Free Conference Calls With Google Voice
Google Voice includes a conference calling feature that allows up to four callers to be connected in a single conversation. Google does not charge for this service, but that doesn't mean it's always free. Here's how Google Voice conference calling works, and some limitations to be aware of...
Google Voice Conference Calling
Start with a Google Voice phone number. To get one, go to http://google.com/voice and sign in with your Google mail account info. If you don't have a Google Mail account, create one. Then choose a Google Voice phone number. You will also have to provide at least one other phone number that you "own," because Google Voice is not a full-fledged telephone company.
When someone calls your Google Voice number, the call is forwarded to the other number(s) that you provided to Google Voice. This is "unified messaging," not telephony. Your contacts need only know your Google Voice number in order to reach you at home, work, or on the road. You can change any of your regular phone numbers without notifying contacts; they will still be able to reach you via your Google Voice number (assuming you update Google Voice with your new personal numbers).
Google Voice includes features such as call-waiting, voicemail, and conference calling. To use conference calling, all parties have to call your Google Voice number. You must also have call-waiting enabled in your Google Voice account settings.
When the first caller comes in (to whichever personal phone you are using), nothing special is required. When subsequent callers arrive, each will be asked to speak his or her name. You will then hear, "You have a call waiting from..." followed by the caller's name. Press 5 to add that caller to the conference call.
Limitations of Google Voice Conference Calling
Conference calls via Google Voice are limited to 4 parties, including you. Note that your normal carrier charges apply depending on the personal phone you are using. If you are on a per-minute cell phone plan, a Google Voice conference call is not free to you.
Unfortunately, you cannot use Google Voice conference calling via the free GMail "Call Phone" feature, because you cannot answer incoming calls through that feature. But you can use "Call Phone" to call another free conference calling service - sometimes.
Google Voice blocks calls to some free conference call service numbers. The reason is that those services' numbers are based in tiny, rural telephone companies' service areas, and it would cost Google lots of money to route your call into those areas. If you would like to know more about that, see this Wikipedia entry about traffic pumping.
Google Voice includes the ability to record calls and receive audio file recordings via email - but not recordings of conference calls. Presumably this feature is disabled on conference calls in order to protect the privacy of conference call participants who might not realize who else is on the line. Still, you can record a Google Voice conference call if the personal phone you are using on such a call supports recording. Call recording may be a feature of your smartphone, or a recording device connected to a landline. See my related article How to Record a Phone Call for more help with that.
Google Voice conference calling is great for ad-hoc group calls, but lacks the advanced features of true conference calling services. You can't make outbound calls to bring people into a conference. There's no web interface so people can easily see who is on the call, or who is speaking. There are no call moderator functions, such as the ability to mute or unmute participants on the call. Of course, each caller can use the Mute button on their own phone. But for a free service, who can complain?
Have you tried the Google Voice conference calling feature? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Jun 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Conference Calls With Google Voice (Posted: 17 Jun 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved