Free calls to the US. And back.

by Volker Weber

When Google started offering free calls to the US from GMail today, I was interested. Very interested. However, this may not show up unless you have Google Voice. For Google Voice you need a US phone line. And you can only sign up from a US IP address.


So with a little help from my friends I set up Google Voice for my Google account. This means however, that inbound calls would be routed to their phone instead of mine. Next thing I needed was a US phone line. One that could be extended to vowe's magic flying circus back here. VoIP is the solution, but many of those providers also won't let me sign up from here. Again, with a little help from my friends, I was able to secure a VoIP account with a US phone number.


When you want to sign up for Google Voice, you need to provide a phone number they can forward the calls to. I did it the wrong way, so I advise you to set up the VoIP account first and make sure it does ring through. Google will call you and ask to punch in two numbers to verify it's you at the other end. Here is my call from Google:


You only need help when signing up. Once you have an account, you can access it from anywhere. This is the chain I am using:

September is a busy month for me. Whether I am in London or in San Francisco, I can just place a free call "to the US" from GMail, in this case my Sipgate number, which will ring here at home. With a little help from my friends.


According to Google's announcement a Google Voice account appears to be optional for outbound calls: "If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID."

Interestingly, they say "We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days [...]" but it shows up for me - I access the internet via o2 Germany and don't have a Google Voice account :-)

Magnus Haug, 2010-08-27

I can make phone calls from within my browser's gmail tab (even to my mobile), and AFAIK I have no Google Voice; just a Gmail account. So I don't understand your "However, this does not show up unless you have Google Voice. "...

Eva Quirinius, 2010-08-27


Volker Weber, 2010-08-27

i was able to download and install google voice without having an US phone line. I just have a simple account....

Michael Reichert, 2010-08-27

I got the "Call phone" button im my GMail as well. I don't know why. Maybe because I have a address, maybe because I use "English (US)" as my display language.

The page for adding credit shows an "Upgrade account" button that would upgrade to full Google-Voice, but when clicked it shows the usual "Not available in your country" message.
I also found another description howto register a Google-Voice account from Germany (but I haven't checked yet if it still works this way):

But with the new feature, the contact list should be able to dial numbers from a contact directly!

Ulf Jährig, 2010-08-27

It shows up in my GMail account as well, all I needed to do is to activate Google Voice&Chat in GMail. And I certainly don't have a Google Voice or US phone number setup. I still wonder why I would need that though. I have a VoIP account (actually multiple) which I can use with a softphone which I have installed on my travel laptop anyway. And at home, my old E51 serves me well so far, but will be replaced with the E71 when that gets replaced as my primary mobile.

All I can think of is when being without laptop at a kiosk PC. But would I really need to make phone calls there? What's the use case you have in mind for this?

Ragnar Schierholz, 2010-08-27

Update: Google Voice&Video is what I needed to activate, not Voice&Chat, sorry...

Ragnar Schierholz, 2010-08-27

Use cases: gives me an inbound phone# in the US. People can call me without international charges. I will probably add another one in the UK.
Google Voice lets me route inbound calls. So I am not going to publish my phone#. This allows me to change my VoIP carrier.
Gmail "Call phone" should be obvious: calls to US numbers. I often need to attend phone conferences where the dial-in is in the US.

The important thing is that inbound calls terminate on my phone, and not on my computer.

Volker Weber, 2010-08-27

So now people will think you are in/from Chicago with that phone extension (773)

john head, 2010-08-27

I would really like to replicate this setup because it fits me as well. The only problem is: I don't know anybody /w a US cell phone number -- I would need one for signing up with (just for the registration).

If anybody can help me out - please feel free to contact me.

Thomas Cloer, 2010-08-27

Doesn't work !
The Fritz!Box wrote this information into the log: Temporarily not available (480)
Everytime !

Jens Müller-Kahrau, 2010-10-16

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