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Free Phone Service with FreedomPop

posted Mar 15, 2017, 5:35 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Mar 15, 2017, 5:36 AM ]

While Google Voice has provided free phone calls and texting in North America for a while now, other providers have started to similarly allow for such free calls not only in North America, but also around the world.

FreedomPop is one such provider, allowing for this on their app. It is however possible to obtain the SIP credentials and configure calling with any SIP softphone, such as Zoiper. The following instructions appeared on a forum and though we have not tested them, we are republishing them for anyone interested.

Requirements:
  • a rooted Android smartphone (wouldn't know how to do it on an iPhone, as I never used an iPhone)
  • a credit card...can be pre-paid, does not matter what balance is left on the card, and even this can be optional

Why do this:
  • 200 minutes talk per month (USA & Canada) through a US number
  • 100 minutes per month to various destinations across Europe and Asia
  • Way easier than setting up a US number through Google Voice
  • If the free minutes allowance isn't enough, you can have as many of these accounts as you want
  • No overages. If you reach your limits, you'll get no service unless you purchase add-ons or wait until next billing cycle
  • Using your own ATA, you can have your own call answer (most cordless phone sets have an integrated answering machine now)

Limitations:
  • Sip credentials in another app/device will not support texting
  • UK calling won't work with those premium UK numbers for forwarding calls internationally

Steps:
  1. On your rooted Android phone, install FreedomPop app by grabbing an APK via web search. If you're paranoid about the credit card requirement, grab an older version of the app (but credit card will still be required to enable the 100 overseas minutes). Newer version of the app makes it easier to hand-pick a nice number. Create an account through the app and get a number. You can create accounts using Gmail alias (example john.doe+1@gmail.com will send email to john.doe@gmail.com, but the account user would be john.doe+1@gmail.com), meaning you don't have to create multiple email addresses in order to setup multiple FreedomPop accounts.
  2. Optional - enable the Global 100 free minutes add-on within the app.
  3. Install an SQL DB reader (such as SQLite DB Reader from Play Store). Within the SQL reader, go to FreedomPop's .db file (there's a few of them). You'll grab user name which looks like 1[area code][nxx]XXXX_(bunch of numbers). Then in the data field, that's your sip password (long string of letters and numbers). Server is fp.layered.net
  4. Once you have the sip settings, save them somewhere. Now safe to uninstall FreedomPop app, or at very least, log off in the app.
  5. Now configure the sip settings in your favourite sip client or sip phone/ATA.

Important note for dialing: dialing out to Canada/USA requires 11 digit dialing (1[NPA][NXX]XXXX). Overseas calling is "011[country code]xxx...."

I have scripted a dial plan that will work with Cisco/Linksys ATA's / sip phones:
(<2:12>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<3:13>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<4:14>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<5:15>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<6:16>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<7:17>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<8:18>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|<9:19>xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0|[2-9]xxxxxxxxxS0|1xxxxxxxxxxS0|011xxxxxx.|xxxxxxxx.|1900x.!|1976x.!)
This dial plan will allow ten digit dialing (meaning if you call Canada/US without putting the "1" at the beginning, the dial plan will do that for you). Also allowing overseas calls. If you call a country that isn't included in the overseas calling list, the call simply won't be connected.

List of countries you can call free with this service on their forum.

(via rfd)

Next Generation 911 Service in Canada

posted Jan 16, 2017, 10:51 AM by EZvoip Co

It’s going to take a lot more than new regulations to allow all Canadians to send urgent, life-and-death text and video messages to emergency call centres, say advocates of so-called next-generation 911 services.

Organizations, including the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group, say a hearing this week by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission into expanding 911 service across the country is just the beginning of what’s needed to upgrade services to take advantage of new technologies.

Police services will need to train their 911 operators to deal with an influx of text messages and the potentially disturbing pictures and videos likely to be relayed by witnesses and victims alike, says CITIC executive director Eric Torunski.

