I was answering a question today over on the SmallNetBuilder Forums from a Dad looking for a cheap way to set up a phone for his pre-teen daughter. A cellphone on a family plan was out and she was too, uh, unmotivated to earn the money for a prepaid cell and phone cards.
His thoughts had turned to Google Voice, mainly because it offers free calling to any number in US and Canada. I confess that I haven't paid much attention to Google Voice, since I have viewed it primarily as a way for smartphone users to swap "unlimited" data bandwidth for metered voice calling minutes.
I'm also a long-time Skype customer and use a Skype In number (now called Online Number) as my business phoneline. Although you have to pay for access to anything other than other Skype users, the $3 / month it costs me for unlimited US and Canada is less than the taxes on my monthly landline phone bill.
But as it turns out, there is a pretty easy way to use Google Voice for unlimited free US and Canada calling by spending about $50...once. All you need to do is get an OBi100 or OBi110 from Obihai Technology and sign up for a free ObiTALK account.
The OBis are basically VoIP ATA (Analog Telephone Adapters) designed to work with Obihai's VoIP gateway service. The difference between the two adapters is that the 110 has a second RJ11 jack to connect to a regular phone line. This gives you the option of calling into the OBi110 from, say, the other side of the world and then making a US call to anyone via your normal phone service.
Getting Obihai's adapters working is simple and doesn't require knowing anything about SIP or VoIP. You'll just need to have previously set up ObiTALK and Google Voice accounts and have your login information at hand. The video below walks you through the whole process.
An important tip gleaned from this ZDNet article is that you may want to set up a separate Google account specifically for Google Voice use. This is because you'll need to enter your Google account credentials on the OBiTALK portal when you link up with Google Voice. While I'm sure Obihai Technology wouldn't violate your privacy by using the login credentials to gain access to all of your Google-stored data, I sure wouldn't want to take the risk.
The only catch is that signing up for Google Voice requires that you already have a telephone number that you must use to authenticate your account and use as a forwarding number. Other than that, for a one time outlay of $50, you can talk all you want for free. At least until Google decides to start charging.