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Communications Google

Making Free Phone Calls With Google's GrandCentral 144

andrewmin writes with an enthusiastic pitch for Google's closed-beta call-aggregation service called GrandCentral, for which we non-beta-testers can at least reserve a number. Specifically, he's using GrandCentral in combination with Gizmo5 to make free VoiP calls. Excerpted: "Most of the time, I'm at my computer. Or near it. And if I had an internet device like a Nokia N810 or an iPod Touch, I'd have it with me 24/7. And since most of the time I'm at a place where there's a WiFi network, it makes sense for me to use VoIP rather than a regular phone line. ... I'm talking about making and receiving calls that are completely free (that is, $0.00/minute) forever (that is, no 30-day demo) for as much as you want (that is, no 30-day trial or five hour/week limit)."
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Making Free Phone Calls With Google's GrandCentral

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  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @06:02PM (#23286688) Journal [] Gives anyone a free phone number forever, globally, and you can dial to and from most VOIP services.

    It works great with any VOIP SW or HW or Asterisk for a fancy home answering machine.

    If you need the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) world to call you, [] will give you a free Washington phone nuumber.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) * on Saturday May 03, 2008 @06:32PM (#23286836)
    Mostly it is the company you are buying the service from, and the contracts it has with terminating companies in the destination country.

    One thing to be aware of is the prepaid cards are generally given the lowest quality of service routes. The phone company already has your money, so it doesn't really care whether the call goes through or not. If you are placing the call on a billable basis then the phone company doesn't get any money if the call doesn't go through.

  • by zeroduck ( 691015 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @07:12PM (#23287092)
    I've been using the beta for a few months now, and its pretty slick. I think the intention is to charge for the service at some point. On the settings tab, they list what "plan" you have.

    Right now there is no advertising on the website or inserted into your calls.
  • by IconBasedIdea ( 838710 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @07:24PM (#23287184)
    The service is available in every state. However, numbers in every area code and/or state are not available at all times. Your number and your location need not match.
  • by adlucem ( 1158083 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @09:27PM (#23287972)
    Some of the rest of the world already has free VoIP, though. For instance, ~50% of French households have broaband, and the typical monthly fee of 30 bucks includes free VoIP (and numeric TV). The big difference of GrandCentral seems to be that it centralizes all of your phoning devices, around a unique phone number.
  • by seidojohn ( 870852 ) < minus berry> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:36AM (#23288922) Homepage
    This apparently isn't designed to replace cell phones or land lines. From what I understand from TFA:

    1. Give GrandCentral all your phone numbers (Home, Cell, Work, etc.)
    2. Tell GrandCentral when you will be around each phone
    3. Tell all your contacts you have a new phone number, and give them your GrandCentral one
    4a. Someone calls at a time which you told GrandCentral you would be at work, so your work phone rings.
    4b. Someone calls when you're on your lunch break, out of the office, and your cell phone rings.
    4c. Someone calls when you're at home, and both your cell phone and land-line ring.
    4... Repeat for whatever configuration you have set up.

    From TFA:

    With GrandCentral, you get:
    All your calls through a single number. Add your other numbers to your GrandCentral account and then make your own rules for how and when your phones ring.
    All your voicemails in one place, saved for as long as you want. If you don't answer a GrandCentral call, your callers will be sent to your GrandCentral voicemail. You can then check messages by calling your GrandCentral number, by logging into your account, or by checking the GrandCentral notification email.
    Handy features that work the same way across all your phones:
    *ListenIn as callers leave you a message
    * Record calls on the fly so you never have to fumble for a pen again
    * Switch phones mid-call without your caller knowing
    * Block annoying callers at will
    * Record custom greetings for different caller or groups of callers

    Later in TFA:

    To use GrandCentral, you just need a touch-tone phone and a Flash-enabled browser. Visit the About Adobe Flash Player page to find your version of Flash or confirm that your already downloaded it.

    Also this:

    Note: GrandCentral won't charge you for these calls; however, if you use a cell phone, regular cell phone airtime charges may apply

    Sorry for so many quotes, but if people won't look at the website they're commenting on, perhaps they'll read this... ;)
  • by a.ameri ( 665846 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @08:26AM (#23290624)
    As part time Asterisk developer let me second the parent.

    Not only VoIP, but any real-time application is useless on nearly all current implementations of 802.x due to two major reseason:

    * Response time is too high irrespective of bandwidth. Lag is not acceptable in situations where you can't buffer. Your YouTube playback will not suffer because even a tiny buffer can eliminate the problem, but you can't buffer RT applications.

    * Most importantly, the concept of QoS, while theoretically feasible on 802.x, is completely absent from the current implementation. I have heard but I'm yet to see a real Wifi device with QoS. Without QoS, VoIP sucks.

    And then, there is also the issue of enhanced emergency services compliance, or what's in US called E911. In Australia where I live, most VoIP providers either completely block calling '000' (our emergency service number) or require you to submit a physical address for your static IP and REMAIN in that location.

    To sum it all up, if you're holding your breath for VoIP on Wifi, dream on. I've tested various VoIP clients (from the top of the market Siemens and Snom IP phones with Wifi to softphones like Counter path, etc) using various VoIP servers (Asterisk, Cisco, Nortel, etc.) using various UDP protocols (SIP, AIX2, H.323, Skinny etc.) and it DOESN'T WORK(TM).

    Until we have full end-to-end QoS support on wireless networks, or something like WiMAX which promises to drastically lower response time and lag, VoIP on wireless will remain a toy for geeks to play with and nothing more.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @08:04PM (#23295692)

    You missed one of the slickest features of GrandCentral, one which is not highly advertised...

    Let's say you have your Work, Mobile and Home numbers registered with GrandCentral.

    You receive a call to your GrandCentral number, which rings in your office at 4:50pm, and you need to catch the train down the road at 5:30, and it's a 20-minute walk.

    You accept the call in your office, have your conversation, then TRANSPARENTLY switch the call to your cellphone, continue talking there, without ever dropping the call. You take your train home and reach your house just as your cellphone battery is dying. You then transparently transfer the call to your home phone number, and continue to talk there. The whole time, the call was never dropped, nor did you ever lose connection.

    THAT, in my opinion, is the slickest part of GrandCentral.

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