(via Next-generation 911: CRTC braces for emergency video and texting - The Globe and Mail)

Discord VoIP service used to deliver malware

posted Oct 24, 2016, 10:56 AM by EZvoip Co

The Register reports that an app used by gamers mostly for voice conversations has been used to deliver malware. Their service is quite different from ours, being more complex and targeting only gamers. We rely mostly on the open SIP protocol and we do not offer the kind of chat services used by maleficent parties in the Discord attack.

Hackers abused a free VoIP service for gamers to distribute remote-access Trojans and other malware.

Miscreants took to Discord and distributed malicious programs including NanoCore, njRAT, SpyRAT to gamers using the chat servers, but that was just one aspect of a wider pattern of abuse. Symantec discovered some groups were brazenly using Discord as a black market to sell malware or stolen data.

Symantec security response notified Discord's security team about the abuse. Discord responded by removing the malicious files from the servers' chat channels. Discord has since added a new virus scanning feature which runs on the backend whenever a user uploads an executable or archive file.

Chris Boyd, a senior malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes and avid gamer, told El Reg that the tactic has the potential to entrap the unwary.

"Pushing malware directly from chat in VoIP is a good way for the scammers to keep a low profile, and many gamers new to VoIP services may well fall for it," Boyd explained.

Scams along the same lines such as malware disguised as fake VoIP services and even bogus gaming tournaments offering up rogue files are far from unprecedented.

"Using malware as bait in chat links has been a popular tactic for many years, and is also particularly common in gaming circles," Boyd added. "Whether we're talking about direct messages between gamers on Xbox Live or group chat in Twitch streams, this has always been a problem."

Scammers pushing these files are branching out into other areas such as fake driver downloads, files to make bogus streams play, and free in-game item cheats.

(via tr)

Level 3 outage caused by misconfigured switches

posted Oct 6, 2016, 11:35 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Oct 31, 2016, 1:13 PM ]

Backbone provider Level3 says an outage that knocked out VoIP service for much of the US Tuesday morning was the result of improperly configured equipment.

level 3 outage Oct 4

It seems the outage, which smashed call services offline for much of the country, was not the result of any fiber cuts or facility damage, but rather some classic bad switch settings.

As the network provider returned operations to normal, customers received a technical note from Level3, seen by The Register, describing the issue and its resolution:

Root Cause: Calls were not present in Level 3 voice switches, impacting voice services in multiple markets of the United States.

Fix Action: Configuration adjustments were implemented to allow calls to reach the switches and complete appropriately.

Reason for Outage (RFO) Summary: The Voice NOC investigated reports of voice service impact throughout multiple markets in the United States. The equipment vendor was engaged for assistance with investigations. No inbound or outbound calls were present in voice switches. The Voice NOC was able to implement configuration changes that were successful in allowing calls to reach the switches and process accurately. The Voice NOC will continue to fully evaluate the incident and appropriate actions will take place to ensure incidents of this nature do not recur in the future. Services are currently restored and stable.

Corrective Actions: We know how important these services are to our customers. As an organization, we are putting processes in place to prevent issues like this from recurring in the future.

To us, this sounds like Level3 – or a partner – misconfigured its network equipment to drop voice traffic. We asked the carrier if that was the case, and we were told the following:

On October 4, our voice network experienced a service disruption affecting some of our customers in North America due to a configuration error. We know how important these services are to our customers. As an organization, we’re putting processes in place to prevent issues like this from recurring in the future. We were able to restore all services by 9:31am Mountain time.

Make of that what you will.

