Mobile Phone Service for US Expats

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rod
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Mobile Phone Service for US Expats

Post by rod »

In the US we used Google Fi which worked well. It includes international roaming at the same US data rates, and that worked well for the first year and a half of our time in Australia.

But then there was email from Google saying they were going to cut off our data roaming due to the amount of time away from the US. So it was necessary to switch to an Australian SIM while somehow retaining access to our US phone numbers.

The Australian SIM is desirable anyway so that Australian friends, vendors and government agencies can reach us with a local number. For this we had resorted to a third mobile phone but that becomes awkward to share and a nuisance to carry around.

A happy solution was found. A Google Fi number can be ported to Google Voice, which is a free service. A Google Voice number can send and receive calls and texts via Google Hangouts, also free.

On the Australian side we chose Boost Mobile which is a prepaid cellular service using the Telstra network, which has the country's widest coverage. Boost rates are quite cheap. Monthly Boost plans can be set to auto-renew, though I chose a one-year plan for myself which was the best deal for my usage history.

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rod
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Re: Mobile Phone Service for US Expats

Post by rod »

Now Google has announced termination of Hangouts support for Google Voice, effective early 2021. I think what that means is it will not support voice calls without being linked to a "real" US phone number.

After much digging for information I set up an account with Callcentric, a "bring your own device" VOIP service provider, and purchased service for about $2 per month plus about 2 cents per minute of talk time. This is the cheapest option for business usage. I had Google Voice point to that, and was able to configure Callcentric to show the GV phone number as Caller ID.

Callcentric also supports residential phone numbers for only $1 per month, and I'll set up Lucy with one of those.

VOIP services typically communicate via a protocol called SIP which is supported by various apps for Android and iPhone. I chose Zoiper. The standard Android phone app is also supposed to support SIP natively but sadly I found that to be buggy and unreliable.

Callcentric offers SMS as an optional add-on, but I didn't need it because Google Voice handles SMS directly via the Google Voice phone app.

I'm finding latency with this solution to be about half a second for calls to the US using local wi-fi. If I instead call via my Australian phone service provider (Boost Mobile) it's better, around a quarter second. Half a second delay in each direction is very noticeable so I prefer Boost whenever possible.

An alternative to Callcentric would be voip.ms; I have not tried it. Skype also has an option to provide a US phone number, and if you already have that then it's another way to go; just more expensive.

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rod
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Re: Mobile Phone Service for US Expats

Post by rod »

Recently I switched us to voip.ms for US phone service, and to Acrobits as the Android SIP client.

Voip.ms because they have multiple servers around the world, including one in Sydney! Acrobits because it supports push notifications which helps preserve phone battery life, and was the best of the lot that I tried for reliability. It costs a few bucks up front but that's not an issue in the long term.

Ongoing cost for the two phone numbers is $1.70 USD per month plus a penny or so per minute of talk time. Not bad!

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