[u-u] Cheap/free VOIP home phone

Dan Astoorian djast at ecf.utoronto.ca
Mon May 25 10:56:21 EDT 2020

On Sun, 24 May 2020 14:03:55 EDT, "D'Arcy Cain" writes:
> > Anyone have experiences with other non-business free or low-cost VOIP
> > providers they would recommend using, or avoiding?
> What is cheap?  We start at $15/month and go up to $25 for unlimited NA.

What is cheap?  *I* am cheap.

I really don't spend a lot of time on the phone.  In the last month or
so, most of my phone time has been to Rogers support trying to get the
new equipment ordered and enabled.  (Of course, from now on I won't be
able to use VOIP to call support for my Internet connection being down.)

Other than that, it's unusual for me to be on the phone for more than an
hour a week.  Some weeks I have no calls at all.

About eight years ago when I cut ties with Bell (mostly because they
wanted to charge me for call screening services when I was receiving
harassing phone calls), I chose netTALK as my new service because of the
promise of phone service for something like $50 per year, a fraction of
what Bell was costing me.  (They didn't mention that it was USD$50, and
the last time I renewed they'd added some hidden fees, but it was still
an order of magnitude less than Bell service.)

I have a SpeakOut prepaid cell phone, but would prefer a cheaper option
than the $.25/minute that costs for local calls.

U of T also recently switched over to VOIP, so I can use the smartphone
client to borrow my office phone when necessary, but obviously I'd
rather not use the business line for personal calls.  The call quality
on that has been way better than the netTALK service, though.

On Sun, 24 May 2020 15:24:33 EDT, "D. Hugh Redelmeier" writes:
> - Rogers was almost giving away their Home Phone thing.  That may have
>   changed.  Technically, it is VoIP, but it doesn't go over the
>   internet.[...]

The cheapest plan on their website is listed at $43.91/month (not
counting the $50 installation fee), which isn't what I'd call almost
giving it away, even if they knock $10 off for "bundling".  I haven't
bothered calling them to see if they can do better.

> What is it you want a VoIP line for?  I have one but don't actually
> use it any longer.  Perhaps you would be better off with replacements
> like Skype, Zoom, Google ___?

I do want the ability to make and receive actual phone calls to and from
actual phone numbers; ideally I'd like to port my existing number.

(I might be able to make outbound calls using Google Hangouts, assuming
my correspondents don't screen their calls based on caller ID, but I'd
rather have an actual phone number.)

> | I then discovered that they freephoneline.ca charges a one-time fee of
> | $99.95 +taxes to "unlock" VOIP and get SIP settings.
> That's crazy.  It isn't based on any cost that they have.

It's just a different business model--they don't charge anything at all
per-month or per-minute.  A $100 one-time fee that gives me unlimited
domestic calls until they go out of business sounds reasonable to me,
and they've been around since 2007.

On Sun, 24 May 2020 18:32:24 EDT, David Gilbert writes:
> It's almost certainly Rogers fault.  In the 25 years I've been doing
> this, if Rogers is the ISP, it's almost always rogers.  Did you change
> to a rogers modem that is your "router"?  This sounds particularly like
> a timeout of a NAT mapping.

Yes, I changed to a Rogers modem (Hitron CODA-4582U).

Would a NAT mapping timeout in the router result in the call dropping in
one direction only, though?  I'm not familiar with the protocols, but I
would have expected something like that to be bidirectional.

I sometimes had calls drop after 15 minutes when I was still on
TekSavvy, though (although I think this is the first time I've had only
one side of the call drop on me).

> This may not be your permanent fix, but try 
> setting your VoIP device as your Bastion or Designated or "Game" 
> device.  This will usually translate any unknown incoming packets to 
> it.  You can only have one --- but this is firstly just to confirm my 
> diagnosis.

I don't see any settings that correspond to those labels; is
"DMZ" another term for what you're describing?  If so, I'll try making
the netTALK device my DMZ host (after work), but I don't know how long
it'll be before I try to have a phone call longer than 15 minutes, so
troubleshooting may be a drawn-out process, unless there's a "speaking
clock" service or something that will let me stay connected for that
long (and even then, I'd only be able to verify one-way communication).

I wonder how long it'll take for portscans from the Internet to crash
(or pwn) the netTALK device....

The Hitron modem also has a setting under "Gateway function" called "SIP
ALG", which is set to its default of "Enabled."  Some Googling suggests
that some implementations of SIP ALG can be...problematic.  Is it
possible that SIP ALG is not only unnecessary but actually causing my

I admit I'm mildly apprehensive about the prospect of paying the $100
freephoneline.ca fee and then discovering that I cannot get SIP working
reliably anyway.


Dan Astoorian, Systems Administrator
Engineering Computing Facility
University of Toronto

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