Updated to add

Here's some more detail on the cock-up from Level 3 – the backbone biz has forwarded to us this advisory it sent out to customers:

Repair Area: Human Error Occurrence

Repair Action: Human Error

Repair Summary:

Reason for Outage (RFO) Summary: On October 4, 2016 at 14:06 GMT, calls were not completing throughout multiple markets in the United States. Level 3 Communications¿ call center phone number, 1-877-4LEVEL3, was also impacted during this timeframe, preventing customers from contacting the Technical Service Center via that phone number. The issue was reported to the Voice Network Operations Center (NOC) for investigation. Tier III Support was engaged for assistance isolating the root cause. It was determined that calls were not completing due to a configuration limiting call flows across multiple Level 3 voice switches. At 15:31 GMT, a configuration adjustment was made to correct the issue, and Inbound and outbound call flows immediately restored for all customers. Investigations revealed that an improper entry was made to a call routing table during provisioning work being performed on the Level 3 network. This was the configuration change that led to the outage. The entry did not specify a telephone number to limit the configuration change to, resulting in non-subscriber country code +1 calls to be released while the entry remained present. The configuration adjustments deleted this entry to resolve the outage.

Corrective Actions:

Level 3 Communications knows how important these services are to customers. As an organization, this incident is being evaluated at the highest levels to prevent reoccurrence. Process has been put in place to alert this specific Provisioning team of how this incident could have been avoided. Access restrictions have been made to mitigate the possibility of large-scale configuration changes, and a future process for these types of provisioning activities will be evaluated to involve additional technical support. System tools are being investigated to place additional guardrails against this type of trouble.

(via Register)

2016.10.31  - CenturyLink said Monday that it will pay about $24 billion to buy telecommunications company Level 3, in an effort to expand its services for businesses.

CenturyLink provides internet, TV and phone services to consumers, as well as data and IT services for businesses. Level 3, based in Broomfield, Colorado, provides data, video and other communication services to businesses and government agencies.

Level 3 shareholders will receive about $66.50 in cash and a portion of CenturyLink stock for each share of Level 3 they own. The companies valued the deal at $34 billion, when debt is included.

After the deal closes, which is expected to happen in the third quarter of 2017, CenturyLink shareholders will own about 51 per cent of the combined company and Level 3 shareholders will own about 49 per cent.

The combined company will be based at CenturyLink's headquarters in Monroe, Louisiana, and will keep a "significant presence" in the Denver area where Level 3 is currently based.

Shares of CenturyLink Inc. fell 9.8 per cent to $27.46 before the stock market opened Monday, while Level 3 Communications Inc. shares rose 5.5 per cent to $57.04.

Northern Canada satellite-induced telecom outage

posted Oct 5, 2016, 6:26 PM by EZvoip Co

The Telesat Anik F2 satellite stopped working around 5 p.m. ET Sunday, resulting in a widespread service outage, but internet and phone services in parts of Northern Canada started returning Monday.

Phone and internet services have been restored in all satellite-served northern communities after problems with a Telesat satellite disrupted communications in a wide swath of northern Quebec and Nunavut on Sunday afternoon. 

Update: Services in all satellite-served Northern communities have now been restored.https://t.co/KkyAPtmpe1

— @northwestel

After about 19 hours, debit and credit services in much of Nunavut are finally back online, as is RCMP dispatch.  

"There was a major inconvenience for our customers, but thank god in the last 10 minutes things are up and running and we're ready to go," said Jim Jones, manager of Arctic Ventures Marketplace in Iqaluit. 

The Telesat Anik F2 satellite cut out around 5 p.m. ET Sunday. That knocked out internet in most of Nunavut as well as in seven communities in the N.W.T. and Old Crow in Yukon.

 A 'technical anomaly'

In a statement, Northwestel said the satellite, which helps provide cellphone and internet service to communities across the North, experienced a "technical anomaly" that resulted in loss of services.

The outage would also have impacted ATMs and aircraft in some communities, said John Flaherty, vice-president of marketing for Telesat, early Monday morning. 

The satellite provides service to providers such as Northwestel, SSi Micro, Shaw Direct, Xplornet, Bell Mobility and U.S. satellite internet provider Wildblue.

Internet in most of the 25 Nunavut communities serviced by SSi Micro's Qiniq network went down, the company said in a news release Monday. Qiniq customers in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet were not affected, the company said.

