AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

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AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

My mom's starting to use text messaging now, up from none from previous years. Per message cost on AT&T postpaid is $0.20 and she uses around 80 on average a month ($16). Unfortunately, AT&T has eliminated the $5/200 and $10/1000 messages plans so we're left with either the $20/unlimited on her line or $30/unlimited for the whole family which we don't need (an additional monthly cost of $20 either way). Calculated long-term costs:
status quo (pay per use): +$16/mo = $192/1st yr, $384 over 2 years
upgrade (unlimited): +$20/mo = $240/1st yr, $480 over 2 years

Yeah. Ouch.

Looking at long term costs, getting her a separate phone on prepaid actually ends up cheaper than either of the above options (assuming the device doesn't fail before 2 years' time).
new prepaid line, estimated cost:
1st yr = $250 ($150 LG Thrive + $100 refill)
2nd yr = $100 (refill)
Total 2-yr costs: $350

I chose the LG Thrive, an Android smartphone, for this experiment for 3 reasons:
1.) contact syncing with Gmail
2.) integration with Google Voice
3.) one of the least expensive smartphones on AT&T 3G

The Thrive will be mostly used for texting with a smattering of voice when there's 3G signal but no 2G available (it happens). We'll be using prepaid on the Thrive and she will continue using her current 2G-only phone on postpaid for most calls (although I'm gonna try to slowly wean her off it). AT&T's prepaid network will be used solely as an internet service provider. All text messages will be sent and received from the official Google Voice app (free). Voice calls will also be routed through Google Voice using the GrooveIP app ($4.99). 3G Watchdog (free) will be installed to monitor data usage. A $25/500MB data feature package will be added for the first month with succeeding $5/10MB recharge every 28~29 days to roll over the balance. The $25/500MB package will be used in-lieu of $5/10MB when data balance is running low.

Text messages are 140 bytes in size (not counting multi-part SMS) so even with additional overhead introduced by Google Voice, that's probably going to be less than 1KB per message. Considering a worst case scenario where each message counts as a separate session and each session usage is rounded up by AT&T to the nearest KB, that's still a maximum of 1KB per text. Even the $5/10MB data feature package should be enough for 10,000 text messages.

Google Voice uses around 80Kbit/s or 10KB/s for each stream (up and down). That equates to roughly 1.2MB/min - around the same as a low quality YouTube 3G video. Monitoring usage via 3G Watchdog appears to confirm the 1.2MB/min estimate. Depending on what data package subscribed to, using Google Voice for calls can be slightly cheaper than AT&T ($0.06/min on $25/500MB) to considerably more expensive ($0.60/min on $5/10MB).

For the first month, email syncing, and other services that consume data will be disabled on the phone. Initial syncing (updates, contacts, etc) will be done via wi-fi after which wi-fi will be disabled to more accurately gauge the amount of data consumed by Google Voice for calls and texts. Services might be enabled on succeeding months depending on cumulative data usage. Right now, I'm targeting max usage of 620MB/yr or ~50MB/month (365/28 = 13; $25/500MB first charge + $5/10MB * 12 recharges = $85/620MB) so as not to exceed $100 per year. Time will tell if I, or rather my mom, will be able to meet that.

 

I'll post some weekly usage charts once I have everything set up (just ordered the Thrive from Amazon).

Message 1 of 21 (3,686 Views)

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

[ Edited ]

hnzw_rui wrote:


....
Google Voice uses around 80Kbit/s or 10KB/s for each stream (up and down). That equates to roughly 1.2MB/min - around the same as a low quality YouTube 3G video. Monitoring usage via 3G Watchdog appears to confirm the 1.2MB/min estimate. Depending on what data package subscribed to, using Google Voice for calls can be slightly cheaper than AT&T ($0.06/min on $25/500MB) to considerably more expensive ($0.60/min on $5/10MB).

For the first month, email syncing, and other services that consume data will be disabled on the phone. Initial syncing (updates, contacts, etc) will be done via wi-fi after which wi-fi will be disabled to more accurately gauge the amount of data consumed by Google Voice for calls and texts. Services might be enabled on succeeding months depending on cumulative data usage. Right now, I'm targeting max usage of 620MB/yr or ~50MB/month (365/28 = 13; $25/500MB first charge + $5/10MB * 12 recharges = $85/620MB) so as not to exceed $100 per year. Time will tell if I, or rather my mom, will be able to meet that.

 

I'll post some weekly usage charts once I have everything set up (just ordered the Thrive from Amazon).


