Web workers looking to spend some time or possibly relocate to Chile may want to check our entries on the fledgling Chile Wiki: internet access and VOIP. I bought the Draytek 2910g router I mentioned a couple months ago though I’m not using its dual wan capacity yet (will do once we have found our long term house rental), nor have I tested the ability to use a GPRS/EDGE modem, but I’m considering it (Almost $200 for a Samba 75 is holding me back). I’m now living in an area where a major earthquake is a distinct possibility, so more ways to be able to get and send information could literally be life saving. More mundanely, I’m just interested in being able to keep working normally even if one of my ISPs is down, one of my routers dies and so on. It’s all about getting more redundancy while keeping cost and complexity under control.
Part of the whole expat and distributed team lifestyle is talking over the phone — a lot. I’m having fun with VOIP, for instance making calls to the US for 2 cents a minute from my Chilean cell phone with Skype To Go. I’m researching options for maximum resilience and mobility, which may look something like this:
- keep my sturdy AT&T 5830 5.8Ghz analog phone plugged into my (locked) Cisco ATA with Vonage. Vonage has been working great as my primary business phone for four years, and we’re now using it for free calls to and from friends and family in France as well. You could nail hammers with that phone, too bad they don’t sell them anymore.
- Use Skype within the Skype network, as well as our plan B and our laptop-based solution when we’re traveling.
- Throw away our crappy USB DualPhones (two out of four already died anyway) and replace them with the Philips VOIP841, now that extra handsets are not so scarce.
- Buy an unlocked ATA and do crazy VOIP arbitrage with voxalot (free calls to PSTN phones anyone?). Hmm, wait, I have SIP support on my old Draytek 2600VG which I didn’t use much in that capacity, maybe I can put it to good use.
- Plug the VOIP841 into my router and into the unlocked ATA
- Juggle in style between Vonage, Skype, and a number of SIP providers. Why are you staring at me like that?
My Vonage and Skype experience so far tell me it’s great to have something that doesn’t rely on keeping a PC up and running 24×7. First, PCs need to be rebooted once in a while (more often than I need to reboot my router anyway), services need to be shut down, you get the drift. Second, they cost a fortune in electricity consumption, carbon offset fad of the day or not. That’s one reason why I’m probably not going to bother with Asterisk, the other is that I’m too dumb for that stuff, and then I’d rather be doing something else with my time anyway. For a start I’d really like to spend a day or two in Portillo before the end of the season.
I also need to figure out a more mobile and versatile worldwide email/voip solution than laptop+headset. An unlocked Nokia E61i might work and is still within my budget. I don’t want to spend $800 on a smartphone as they’re too easy to break/lose/be stolen. Apparently, relatively affordable Windows Mobile devices such as the HTC-Excalibur S621 aren’t powerful enough to run Skype reliably. There’s something quite exciting about the idea of non-proprietary VOIP running over WiFi on a mobile phone.
The gist is that voice is just an IP application whose marginal cost per minute should be close to zero, given the extremely low bandwidth usage by today’s standards. A couple providers are supposedly rolling out Wimax across Chile but I’ve found very little information about actual services that might be available. It may take a while, but I do hope the end game for mobile operators is going to be similar to what happened to fixed landline providers. Get those crazy fees out of our faces already!
Update: wow, this post was in Google less than 20 minutes after publication. Clearly they don’t mind my bashing!