"These three communities have access to service from two satellites, Anik F2 and Anik F3, providing customers a redundant 'backup' link and additional capacity," said the release.

That created some confusing situations, for example, people in Iqaluit could make calls between cellphones, and from landline to landline, but not from a cellphone to a landline.

That left the territory relying on backup satellite phones to keep in touch with hamlets.

Cause still under investigation

Shaw Direct said in a tweet early Monday the outage was creating a signal issue for its French stations and HD channels. 

It said "the affected satellite performed emergency movements for reasons that are currently under investigation."  Shaw estimates service will be restored at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Dear Customers, we are experiencing a signal issue located on our 2nd satellite, affecting French stations and HD. Pls tune to... (1/2)

— @ShawDirect

SD channels, VOD, Free Range until the cause of the issue is found and resolved. Thank you so much for patience. (2/2)

— @ShawDirect

A problem with the same satellite in 2011 grounded flights across the North and affected internet, cellphone and bank machine services.

Flaherty said this is "definitely not" the same problem as 2011. 

"We still haven't ascertained what caused the issue. We have a working theory, but at this point it would be speculation. It's too early to say."

On Monday morning, Flaherty said the company was on track to have all service restored by noon.

Customers affected by the service interruption tweeted out their displeasure with the situation.

internet hasn't been working since 3pm.... if i go over on my data i'm gonna be pissed. lookin at you,@northwestel 👀

— @bridiemckenna13

@Xplornet An apology is nice, but a credit when you don't deliver on your promises to customers is more appropriate. We pay, you provide.

— @MadHacktress

Once upon a time, I had both Xplornet and Northwestel. I have neither now.

— @Tausunni
With files from CBC's Steve Rukavina

CDR and Our Commitment To Your Privacy

posted Oct 4, 2016, 9:47 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Oct 4, 2016, 10:49 AM ]

We occasionally get requests from our customers to not "log" their calls on our servers. The short answer is we do not record the voice content of your calls (see our call recording answer) but we do keep track of incoming and outgoing calls (i.e., their duration and the destination of outgoing calls) for billing purposes, as disclosed in our privacy statement. We take our customers' privacy seriously and we make it easy to deal with telemarketers and unwanted callers.

The aforementioned data (call duration and destination) is called CDR, which is short for Call Detail Records. This data is generated by exchanges for billing purposes. You can find more general info about it on Wikipedia or a more technical article on voip-info. We make your CDR available to you in the Control Panel.

CDR data is essential to VoIP billing. Virtually every VoIP provider uses it for revenue generation. In EZvoip case, we lease lines and time from upstream providers and resell it to our customers. We are charged based on CDR data and we charge our customers mostly at cost (sometimes at a small loss, sometimes at a small profit, but we balance it out in the end). Without this data, we would be open to either being taken advantage of, with a client who overuses our service while underpaying, or we could be charging more than we pay our upstream provider, compromising our commitment to charge at cost while in beta stage. We also use this data to create plans that better respond to our customers' needs and to keep plan costs in sync with usage.

Encrypting calls, a feature provided with some softphones, prevents regular snooping on your conversations by third parties, much like using GPG with email safeguards your privacy. However, your provider still has the direct your phone calls to the right number, much like your email has to reach its destination, and as such, records (i.e., metadata) / CDR is generated and stored. This is true of any telephony or email provider. If an email provider were to delete such data after sending the email, or if you were to delete the sent email from the Sent folder, this data would continue to exist on servers upstream, servers that had taken the email based on its address info and sent it along. The same is true with VoIP.

We do not know of any VoIP provider to claim that they do not generate CDR data to protect customer privacy and we suspect that if any one provider makes such a claim, they are being disingenuous. While a VoIP provider could choose to not disclose CDR data to their customers, they cannot eliminate it from their upstream provider servers - and there is always an upstream provider or partner, as phone numbers are not generated or assigned out of thin air.

