VOIP Landline: How to get a free home phone line for life

According to the latest study by the US National Health Information Survey released in June 2012 (link), from 2008 to 2012 the percentage of American households that only use wireless phones went from 17.5% to 34%. All the while, the percentage of households with a landline phone (with or without an accompanying cellphone) decreased from 79.1% to 63.6%. The trend is clear. Consumers are cutting their landlines in favor of cell phones at an ever increasing rate. There are many reasons for this behavioral shift. Smartphones are now ubiquitous. The majority of adolescents and adults have or would like to buy a smartphone. You can carry it around with you all day, others can reach you with one number, you can browse the web, write/read email, play games, listen to music and some users even have unlimited voice and data plans. It’s very convenient.

We believe that the primary reason why users are giving up landlines it that they cost too much. Why pay for 2 phones when you have one with you at all times that does so much more? That’s a very good question, but what if we told you can you can setup a home phone for practically nothing? Would you be interested then? No monthly fees. You can use regular phones and it’s free for life. Now that we got your attention, a lot of common responses that we receive are “this sounds like a scam”, “that’s impossible”, “must be  terrible service”. Well, we have been using this service for over a year without any issues. We have even helped setup such a line for a couple of friends, also without any problems. We’ve read reports that others have been using such a service for over 5 years and they’re still happy with it.

Did we mention that you also get unlimited long distance calling in Canada? Oh ya, that’s free too.
What I’m describing is a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephone line. Before we go any further, you should ensure that you have 1) a high speed internet connection, 2) a computer/laptop, 3) a regular landline phone (we recommend a DECT 6.0 cordless phone with a base station and 3-5 handsets), 4) a wireless router and 5) an analog telephone adapter (commonly referred to as an ATA device). Below is a diagram of how everything would be connected.

Follow these steps for a quick guide on how to setup a new VOIP line. You can skip the rest of the article if you’re not interested in how VOIP works or why we’re making these recommendations.
1) Purchase a Linksys PAP2T-NA from eBay for $23-27
2) Once you receive it, register an account at freephoneline.ca (here)
3) Check your email and click on the link to activate your account
4) You will be back on the freephoneline website, click “Register”
5) Enter in your contact details for 911 emergency purposes (leave a space for the postal code), click “Continue”
6) Review your information, if satisfactory, check the box and click “Accept”
7) Click “Call me now” and it will call your contact number and a machine will provide you with a 3 digit confirmation code. It may take up to 15 minutes to receive a call. Please enter this code into the text box and click “Submit”. If you do not receive a call, please contact freephonline support desk and they will activate you manually.
8) You need to purchase an “VOIP Unlock Key” from freephoneline. The VoIP Unlock Key allows you to access their network to make and receive calls over the internet. You can choose to keep your current phone number or you can pick a new home phone number. Login to freephoneline if you’re not already logged in and purchase the VOIP Unlock Key for $50. Please choose your new telephone number. If you would like to port your number instead, please call freephoneline or send them the Letter of Authorization as found here. Please follow their instructions.
9) After purchasing the VOIP Unlock Key, you should receive an email with your account information. Keep this information for step 12.
For example:
Username: 4225927
Password: f29l3gs
Realm:    voip.freephoneline.ca
10) Connect your ATA to a power source and connect it to your Wireless Router with an ethernet cable (the cable looks like this)
11) Connect the base station of your cordless phone to your ATA using the supplied telephone cable (the cable looks like this)
12) Follow the instructions here to setup your ATA correctly. However, I would make a small amendment. Instead of selecting G.729a as the guide suggests, please select G.711u if you’re in America (I explain my reasoning below).
13) Once the adapter reboots which may take a few minutes. Pick your receiver and you should hear a dial tone.
14) If you ported your number, please call your telephone company to cancel your home phone service.
15) Enjoy free Canadian long distance for life.
If you’re interested in how to port your existing number, how I came up with these suggestions or how to setup and access your voice mail, please read the following.

