Obihai and Google Voice for Free Calls

Obihai is a VoIP company from California that designs and manufactures Analog Telephone Adapters (ATA). These devices turn a regular landline phone into a VoIP phone, and when connected to a VoIP provider, cheap phone calls can be achieved.

To take this one step further, when the Obihai ATA is connected to Google Voice, you can make and receive calls inside the US and Canada free of charge.

Intrigued? If so, read the following article and by the end of it you will be ready to say your goodbyes to all phone bills.

Obihai and Google Voice

Obihai ATAs and How it Works

Obihai makes Analog Telephone Adapters (ATA). An ATA is a device that takes your existing analog telephone and converts your voice to a digital format and sends it over your Internet connection (Cable, DSL, FiOS etc). This technology is referred to as Voice over IP, or simply VoIP, and because the calls are sent over the internet, it is much cheaper than traditional phone service. Figure 1 below shows a typical setup for your home, using the OBi200 as an example.

Obihai ATA

Figure 1: Obihai Home Setup

The actual device is very small, less than 3 inches on each side, and has only 4 connections: power, internet, phone and USB, as seen in Figure 2.

Obihai ports

Figure 2: Obihai Connections

Google Voice

Now to Google voice, why is this required I hear you ask. Well, the Obihai ATA simply provides the hardware and software to make phone calls using your existing telephone, it does not handle the actual routing of phone calls to the PSTN, cell phones or indeed other VoIP lines. For this we need a VoIP service provider.

The Obihai ATA can actually be used with most VoIP service providers, such as the ones you see in the table on the right hand side. These providers each offer low cost phone service with a rich feature set. Google Voice, however, is completely free and enables free phone calls inside the US and Canada along with low cost International calls. It was created by Google as a softphone to allow Google users to make free calls from a computer. Obihai was smart enough to realize that there were other ways to take advantage of this technology and allow users to make calls using traditional analog telephones.

Obihai with Google Voice - What's the Catch?

There really isn't a catch. Sure, you have to buy the Obi ATA device, which costs upwards of $40 for the base model. This is a one time fee, and Google Voice is completely free for calls inside the US and Canada.

However, a few things to realize before you jump in:

  1. There is no official support from Google for this service. Google could tear this service at any time. In fact they nearly did before but decided to keep it going as part of its Google hangouts service.
  2. The feature set is very limited compared to the providers you see on the right hand side.
  3. Support wise, you are on your own. Hopefully this guide will help here though.
  4. Be careful with telephone numbers. If you are looking for a new number with a specific area code you may be out of luck, as there is not a huge selection to choose from. If you wish to port a number into google voice, at the present time this can only be performed with mobile phone numbers and be aware that currently there is a fee of $20 associated with this. You cannot port a landline number into google voice. If you need to port your Google voice number out of google it will cost you $3, at this time of writing.
  5. E911 calling. Google Voice does not support E911 emergency service calling. However, Obihai has a way around this, where you can partner with Anveo, for E911 service. There is a small fee associated with this, currently $15 per year.

Setting up Obihai and Google Voice

The setup for the OBi and Google Voice is not too difficult but there are a few steps that must be followed. First the hardware setup, Figure 3 shows my setup for the OBi200 device I used for this exercise. The only connections required were power to the OBi200, the phone line connection from the analog phone and the Ethernet cable that goes to my Internet router. No connection is needed for the USB, though this can be useful if you require WiFi (separate OBiWiFi adapter required).

Obi Voice Setup

Figure 3: OBi Voice Setup

Create a Google Voice Account

You will need a Google voice account. To get this you need a Google account (e.g. Gmail) before signing up for a Google voice account and phone number. Navigate to Google Voice and sign-in and follow the process to get a new phone number. A few verification steps will be required before you are given a new phone number.

Create an OBiTalk Account

Now that Google voice is configured, it is time to sign up for OBiTalk. Register for an account and sign in with Google as it is easier, especially if you have already logged in to Google on your Internet browser.

Add your Device to OBiTalk

After creating an OBiTalk account and then signing in to OBiTalk, it is time to Add a Device. Usually this is the first thing that will appear when you sign in for the first time. You will be presented with some information on how to add a device, as highlighted in Figure 4 below.

OBiTalk Add Device

Figure 4: Add a Device in OBiTalk

Remember to check the box for configuring Google voice for this device and click on Next. The setup will then give you instructions for the phone, as shown in Figure 5 below. This step is needed to connect the OBi device to the OBiTalk server. Note that the number you see in Figure 5 varies so follow the directions given for your own setup.

Connect to OBiTalk Server

Figure 5: Connect to OBiTalk Server

I had some issues on this step and the OBi device would not connect successfully. I made the phone call and got the automated response but I got an error in OBiTalk. The problem turned out to be the ports that were configured in my router. Certain ports need to be forwarded in your router to the OBi device in order for a successful connection between the device and the Obihai servers. For more details on this, see our OBi200 Review page (Figures 3 and 4 on that page). Once I forwarded the ports in my router, I successfully connected my OBi device to the OBiTalk servers. Review the Emergency Services dialog box and then the Google Voice terms and conditions and then click on the "Finish Setup" button.

