website is a mess, but this was the service I found worked best. The account is free, for receiving calls, and when you sign up you get a free 0560 number (charged at UK standard charges, I believe). To make calls out, you have to pay as you go, but with your first purchase of minutes you get another free number – this time with the geographical code of your choice, within the UK – which meant I could pick a local code for me – 01778. With your first purchase, you also enable the voice mail feature, which is important for me, as my with my data plan turned off, VOIP will only be working when I am connected to WiFi. My main problem with Draytel was that it took some time to work out where on their website I could purchase minutes on my account – you would think they would have a big link saying “Spend money here!”, but it wasn’t obvious to me.

2) The CSipSimple client for Android. This can be configured with multiple SIP accounts, and by default integrates with the main calling function on Android. You can turn this integration off, if you want to, but I like it – rather than explicitly starting CSipSimple, you can just dial a number, and the phone will ask you if you want to make the call using your carrier or with your VOIP account. Setup was fairly easy, but I did find I needed to use the “optional” Proxy settings before I could get it fully working.

3) An account with http://www.ipkall.com/ – this simply gives me a free US telephone number (Washington State) for receiving calls, routed to my Draytel account.

4) A simple “always on” divert of my mobile phone number to my UK 01778 number, so that if anyone does call me on the mobile, it will not go through expensive Orange roaming, but come to me via Draytel at a cost, to my employer, of a normal UK diverted call, which is acceptable. This also consolidates my voicemail services into one.

So this means that people can ring me from the UK or the US, both at national, not international rates. Making outgoing calls, I am going to be charged 1.5p per minute for calls to the US, which is a bit better than the £1.10 per minute that Orange would charge my employer for making calls (and 70p a minute to receive calls!). UK calls via Draytell will be 1.4p per minute.

This all relies on me being connected to WiFi, but when I am not, the voicemail will take messages, and email them to me.

A note on an alternative SIP account – I already had an account with SipGate, and set up for this in CSipSimple was easy, as it had a setup guide. However, I found that SipGate can block calls from 3rd party services such as IPCall – some people seem to use it fine, while others can’t get the IPCall to work. This was so in my case – calling IPCall got a message saying “The other line is busy”. I reconfigured for Draytel, and it worked first time!

Anyway, it all seems to work in the shelter of my office. I’ll let you know how it works in the real world.

2 Comments

  1. February 25, 2011

    1.4p/minute is the same charge as for using SkypeOut for UK calls, and is a lot less than I get charged for mobile calls. I take it this is independent of time of day (no ‘peak rate’)?

    With that sort of facility I’m actually becoming interested in an Android phone, basically as a VoIP phone rather than for GSM (although having GSM as well would mean that I could use it out of WiFi range).

    Are there any simple (and cheap) Android phones which could do this? I’m not interested in games or reading books on it or recording videos.

    • chris
      February 25, 2011

      1.4p-1.5p is about standard for VOIP calls.

      Note that Draytel reduce that to 0.9p a minute, if you pay 20 quid at a time. I don’t know how much I’ll use this, so I only put a tenner in the pot. If you make a payment of more than 20 quid (including 2 x 10 quid payments within 60 days of each other), your call cost reduces for the next year. Seems fair.

      I am only in a position to recommend the HTC Desire, as that is what I have got – it is not exactly a cheap phone, but it is remarkably versatile. While I understand what you say about “I’m not interested in games or reading books on it or recording videos”, that is exactly how I felt, until I got it.

      I know my brother was looking at the HTC Wildfire, which is currently cheap through Tesco, on an O2 tariff. I put him off this, as he did want a feature phone, and the Wildfire’s LCD screen isn’t up to the job for that kind of use. But it might be fine for what you want. I believe it runs Android 2.2, and I think that is the only requirement for the software I am using.

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