As I mentioned in a recent post, about a month ago, I made a big career change. Consequently, I’ve gone from a daily commute of 15 minutes to one of 45 minutes. My biggest frustration with the longer drive? My cell phone reception along the interstate has been spotty at best.
I left cell phone contracts over a year ago and made the jump to the MVNO Straight Talk when I purchased a Nexus 5. Since then, I’ve been using Straight Talk to access T-Mobile’s network, which is blazing fast… in the locations where I get service. The catch is that T-Mobile doesn’t have much service to speak of at all in rural locations like my commute. The data service is non-existent for things like streaming Spotify, but of greater concern, I can’t stay connected on voice calls without dropping the call every couple of miles.
Of course, without the obligation of a contract, I have options. On Straight Talk alone, I can jump between the T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon networks. MVNO providers like Straight Talk, Virgin Mobile, Consumer Cellular give third party access to the 4 major networks including those previously mentioned and Sprint. These providers offer savings over “postpaid” plans from the major providers, and with no contract, it’s easy to jump between these options whenever I want. The Nexus 5 makes it even easier to take advantage of the system since it’s compatible with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint (and their related MVNO’s).
Unfortunately, while both the MVNO’s and my Nexus 5 make it easy to jump providers, none of that really matters given my location.
- AT&T’s signal drops the minute I enter my house.
- Sprint’s signal is no better at my home.
- Verizon’s voice signal is strong enough to make calls from my house, and I considered selling my Nexus 5 to get a Verizon compatible phone, but Verizon restricts LTE usage from their MVNO partner networks, making this an unappealing option.
Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to find a way to make AT&T work given it’s generally wide coverage and fast LTE speeds, but what to do about the bad coverage at my house? There are cell phone extending antennas available on Amazon. You mount the antenna to your roof and run a cable to a location inside your home where the signal is boosted throughout your house. Some have pretty good reviews, and I gave this option serious thought.
In the end, I decided on what I felt was a more elegant option that didn’t depend on the quality of AT&T’s network near my house at all. I’m sharing this idea because I think it could help a lot of people who want the freedom to go with a certain cell phone network but find that it just won’t work at their house or apartment due to bad reception in their neighborhood. The trick was I ported my number to Google Voice. If you are not familiar with Google Voice, it is a free service from Google that provides a number of services: visual voicemail, texting from your PC or Mac, and much more. In this case, I was interested in two key Google Voice features:
- VOIP calling. I now have the ability to make and receive free domestic calls over the internet, and I’m doing it on a standard “landline” phone much like one would use it with a service such as Vonage but for free (more on how I’m accomplishing this in a future post about the Obi 202).
- Call forwarding. Any time someone calls me, I can have Google Voice ring several lines at one time. In my case, I have Google Voice ring my cell phone and my new VOIP box simultaneously. The call is automatically routed to whichever line I pick up on. When I’m on the road, I pick up on my cell. When I’m at home and can’t get AT&T mobile coverage, I pick up on my new VOIP service.
All of this is working like a charm, and because I ported my number to Google Voice, my friends and family don’t even have to learn a new number for me. Since I’ve been a little short on the details of the process, I’m going to do a couple of more posts explaining in greater detail.
Step One: How to Port Your Number to Google Voice
Step Two: My Obi 202 Review
- Porting My Cell Number to Google Voice
- OBi202 VOIP Review
- Why I’m Sacrificing My Teacher Discount on Cell Service for the Nexus 5