Google Voice Configuration

You may need to sign in again to Google Voice with your email and password, from inside OBiTalk, and once you hit the final "Accept" button it will finalize the Google Voice setup. This can take up to 2 minutes, and will look like Figure 6 below while it is configuring. When it is done it will show "Connected" as the status.

Final Google Voice Configuration

Figure 6: Final Google Voice Configuration (inside OBiTalk)

The OBi dashboard will now look like Figure 7, indicating that the OBi device is connected to the Obihai servers.

OBi Dashboard

Figure 7: OBi Dashboard

You are Now Ready to Make FREE Phone calls

You should be able to make and receive phone calls on your telephone now, and the best part is, they are all FREE!

Google voice will work with any of the Obihai devices below. Want to buy an OBi adapter? Amazon has great deals, see special deals below.

OBi200 OBi202
Obihai OBi200 Obihai OBi202
Buy Now Buy Now

Please add a comment at the bottom of this page if you found this useful or need help setting this up for free calls.

Related Articles for Further Reading:

left arrow PREV
A Personal Journey to VoIP
NEXT right arrow
Cheap International Calling Options for 2021


WhichVoIP Visitor Comments

#26 : Posted by Frank

Can I transfer my VOIP number managed now by Callcentric to Google Voice?

-> Response: I think you can only port in wireless numbers to Google Voice. Also it is tough to find an adapter that works with GV now i.e. Obihai was acquired by Polycom and GV doesn't seem to be a priority anymore.


#25 : Posted by Steven

Can you tell me some other phone adapters that work with Google Voice besides OBI200 or OBI202?

-> Response: Sorry we're not aware of any other adapters that work with Google Voice.


#24 : Posted by Mike

The OBi100 is No Longer compatible with Google Voice. It is no longer recognized by the OBiTalk portal. It is also unclear what the status of OBi200 device sales are as that device is not on the Poly product page.

-> Response: Still some of them supported (eg Obi300). Polycom/Obi ATAs


#23 : Posted by Robert

When you link an Obi device, do you lose your Google Voice number? As I understand it, Obi does not give you a phone number whereas Magic Jack does. When a call is made with with GV linked to Obi, is the GV number reported for the outgoing call? With E911 service, do you dial an E before 911 to use it or just 911?

-> Response: No you actually use your Google voice number. In other words, the Obi device is just providing you a way to use a regular telephone with your Google voice phone number. It is the GV number that is used for outbound caller ID.
For 911 you still just dial 911 to get through to emergency services BUT you need to add this feature, for a fee, to your Obihai account as it does not get handled by Google Voice, it's through another provider.


#22 : Posted by Bob

My Obi 200 worked great with Google Voice until last week when there was a lightning strike. I need to replace it so I can connect my analog phone to GV. Is the Obi 200 the only remaining analog phone adapter left that will work with GV? If there are others, please recommend some. Seems Obi 200 was discontinued. Do you think that means it will likely soon stop working with GV? Help, not sure what to buy to replace my blown out Obi 200.

-> Response: Obihai was acquired by Polycom so it may be worth looking there for replacement devices - the new devices actually have Polycom written on them now rather than Obihai. They should still work fine with Google Voice.


#21 : Posted by Joseph Hiller

If I port my cell # to Obi, will my cell phone function as before? My cell phone is registered with E911 through T- Mobile. Would I still need to use the Anveo service?

-> Response: If you ported your cell number to Google voice (and use Obi device for this number) you would lose the Tmobile cellular side. The phone would still work but over WiFi only.
Yes you would need a provider such as Anveo for E911.


#20 : Posted by David

Can I keep my existing phone number?

-> Response: Google voice allows you to port wireless (cellular) numbers only.


#19 : Posted by Faizan

Is it possible to connect my google hangouts account to obihai?

-> Response: Good question but unfortunately, to my knowledge, that is not possible. Only Google voice can go through Obihai.


#18 : Posted by Joan Palmer

The press 1 to answer calls is not working

-> Response: Are you using the Obihai device? If so it may be the DTMF setting that needs to be altered.


#17 : Posted by Vince

I have an OBI200. I get a dial tone, but no incoming and outgoing calls from the google voice SP1. It shows connected. The Anveo SP2 works fine. Does google voice still work without forwarding it to my Anveo number?

-> Response: Just to make sure, can you make/receive calls direct from Google voice (i.e. web browser)?
If Anveo is working fine for inbound and outbound calls it sounds like a Google voice issue. If it works fine then it sounds like an issue with the configuration on the Obi device.



Top Residential Providers*