Hello hnzw_rui,

 

Pretty good ROM calculations (ROM = rough-order magnitude).  Kudos.  Looking forward to your experiment reports.

 

I find only few gaps on your pre-experiment analysis.  My rationale is below:

 

  1. Yes, VoIP will consume at most 10K[raw-bytes-per-second] unidirectionally ((using toll-grade G.711 64Kbps CODECs).  That is sampling speech every 20[ms-per-packet] and requiring 200[totalbytes-per-packet] including header overhead (link[L2]+IP[L3]+UDP[L4]).  This is the absolute worst case due to a piggish G.711 64kbps CODEC being assumed.  (CODEC=speech coder/decoder).
  2. But that is only when there is speech, not silence.  Silence produces nothing, nada, zilch.
  3. And speech is really half-duplex. (half-duplex=alternating uni-directional)  Right?  Do you speak at the same time the other end does?  Or do you listen?
  4. So, your predictions for voice are at least a factor of two (2X) over the top.
  5. And with realistic CODECs probably by another factor of  eight (depending on CODEC used by the APP).  Most VoIP APPs rely on G.729 8kbps CODECs.
  6. So, depending on CODEC being used, and considering the half-duplex nature of speech, with silence removal, I think your experiment will show in the aggregate, after packetization and fragmentation, up to 8X better bandwidth use, and produce up to 8X direct cost reductions.
  7. But the experiment results will be the "tale of the tape".  And I am looking forward to them.

I also think you are underestimating the "little" network processes which will consume cellular-data bandwidth, and which are assumed "always on".  That includes DHCP, DNS, GPS (assisted or unassisted), SYNC, ...  Those "resolution", startup processes become more noticeable as you turn-off and then -on the cellphone.

 

The experiment is commendable.  Kudos to you.  And kudos to your mom that is willing to schlep two devices on her purse all the time.

 

Mine would snicker back at me if I ever recommend her to do so *grin*

 

My mother lives happily with T-Mobile's 1500minutes-month+30MB-month (one message=one minute) prepaid planAll for $30-month.  No AT&T GoPhone Plan for my mom.  And she uses GoogleVoice to do all the texting anyway which the 30MB-month more than has her covered plus provides RSS feeds as a freebie, which she reads daily to get depressed by the state of the world and the economy. *grin*

 

 

Message 2 of 21 (3,664 Views)
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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:

Hello hnzw_rui,

 

Pretty good ROM calculations (ROM = rough-order magnitude).  Kudos.  Looking forward to your experiment reports.

 

I find only few gaps on your pre-experiment analysis.  My rationale is below:

 

  1. Yes, VoIP will consume at most 10K[raw-bytes-per-second] unidirectionally ((using toll-grade G.711 64Kbps CODECs).  That is sampling speech every 20[ms-per-packet] and requiring 200[totalbytes-per-packet] including header overhead (link[L2]+IP[L3]+UDP[L4]).  This is the absolute worst case due to a piggish G.711 64kbps CODEC being assumed.  (CODEC=speech coder/decoder).
  2. But that is only when there is speech, not silence.  Silence produces nothing, nada, zilch.
  3. And speech is really half-duplex. (half-duplex=alternating uni-directional)  Right?  Do you speak at the same time the other end does?  Or do you listen?
  4. So, your predictions for voice are at least a factor of two (2X) over the top.
  5. And with realistic CODECs probably by another factor of  eight (depending on CODEC used by the APP).  Most VoIP APPs rely on G.729 8kbps CODECs.
  6. So, depending on CODEC being used, and considering the half-duplex nature of speech, with silence removal, I think your experiment will show in the aggregate, after packetization and fragmentation, up to 8X better bandwidth use, and produce up to 8X direct cost reductions.
  7. But the experiment results will be the "tale of the tape".  And I am looking forward to them.

I also think you are underestimating the "little" network processes which will consume cellular-data bandwidth, and which are assumed "always on".  That includes DHCP, DNS, GPS (assisted or unassisted), SYNC, ...  Those "resolution", startup processes become more noticeable as you turn-off and then -on the cellphone.

 

The experiment is commendable.  Kudos to you.  And kudos to your mom that is willing to schlep two devices on her purse all the time.