We will minimally cooperate with law enforcement requests - i.e., we will provide the minimum amount of data we are legally required to provide, so that we do not incur adverse consequences, but it's unlikely that law enforcement would even request anything from us since they can go to some upstream provider with whom they are likely to have a pre-existing relationship. The same is true of virtually any VoIP reseller. Not complying with such requests (e.g., a court-ordered subpoena) would jeopardize the privacy of our other customers and may even endanger our survival as a business.

To summarize our position on the collection of data, we do collect metadata (call length and destination) for billing purposes, it is stored securely and we have never sold it in the past nor will we in the future sell it to a spammer or anything like that.

If you want to make and receive calls anonymously with VoIP, with any provider, you would have to pay for it anonymously (some free services exist, but they might be logging even more data and selling it along to marketers or advertisers). Some claim that it may be possible to pay anonymously with Bitcoin. Additionally, you would have to ensure that the email address you use to register cannot be traced back to you. That is far more difficult than you would think and even familiarity with TOR does not guarantee it. Finally, keep in mind that someone with full access to your CDR and email flow metadata (that is definitely not us) might be able to ascertain (guess) your identity from that alone.

Sharing a VoIP Account or Plan

posted Oct 3, 2016, 10:17 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Nov 14, 2016, 1:28 PM ]

Some of our customers find our offer so attractive that they have to share it with their friends (don't forget our referral program!) and family. There are essentially 3 ways our service can be shared. We will refer to the set of credentials used to login to our website (email as "username") as "account" and the credentials entered into a softphone or ATA (also referred to as YourUserID and YourPassword) as "subaccount". You can always find the subaccount details under "My Services" upon login.

  1. Same account, same subaccount. This is the easiest in terms of setup. You share all accounting of calls and there is no privacy. Unlimited outgoing calls may be placed; however, incoming calls may pose difficulties. This could be mitigated by specifically setting up only one of the devices that are set up with the same subaccount to receive incoming calls. This means that only one device will ring, while the others will not be ringing at all and will not be receiving incoming calls. This is a bit of a waste, since calls within our network are free, but it can be set up very easily, without us having to change anything.
  2. Same account, different subaccounts. Each subaccount can now receive calls and each subaccount may have different phone numbers. Additionally, it is possible to set up an IVR that allows sharing a phone number by prompting the caller to press a key to determine which subaccount will ring. Each subaccount must have its own calling plan and minute sharing is not possible as with the previous solution, but all calls between the two subaccounts are free. The subaccounts share the main account's funds and call list.
  3. Different accounts, different subaccounts. This scenario takes all the benefits of the previous setup and adds privacy. Since accounting is done separately, as long as login and passwords are not shared, the calling data is unknown to the other account holder. On the downside, payments must be made to two accounts rather than just one, as with the previous two solutions.
Neither subaccount (for setup scenarios 2, 3) needs to have a phone number associated with it in order for phone calls to be made between them. They can be called using the extension we provided in the welcome email (starts with 10). For this to work, both subaccounts must be using the same server.

Except for the first scenario, in the second and third you can have all subaccounts ring on an incoming call using our Call Hunt feature (11 in the list).

Data plans recommendation

posted Aug 30, 2016, 7:33 PM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Aug 30, 2016, 7:34 PM ]

There is no need for a voice or SMS plan from a cell phone provider for your smartphone with EZvoip.co, but a Data plan is necessary. In Canada, that by itself can be quite expensive due to the oligopolistic nature of this market.

Perhaps the best bet is PetroCanada, offering pay-per-use for Data with no requirement for either voice or texting and prepaid deposit expiration of 1 year for $100.

Alternatively, Canadians who travel may get Data from regions with lower prices, such as Manitoba or, if you cannot leave Ontario, Thunder Bay's TBayTel.

