UPDATE: As of December 2011, this hack no longer works. Google no longer allows 403 area code numbers.
So, I admit that I have been completely absorbed by the Googleplex. And… I kind of enjoy having a Google-centric life, actually. So when I moved to Canada and faced giving up my Google Voice, I cringed and cried and wept piteously.
And I did NOT leave denial and move into acceptance! Instead, I plotted and schemed and conspired to bend Google .. itself! … to my will! Muhahahaha! They called me mad at the Sorbonne… mad, I tell you – MAD!
So! After a few hours of research, I had some good leads. After a couple of false starts and some experimentation, I found what seems to be the optimal (and cheapest!) solution.
While you can definitely adapt this method to your own needs, bear in mind it was originated for my own situation: having a US cell phone with a Canada/US calling package and an unlimited Canada/US data plan ($147/mo from Verizon on my DROID). That being said, onward to the good stuff!
Getting a Google Voice number
Since I already had Google Voice from when I was living in the US, I didn’t have to spoof my IP to be able to register an invite. If you’re reading this in hopes of copying my set up, there are plenty of tutorials on how to use public web proxies like hotspot shield to make it look like you’re in the US. And the method I’m going to describe DOES let you register with Google Voice without having to get an US ph#.
The 403 area code hack + FreePhoneLine.ca
There is some quirk in GV that lets it accept 403 numbers, so I went to FreePhoneLine and registered for a 403 area code number (Calgary). They also have a Skype-like softphone you can download and install if you like that sort of thing, but I didn’t bother as I don’t need it. (plus it was Win or Mac only anyway)
I then went into the “followme settings” for my account, and set the FollowMe mode to “Always Forward” and added my local landline’s 780 phone number as the FollowMe number. To make sure GVoice picked up for vmail and not FPL’s native service, I set the “Number of seconds [to ring before going to vmail]” to 72. GV vmail picks up after 30s.
This actually didn’t work the first few times and I had to contact tech support. They did a reset on their end that they said should work. I tested, and no joy. However, when I retested it after changing “Number of seconds” to 70, it suddenly worked.Hopefully it will continue to do so.
I then proceeded to register my 403 number directly in Google Voice. Which was sweet! I wasn’t sure til then that this hack hadn’t been blocked by Google. Calling my GV# worked beautifully, ringing my Canadian landline and US cell phone no problem.
Fooling GV into ringing when my 780 ph# is called
Getting a 780 ph# that people could call and ring my Google Voice number was a bit more tricky. I went to DIDww and got myself a 780 area code DID (basically a virtual ph#). I then created a “mapping” (basically a definition of how an incoming call should be handled). I tried several methods to loop the ph# back to my FPL number, but eventually gave up and just defined it as PSTN (a regular telephone line) and forwarded it to my GV#. This costs me $19.95/mo, but so would a regular landline so no real loss there. It’s actually a little better than a landline, as I get free calling anywhere in the US and Canada.
The only real downside to this method is that my DIDww ph# acts like a landline. (ie), if someone texts that ph#, I won’t get their text. Still, a very minor bobble in my book as most people get international texts for free with the mobile plans here in Edmonton anyway. And if people just reply to my texts, then they’ll never notice.
The real beauty of it
The best part of all this is that with DIDww’s virtual phone numbers, I can have a local phone number in any part of North America (and quite a few other places besides) for just $19.95/mo each. This means that if I leave Edmonton and move to, say, Vancouver, my friends can still call my 780 ph# and have no long distance charges on their phone bills! After I move, I just get another DIDww virtual number for a Vancouver area code for local calls from my new friends and clients for $19.95/mo. BEAUTY!
I can also get a ph# in Van from some telco (actually not necessary, but I use it for testing phone systems) and then forward my FPL ph# to it to get Google Voice calls on my new landline, just as I had done in Edmonton – easy as pie! EXTRA BEAUTY!
So until Google finally gets around to offering Voice in Canada, this is a pretty sweet set up for me and all my contacts. Most cool, eh?