 

Mine would snicker back at me if I ever recommend her to do so *grin*

 

My mother lives happily with T-Mobile's 1500minutes-month+30MB-month (one message=one minute) prepaid planAll for $30-month.  No AT&T GoPhone Plan for my mom.  And she uses GoogleVoice to do all the texting anyway which the 30MB-month more than has her covered plus provides RSS feeds as a freebie, which she reads daily to get depressed by the state of the world and the economy. *grin*

 

 


Yeah, I know I'm overestimating voice. Unfortunately, I have no control over the codec used. GrooVe IP uses G.711. And yes, 1.2MB is worst case. The way I did the test was with one phone on the left ear and the other phone on the right ear with me just babbling on - speaking and listening at the same time. Smiley Tongue

 

GPS/Location services will be disabled. Sync will only be enabled for contacts (at least for the first month). My expectation is around 1MB usage per day. We never turn off our phones, though, so the other stuff shouldn't be that bad.


Hah, purse. That's funny. My mom's bag seems to hold our whole house. A tiny little phone isn't going to make a difference. :grin:

 

There's no T-Mobile signal where I work (have to go out of the office to get signal) so as better value as T-Mo's plans are, we're probably going to stick to AT&T.

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

10-4, hnzw_rui.  Understood.

 

Now, "publish or perish" LOL!

 

Looking forward to your weekly data summaries, at least for the first few weeks.  It should be enlightening on a single thread.

 

Packet-voice versus cellular-voice, mano-a-mano.  Bring it on, hnzw_rui!

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

I already received the phone yesterday (basically overnight) even though it was supposedly 2-day shipping. Thank you , Amazon Prime!

 

I just used the GoPhone SIM card from my back-up office phone (LG Quantum) since it already has credits ($100 refill, $75 balance, 400MB left). Synced her contacts last night via wi-fi and she'll be using the phone starting today. She's not really a big talker and she seldom makes outgoing calls so I don't think she'll be using voice much. I really only got it for her for SMS. If her data usage remains low, I'll probably add a weather widget to her homescreen. I think she'll appreciate that.

 

She doesn't know what the GoPhone SIM card number is, nor does she know that text messages and voice calls will be routed through the internet.

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

[ Edited ]

Day 1:

3.62MB used - no voice, just texting and background services. The culprit appears to be Yahoo contact syncing. For some reason, it's syncing way more often compared to Google and Facebook. I've now disabled Yahoo contact sync. 3G Watchdog Pro was installed instead of the regular 3G Watchdog to monitor per application data usage.


Battery was nearly drained by the end of the day. Well, not drained but definitely needs charging. I didn't check the percentage but the indicator at the top is yellow. With my dad's Thrive using the native SMS capabilities (subscribed to the $5/200 msg package), the battery only needs to be recharged every 3 days or so. Even then, it's usually still at around 40% by the time we charge it. However, I did forget to turn off GPS on my mom's Thrive (I could have sworn I did that already). I've disabled it now.

 

I'll be checking her data usage and battery by end of day to see if the changes I made makes a noticeable difference.

Message 6 of 21 (3,591 Views)

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

[ Edited ]

Hello hnzw_rui,

 

Exactly as I predicted with "always-on" processes.  You will probably find that there are processes that cannot be disabled and consume cellular-data bandwidth -- unless you can eliminate them from the startup list at boot time.

 

SUGGESTION:  Also, add an accounting of  your account history in 1Kbyte units -- the Ericsson system marks cellular-data in seconds, which is a glaring mistake.  It should be in 1Kbyte units.

 

This is the only accounting that matters, as your credits will be deducted by that counter: there are no "fractional" charges and the prevailing sessions are always topped in 1Kbyte increments (I assume at session CLOSE time).

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:

Hello hnzw_rui,

 

Exactly as I predicted with "always-on" processes.  You will probably find that there are processes that cannot be disabled and consume cellular-data bandwidth -- unless you can eliminate them from the startup list at boot time.

 

SUGGESTION:  Also, add an accounting of  your account history in 1Kbyte units -- the Ericsson system marks cellular-data in seconds, which is a glaring mistake.  It should be in 1Kbyte units.

 

This is the only accounting that matters, as your credits will be deducted by that counter: there are no "fractional" charges and the prevailing sessions are always topped in 1Kbyte increments (I assume at session CLOSE time).


Yeah, I already have the counter for 3G Watchdog set to 1KB increments. I read through the GoPhone Terms of Service before I started my experiment. Interestingly enough, it appears those on pay per use data get billed in 5KB increments.

 

I don't mind some cellular bandwidth use due to background services. I accounted for that in my estimated use (1~2MB/day). However, using more than 2MB in one day just for contact syncing appears excessive.

Message 8 of 21 (3,576 Views)

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

[ Edited ]

I also saw the "5Kbyte" increments on the terms and conditions.  But after experimentation the counters seemed to follow 1KByte increments instead, reported incorrectly as seconds by the Ericsson system.  Just verifying/correcting this would be of great assistance (at least to me).