There are also occasional sales from Canadian oligopolies, such as the following:
Fido Store offer: (not posted on Fido website)
Fido Mobile Internet Flex Data Starting at $15 for 3GB instead of 1GB -Limited Time Offer end 30 Sept 2016.
15$ / Month upto 3GB. (10$ per Extra 1 GB.) This offer valid for New activation / plan change / BYOD. This is Internet plan only (no Voice / text include)

you can get this plan by calling 611/ Fido Chat support / in store anywhere in Canada.

Verizon 911 outage

posted May 12, 2016, 6:19 AM by EZvoip Co

Verizon, a large mobile phone and VoIP US provider, suffered a nation-wide outage days ago:

The Lincoln Police Department says Verizon's Voice Over Internet Phone (VOIP) malfunction has been resolved and 911 is now working for all users.

According to Verizon, it was a nationwide problem.

It did not affect Verizon cell phone customers or those who have traditional land lines. VOIP uses an Internet connection to make calls.

What is Interac Email and how can I pay you this way?

posted Jan 7, 2016, 11:16 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Jan 7, 2016, 1:30 PM ]

Interac Email is a service provided by Canadian banks to their customers allowing quick and easy payments via email. Consequently, this service is only available to Canadians.

There are numerous resources explaining what this is and how it works: Interac, Wikipedia, The Globe and Mail (tgm) and there is even a video:

Interac e-Transfer



sending

To send us a payment this way, you need to login to your Canadian bank account or credit union (on your laptop or smartphone) and look for the "email money transfer" or "money transfer" option. Some banks may allow you to set up a recurring payment.You will then have to specify the email address (in our case, admin [at] ezVoIP [dot] co) as well as a security challenge. 

The security challenge is there to prevent someone who might intercept the email message to transfer the money into their own account. As such, it needs to be something only you and us know and nobody else does. Please do not send the answer to the security challenge by email, because if you do, you will have defeated the point of the security challenge.

For a recurring payment, you may use YourUserID (not the website login, i.e., your email, but rather what you used when setting up your softphone, in the form 10####_xoxoxo) as the answer to your challenge, which could be "my user name". Please do not use your website login, as that is your email address and it is easy to find.

If you elect to set up a one time payment and do not want to disclose YourUserID to your bank, another piece of information that should not be generally known by anyone other than us is your account balance at the moment you send the payment. Depending on your plan, your account balance may increase or decrease within the minute you are looking at it. To avoid that, please follow the following steps:
  1. Login to your EZvoip account or refresh the main page if you were already logged in
  2. Make note of the exact date and time in EST (Eastern Standard Time, our time zone)
  3. Set the challenge question as "my balance on 20xx-mm-dd at hh:mm"
  4. Set the answer to the question as "##.#" - i.e., the dollar amount without the dollar sign and rounded to one decimal. For example, if your balance is $0.5939 you would enter it as 00.6.
  5. Complete the transaction and wait for the bank confirmation that it was sent.
If you find it difficult to use your account balance as an answer to the security challenge, please use YourUserID which can be found under MyServices after login.


processing

We do not have an automated way to process such payments, as we do with PayPal, so we have to process these payments manually. For this reason, such a payment will not be immediately reflected in your balance, as it is when paying with PayPal (or with a credit card via PayPal). We aim to process transactions within 48h, but we usually do so quicker than that, sometimes even within the hour.

We use the Interbank Credit Card exchange rate of the date we received the email as posted at Oanda, which is better than PayPal. For example, CN$10 sent on 2013-01-01 would thus appear as US$9.7471 in your account by 2013-01-03 at the latest.

Some banks charge for this service, while others provide it for free. The tgm article linked above states:
A free alternative has just arrived in the form of the e-mail money transfers being offered through ING Direct's new Thrive no-fee chequing account. ING seems motivated to wean people away from cheques, which are costly to process.
ING Direct (the "orange bank") was taken over by Scotiabank in 2012 and rebranded as Tangerine. They have recurrent promotions offering $25-50 as a gift (i.e., free money) to new customers who deposit $100 with them (and are able to withdraw all their money at any time) and have an Orange Key. One such Orange Key is 13727786S1 and you may use any other such key.

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