What is an ATA Device (Analog telephone adapter)
This is probably the only item that you need to purchase. It’s a small box that sits between the cordless phone’s base station and to the wireless router. In the simplest of terms, it acts as an interface between your regular phone and the internet. The ATA device encodes/decodes voices before/after it goes through the internet using voice compression software. Another way of looking at is that your landline phone is an analog device and the VOIP system is digital. Therefore, a device needs to translate the digital signals to analog and analog signals to digital in order for the telephony service to work. That’s what the little box does.

one of many examples:

Which ATA do you recommend?
We recommend and personally use the Cisco/Linksys PAP2T-NA (as pictured above) as it’s reliable and cost effective. The PAP2T-NA can be purchased from eBay for as little as $23-27 w/ free shipping worldwide. The Amazon reviews are excellent as we expected. We also suggest that you purchase the unlocked version. Linksys PAP2T models that have a suffix “NA” or “EU” are unlocked.  Without such suffices, it means that the ATA is locked, therefore you can only use it with a specific VOIP service provider (it’s the same concept as a locked cell phone). An unlocked ATA means that you can use it with any compatible VOIP service provider. The PAP2T-NA has been discontinued since May 2012, but you can still easily find them online.
The PAP2T-NA’s main feature is that it allows you to hook up 2 different VOIP telephone lines to it. In other words, you can connect 2 cordless base stations to the ATA (so, 2 different phone numbers). That can be useful if you have a home office and would like to setup an office line and a residential line using one ATA.

Which other ATA’s did you consider?
We have also considered the Cisco SPA112 (the successor to the PAP2T), the more high end Cisco SPA2012 and Cisco SPA3102, but we do not recommend them to most users. These ATA’s have extra features that most people will not use or benefit from. Therefore, why pay for features that most users won’t use? These 3 ATA’s include a router in the ATA, but we recommend that users purchase a dedicated wireless router. We also find no compelling reason to purchase the SPA112 instead of PAP2T-NA. It appears that many SPA112 users on Amazon experience stability issues or have trouble getting caller ID to work properly. The reviews are mixed at best. However, if you plan on setting up a fax machine over VOIP, we recommend the SPA112 as many users have experienced difficulties setting up fax correctly with the PAP2T. The SPA3012 allows users to hook up a regular landline to the ATA as well, but we don’t find such an exercise very useful. The SPA2012 also allow the usage of voice coder G.729 (as explained below) for 2 VOIP lines, but we recommend the usage of G.711 as the voice quality is higher, therefore that factor becomes moot. The voice call quality will about the same for all 3 ATA’s, therefore there is no reason for most people to spend more money on the SPA112, SPA2012 or SPA3012. Users would have to move up to enterprise level ATA’s for a boost in voice quality, but they’re usually +$250. For all of these reasons, we recommend the PAP2T-NA to most users.

What are codecs?
A codec is short for coder-decoder or compression-decompression and it is usually a piece of software that encodes and decodes a certain data file. A codec is commonly used to shrink video and music files. For example, .MP3 files have been compressed with a codec (a popular MP3 encoder is called Lame Mp3 Encoder). Most video files uses codecs as well. Popular video codecs include DivX, Mpeg-4, H.264, WMV, etc. to compress video files into a more manageable size.