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:

I also saw the "5Kbyte" increments on the terms and conditions.  But after experimentation the counters seemed to follow 1KByte increments instead, reported incorrectly as seconds by the Ericsson system.  Just verifying/correcting this would be of great assistance (at least to me).


If you have a data feature package (10MB/100MB/500MB), you're charged in 1KB increments with usage rounded up to the next full kilobyte at the end of a session.

 

If you're not using a smartphone and only have pay per use data, then you get charged in 5KB increments. Pay per use data costs $0.01/5KB.

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

Day 2:

1.58MB used - now that's more like it. The device still wasn't used for voice but there were more messages this time compared to yesterday (total's still under 20, though). Part of that usage was a forced auto-update to the AT&T Radio app on the LG Thrive. Thankfully, I'm now able to disable automatic updates for that app. As a side-note, is there a way to disable automatic updates for the pre-installed crap on the Thrive without going through Android Market?

 

Battery was better this time around, too. At least the bar was green until I got my hands on it to play with. However, from a quick visual, battery appears to be below 50% meaning the device still needs to be recharged everyday. *sigh* 3G data uses up battery quick. Unfortunately, I can't downgrade it to 2G as there are some locations that don't get 2G signal but still get 3G.

Message 11 of 21 (3,298 Views)

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

Hello hnzw_rui,


"*sigh* 3G data uses up battery quick. Unfortunately, I can't downgrade it to 2G as there are some locations that don't get 2G signal but still get 3G.


Never thought that was possible.  No 2G EDGE signal?  But 3G UMTS signal?  Huh?

 

You may have to "root" (jailbreak) the device to delete the built-in apps.  But I do not use Android 2.x, or any Android, so I am not the guy.

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:

Never thought that was possible.  No 2G EDGE signal?  But 3G UMTS signal?  Huh?


Yeah, weird, right? I have no idea why. All I know was that my brother and mine's iPhones both get 1 bar at least on 3G while my mom's Motorola V191 and dad's V197 on GSM don't. Had to turn off 3G to conserve battery on the iPhone and presto, no signal, too.

 


OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:

You may have to "root" (jailbreak) the device to delete the built-in apps.  But I do not use Android 2.x, or any Android, so I am not the guy.


Nah, don't want to bother rooting (although it should actually be very simple to do). The LG Thrive is just AT&T's version of the popular and inexpensive LG Optimus One (LG Optimus V on Virgin Mobile, LG Optimus S on Sprint, LG Optimus T on T-Mobile, etc) so I have no doubt foolproof/single-click methods to root exist. It's a hassle, though, and once apps update have been updated once, they show up in the Market where you can disable automatic updates. Besides, there are some people who had problems with their Thrive after deleting the pre-installed apps.

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


 

Yeah, weird, right? I have no idea why. All I know was that my brother and mine's iPhones both get 1 bar at least on 3G while my mom's Motorola V191 and dad's V197 on GSM don't. Had to turn off 3G to conserve battery on the iPhone and presto, no signal, too.

 


 

 

But neither the iPhones or the Motos could make or receive a phone call or, equivalently, send/receive texts, right?

 

[Some folks in here assert that a single 3G UMTS radio is responsible for voice/text calls, but I say it is the standard 2G GSM/EDGE radio:  Two different radios, different frequencies, different antennae.]

 

The difference on signal reception between 3G/2G can be accounted to antennae and attenuation (which depends on frequency -- higher frequency, higher attenuation).  But it remains an unusual condition.

 

On the rooting, I agree wholeheartily.  Some Android jockeys root their instruments with glee, but rooting/jailbreaking has the chance of openning a Pandora box of uneplained/untrackable side-effects.  I agree with your stance.

 

I decided early on to keep my iPhone 3G pristine and running the last iOS (4.2.1) paired with its last baseband (5.15.04).  Unlocking that baseband loses its GPS!  No thanks.

 

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Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

I was reluctant to jailbreak my 3G at first but the addons have made it totally worthhwile. The biggest thing to remember is to change your hardware password right away (not your login) from the standard one.  After the initial jailbreak there's nothing about my phone that acts or looks different. I've never had any issues with the jailbreak. Also note that a jailbreak doens't mean it's unlocked. That's something different.

 

One app that made it all worth it is called Fake Clockup. It speeds up all the animations and makes the 3G usable after the terrible change from 3.x to 4 that made my phone work like crap. In fact there are many jailbreak apps I use that have now been "borrowed" by Apple that are a integrated into iOS5.

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