Using VOIP With Your Mac
While I long for the day when I can use my iPhone as my only phone line, I’ve lamented why this can’t happen in other posts on this site.
But I’m also done with regular telephone service. My local phone company wants $30+ each month for a landline and my cable provider (TWC) wants $45 month for their digital phone service. Neither number impresses me.
So I looked into VOIP – i.e. paying for a phone service that used my internet connection. After a lot of trial runs and mediocre results, I recently got it dialed in just right. And that’s what this post is all about.
I started by signing up with Google Voice. Their free service offers a single phone number in addition to mad goodies like transcribed voicemail, number filtering, and nicely-controlled forwarding.
But GV isn’t an actual VOIP service – for that I needed an actual VOIP provider. While I initially looked at Skype, they use proprietary hardware. So I ended up choosing SIPGate based on positive reviews across the internet. They issued my a local number that I immediately registered with GV as my main home number and then had all of the SIPGate traffic forwarded to my GV number.
This would be enough for people willing to use their computer as their phone line – SIPGate has a softphone that you can use with your speakers and computer mic.
But I wanted phone service that replicated my former landline experience – i.e I wanted to use my normal phones. Luckily, this is extremely simple to set up. There are a number of devices that convert VOIP data into analog phone signals. I chose the Linksys SPA-1001 – it’s highly regarded and readily available for less $30. Set up was simple (I just plugged it into my router) and I plugged my cordless phone into the SPA-1001. A dial-tone was waiting for me when I picked it up.
Unfortunately, the phone quality wasn’t perfect. Echos and delays made the system irritating. After some research, I found the problem was likely my router. I’ve been using an Apple Airport Extreme for years and it’s been a rock solid router. But Apple has never allowed QOS filtering and that meant that there was no way to regulate how much bandwidth I could use with my phone. This is crucial for solid VOIP service. SO I reluctantly went looking for an alternative to my AEX.
The D-Link DIR-655 was the router I chose. After setting up it, there was a dramatic difference in call quality. The calls were clear and stable, with little to no delay. Ironically, I was able to sell my AEX on Ebay for MORE than the DIR-655′s list price on Amazon, so I ended up making money on the deal. And getting a better service.