The Great VOIP Experiment

When you take a post overseas, it is amazing all the little tricks people begin to tell you about. For instance, when my Dad was posted overseas for a bit, he became a fan of slingbox. Slingbox is a piece of hardware that you run your television and DVR/Tivo through & then connect to the Internet. Then from a computer (or handheld) anywhere in the world, you can connect into your home TV/DVR & watch your favorite programs.

The other great technological tool for overseas folks is Vonage. As soon as I decided to move to India, folks began telling me to use the tool. Essentially, you buy a piece of hardware from (or bestbuy) and install it anywhere in the world on a high speed connection. Then, through the vonage site, you sign up for a telephone number in the US. Once you've signed up and paid your 20-40 bucks a month, you can plug any normal phone into the vonage box & folks back home can call you as if it were a local number. The same is true in reverse. It is a huge budget saver for anyone who is outside of the US.

Now, Vonage is truly great, but I found one huge drawback in India. While it is helpful for folks to be able to call my house line here for free, it is still insanely expensive to call me on my cell. And since the time zones are 11.5 hours off from CST, this means either I have to talk to folks in the US before leaving for work in the morning (9:30 pm cst), or I can call folks after work in the middle of US work hours (it is 8 pm here it is 9:30 am in Chicago).

This evening, I set out to figure out the best way to allow folks at home to call me on my cell phone. After a few hours of tinkering, I think I've found one. My first thought was to set up vonage to forward all calls to my cell. Unfortunately, they charge near 20 cents a minute to Indian cell phones. This clearly won't do as it would be as cheap for me to call directly. Now, I've always been a skype user, so I turned to them next. While their service has been great when travelling, I've always felt tethered to my laptop in order to make a call. Their service can provide you a local number, but you have to have a laptop up and running in order for it to ring. However, they also have a call forward feature & only charge 6 cents a minute to Indian cell phones!

So, using my local number with I've now tethered the two systems together. Now, any incoming call to my vonage immediately rings to both the vonage number, and simultaneously to the skype number using their simulring feature. After 1 second, skype then forwards it to my Indian cell phone. I'll let you know how this works out, after a few weeks I'm sure I'll see a hidden charge somewhere on my bill!