By Seth Weintraub
March 8, 2011

By turning Google Voice into a true VoIP option, Google makes your phone company’s expensive voice plans completely optional.

Today different websites are claiming that you can now connect to Google (GOOG) Voice through an industry standard set of Voice over IP (VoIP) standards called SIP.  What this means in layman’s terms is that you’ll soon be able to connect to your Google Voice account in mostly the same way that you use your “phone” application on a smartphone.  Other VoIP providers like Skype also offer this type of functionality but aren’t built into Android devices like Voice is.

Android 2.3 has native support for SIP, though it isn’t a fully capable client, yet.  You can still make and receive calls.

There are two additional roadblocks for Google Voice before users can totally throw their voice plans out, however.

  1. Google artificially limits its Internet calling to WiFi currently, probably in a move to appease mobile carriers. With Android’s source code being open, users can switch this functionality off and on, however.
  2. Google Voice doesn’t yet do e911 calling. Vincent Paquet, the head of Voice at Google and one of the founders of GrandCentral (the startup that became Google Voice), told me that Google is always working on services like e911 and could bring a lot of innovation to the table in this area.  With location services from GPS, WiFi and mobile towers all built in, a cell phone can give a very accurate reading to where a 911 call is coming from.

The biggest roadblock isn’t a technology one. Obviously, the carriers and manufacturers can block Google’s Voice application from fully working on the phone as well.  The bulk of most smartphone plans’ cost is in voice and SMS services (which Google Voice also covers), so there is a strong motivation from the mobile carriers to block Google Voice.

On the other hand, “Pure Google” devices like the Nexus S present a way around these limitations.

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