Of Course AT&T Doesn’t Want Google Voice

I’ve been a Google Voice user since it was called Grand Central, and use the number as a disposable one – I’ll give it out to anyone. Until recently, that was the only real benefit that I saw – using Google Voice like a filter, to control who has direct access to my ‘real’ mobile number (which I protect carefully). However, a recent post from Andy Abramson shined a light on a much better scenario.

You can now hook up your Google Voice to your Gizmo5 service, using Gizmo5 as the SIP gateway to sending and receiving calls to/from your Google Voice number. After installing Gizmo5 on my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet, I am able to tether the tablet to my phone over 3G, and then use it to directly dial a phone number, and my caller ID comes across as my Google Voice number. Brilliant. I almost have the same setup working on my Nokia E63. On my N79 and 5800 XpressMusic, I can do the same thing using Nimbuzz to handle the SIP features, again, over 3G.

Why is the 3G significant? Because, currently, with AT&T, it would cost me $129/month to get unlimited domestic minutes, unlimited messaging, and unlimited 3G. If I want *just* unlimited 3G, with no minutes, it costs $59/mo – less than half the price. If I could make unlimited domestic calls with Google Voice through Gizmo5 SIP over 3G, I could get the features of the $130 plan, for only $60/month.  I would have replicated the entire cellphone experience with nothing but a data connection.

Of course you can do this without needing Google Voice, but using it brings along the SMS part of the equation, along with more advanced call management options, such as being able to send the call to another phone, etc.

So, what’s the catch? First off, coverage – 3G coverage, while plentiful, is nowhere near the same level as EDGE coverage, and a voice call over EDGE is spotty, at best. The other catch is battery life – maintaining a constantly active data connection on today’s cell phones isn’t likely to last you through lunch, much less an entire workday.

The point is, it’s doable, and with today’s technology, not something that’s coming down the pipeline. Given that AT&T’s 3G network is already stretched to the max, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if AT&T was the one who prompted Apple to remove the Google Voice applications from the App Store recently. What do you think? Are you a bit more interested in Google Voice, now?

This also leads me to ask a familiar question – if/when AT&T (or the other carriers) finally realize that they are nothing but a dumb pipe, how will they compete? Will we have all-out price wars, or will we finally see the mobile carriers competing in the areas of customer service, extra features, etc?

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