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Google Voice: Is the SIP and Asterisk Honeymoon Over?

Lips from Google"Well. That was quick." Not encouraging words to hear from your new best friend. Google doesn’t make many mistakes so let’s give their decision to shut down SIP connectivity to Google Voice a little more time to percolate before concluding that they’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The knee-jerk reaction is simply to write off Google as having about as much technical and business savvy in the VoIP market as AOL demonstrated… twice. But that’s not the Google many of us have known and done business with. And it’s the antithesis of everything Google Android and the company have sought to promote.

Update: The original SIP interface to Google Voice described in this posting no longer works. A new approach that really works is now available on Nerd Vittles at this link.

For the record, let’s back up a minute and review what transpired. Last Monday we (and others) released a tutorial showing users how to almost transparently connect Google Voice to Asterisk® PBXs as either a SIP extension or a trunk. The beauty of this was that it added a great new, low-cost telephony provider to the worldwide mix. The short-term advantage to Asterisk users was that calls within the U.S. currently were free although Google already has announced that those darn "accountants" have told them that they’re going to be forced to charge for the service one day soon. Cough cough!

In the process of testing this SIP connectivity, what we discovered was the only layer of protection standing between your wallet and free worldwide phone calls for every creep on the planet was a 4-digit PIN. That translates into 10,000 SIP calls to break into any user’s account. Even without the assistance of BOTs, that afforded your shiny new Google Voice account less than an hour of protection with a well-written SIP dialer and no added protection from Google Voice. By Friday, Google had closed the hole and blocked all SIP connectivity except for Gizmo.

The simple solution to open up safe SIP connectivity to Google Voice would be the addition of either an IP address field or a SIP URI in the Google Voice configuration options. SIP calls to and from that address would be allowed. All other calls would be blocked.

And why is this a good idea? First, it promotes the SIP open source standard. See Andy Abramson’s blog for a thought-provoking analysis of where this could ultimately lead. Second, it brings Google Voice connectivity to an enormous pool of users most of whom are tech-savvy and influential in the VoIP marketplace. Millions of Asterisk systems already have been deployed worldwide. Third, it’s the right business decision. Can you spell S-K-Y-P-E? At a time when Skype is opening up its network to SIP connectivity through Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk not to mention corded and cordless telephones, what possible business case could be made for introduction of a closed-platform VoIP service with no outside connectivity except through MaBell landlines? Hello!

This may come as a shocker to the Google accountants, but the call pricing and the double-hoop outbound dialing through Click2Dial aren’t that great. Comparable SIP call pricing is available from thousands of providers worldwide. And voice transcription through the Click2Dial voicemail service is downright horrendous. We proved that quickly with our Google Voice demo system.

It comes down to this. The one truly distinguishing factor with Google Voice is Google. At a time when Google has been at the forefront of open source telephony in the cellphone space with Android, the current Google Voice design is a giant step backwards. Rumor has it that Ma Bell had an offering that rang phones in multiple locations about 70 years ago. It was called a Party Line. How are they doing with that? We hope Google does the right thing and opens its new service to safe SIP connectivity. It’s the right and the bright thing to do.

The Honeymoon Ain’t Over… The Return of Googlified Messaging With Free U.S. Calling


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Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.

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  1. Can you still forward calls from an Asterisk system via SIP to Google Voice so that it can still act as your voicemail system?

    [WM: Sure. That still works fine so long as you activate Do Not Disturb on the Google Voice end.]

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