I've been asked about this alot in the last few weeks so I thought I would take the time to write a tutorial on how to do it.
First of all, the reason for posting is because most of the people who read this forum are ones who want to do things cheaply, or free if possible. For telephone service, as many of you know, we use a voice over IP system, more commonly know as VoIp. This service is identical in technology when compared to Rogers home phone. Essentially, your voice is converted to data and fed into the telephone backbone. With Rogers, it assigns you a telephone number that is routed to the extra box they rent to you. This technology is incredibly cheap. Rogers sells you a data service (internet connection) and then re-sells you the same service as a phone. The $30 per month service should cost about $6 by the standards of other companies.
Your phone at home could be as cheap as a free VoIP client on your computer and a service from one of the VoIP companies like http://www.VoIP.ms or http://www.LES.net. Although VoIP.ms is cheaper, text messages are difficult use via their service.
Back to the topic at hand. Cheap cell service.
Heres the steps:
1. Set up an account with LES.net. You can then either order a new DID (Direct Inward Dial - A Phone number) or, you can port your existing number to them. Porting will cost $30.
2. Obtain a Virgin Mobile SIM card. In some cases the friendly folks at the Apple store will give you one if you have a suitable back-story.
3. Set up a Virgin Mobile or Bell tablet data plan. See links below. This will establish a mobile data connection anywhere in Canada. This means no more of the bullshit roaming charges. Use this sim card in your android phone. It will not work as a phone with the default dialer, but thats the point isn't it?
4. Using your Android, download the app CSip Simple. This will become your default phone application. A note on setup with LES.net - for your did2.voip.les.net is the server you need to use for SMS to work. This is critical and not well documented. CSip Simple will integrate with Android and become your primary dialer. It also will dial from your contacts and handle text messages. You can remove your android dialer and text handler if you wish, but its not necessary.
I found that LES.net was all about users jumping through hoops. The user experience is not overly friendly and they prefer 5 steps when 1 will do. Having said that, the staff is helpful and responsive. Although the SMS issue not well documented, my problem was handled in a few hours. They are also the only one who handles SMS properly, in an application. This means that if you want text messages available on your phone, you will want to use their service.
Thats basically all you need to do to set up a phone. If you order a new DID, the process takes about 2 days to get the number. The great thing about VoIP is that the cell companies can't hold you hostage. Yes, you will need to bring your own phone, but thats a minor cost considering what the carriers charge for it.
The nuts and bolts:
Virgin mobile (depends on data usage) Between $5 for 10mb and $25 for 5gb. If you use alot of data, your bill will be higher. Simple as that.
Les.Net - $5/month + $0.015/min for phone calls and $0.01 for SMS sent. $8.88 unlimited phone available.
My typical bill for both is about $25 as compared to the $80-90 my '$35' koodo plan used to cost me.
To minimize your data charges, set up CSip Simple to prefer wireless networks. This way, it will use your home wireless connection whenever possible. Alternatively if you don't have a Virgin SIM and only connect to wireless networks, the phone will still work but will be limited to your wireless hotspot range.
Currently these plans are stand-alone. They do not require phone service.
Link to the Virgin plan: http://www.virginmobile.ca/en/plans/details.html#!/tablet
Comparable Bell plan: http://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Cell_phone_plans/Tablet_PC_data_plans/Flex_plans.tab
Rogers plan: https://www.rogers.com/web/content/mobile-internet
To help determine the approximate costs, these guys set up a handy calculator. For LES.net, their preferred protocol is G.711u/a
This is also another good link on VoIP voice quality Vs. Codec: http://blog.voipdiy.com/2009/12/codec-vs-voice-quality.html
If you have questions, feel free to ask.
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