Which codec do you recommend?
The two most popular codecs for VOIP telephony are G.711 and G.729. We recommend the usage of G.711 as it is the voice coder that is the most similar to a landline phone. However, it requires a sustained upstream and downstream data rate of 100Kbps (12KB/s). G.711 gives you “toll quality” calling. Another popular alternative is codec G.729. The data rate requirement for G.729 is only 8Kbps (or 1KB/s which is 12.5% of the G.711). Therefore, it will use a lot less bandwidth, but voice quality may be slightly inferior. You should know that dial tones cannot be decoded with G.729, therefore you won’t be able to use a fax machine with this coder. G.729 is very efficient at transmitting voice calls. However, the human voice is synthesized by something called a vocoder. If you understand how MIDI audio files work, vocoder uses a similar principle. Instead of sending the speaker’s voice, G.729 analyzes the speaker’s voice and compares it to a synthetic voice in its library. It comes up with a certain formula that will best mimic the speaker’s voice using the synthetic voice as a base. Therefore, it wouldn’t be necessary to send the speaker’s voice across the internet. G.729 will send the formula instead (which uses a lot less bandwidth). The other person on the line hears your voice as it is being reproduced on their side with the same formula. The end result of all this work is a voice quality that sounds similar to G.711 but at almost a third of the bandwidth usage. Vocoder uses a lot of computing power, therefore many ATA’s  only support G.729 for one phone line or channel (as in the PAP2T). If you’d like to use G.729 for 2 phone lines, you need to buy the SPA2102.
We have conducted multiple non scientific tests comparing G.711 and G.729 and we prefer G.711 much much more. The voices sound a lot less robotic and sound crystal clear in comparison. We don’t imagine ever going back to G.729 (which we used for a year). When configuring the ATA, please note that G.711a is used for Australia and Europe while G.711u is used in Canada and the United States. In consideration of all of the above, the only voice coder that we can recommend is G.711.

Which VOIP service provider do you recommend?
There are many VOIP service providers out there, but we recommend www.freephoneline.ca as it’s the only one that we know of that doesn’t require a monthly fee. Please note that a VOIP service provider are also known as SIP servers (Session Internet Protocol) or SIP proxies.

How much does freephoneline cost?
There is a one time of $50 to activate the VOIP service.

Can I keep my phone number?
Yes. You can port your current number to freephoneline by calling freephonline or sending them a Letter of Authorization found here. There is one time fee of $25 to port your number. Please check to see if your telephone number can be ported here. Most area codes in Canada can be ported over to freephoneline. You should contact freephoneline before you let your telephony company know that you would like to port your number or terminate your service as only “active” telephone numbers can be ported. If your number is flagged as “disconnected” by your telephone company prior to porting, it may be more difficult to port your number.

Does 911 still work?
Yes.  You can still call 911, however you have to input your address and contact details on freephonline’s website. Otherwise, emergency personnel would not know where to go. You should update this information when you change residence.

What happens if my internet isn’t working and I need to make a call?
As it is a VOIP service, the telephony service is dependent on the internet. Therefore, no internet, no telephone.

Can I check my call logs online?
Yes. Login to freephoneline and click on “Call Logs”. Here you can see the call logs for the current month and for the last 2 months.

How do I setup my voice mail password?
Login to freephoneline, click on “App Settings”, click the “Settings” button, click “Voice Mail Settings” button, enter in your voice mail password. You also have the option of entering in your email address if you want your voice messages to be sent to your email address as an audio file.

How do I record my voice mail greeting?
You can set your voice mail greeting by dialing *98, pressing 3 for Personal Options, then 3 again for Greetings where you will have the option to record your greeting.

How do I access my voice mail?
Please dial *98 on your home phone.

Does it support caller ID?
Yes. Caller ID is activated automatically. There is no extra fee. All incoming phone numbers are displayed on the cordless phone. If the number is saved in your contracts you can customize what name appears.

Can I forward my VOIP number?
Yes. You can forward your VOIP number to your cell phone or office line so that people can always reach you through your VOIP number. To do this, login to freephoneline, click on “App Settings”, click on the “Settings” button, click on “Follow Me Settings” button, select “Enable” in “Status” and for “Ring Mode”, either choose “Sequential” or “Simultaneous”. Simultaneous means that your VOIP number and all of your “Follow Me Numbers” will ring at the same time when someone calls the VOIP number. The first person that picks up will be connected to the caller. Sequential means that if you don’t answer the VOIP number, the caller will be redirected to the 1st “Follow Me Number” you specified after your specified number of rings. If no one answers after the specified number of rings, it will redirect the caller to the 2nd “Follow Me Number” and so on until all of the “Follow Me Numbers” have been dialed. Once you’re satisfied, click “Submit”. A new button has appeared, now click “Follow Me Numbers” to enter in your alternate numbers and push submit.

That’s it! If you require any clarifications or have any comments on any of the above, please drop us a line the comments below and we’ll respond to you shortly.

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