Those who know me know I have a love-hate relationship with the phone. I despise the telephone, but at the same time I recognize that it’s an essential part of communication. (I still hate it though.)
Given the choice, I’d much rather communicate with you over text/SMS, Email, or even XMPP. So when I came across a Motherboard article earlier this month describing a project that aims to replace all the little bits and bobs that go into making our phone’s work with open source alternatives I was intrigued!
What this means is that you can get a telephone number not tied to any Phone Company. You can send and receive texts, pictures, and videos (SMS/ MMS, etc.) You can use this number to register with Signal instead of having to give out your “real” phone number to the Public.
Because it’s SIP on the back-end you can use Jitsi on your desktop, or your favorite Android or iOS SIP client to make or receive calls from your phone.
You can even stop paying for voice minutes and only pay for data! Perfect if you’re on Ting for example and are usually near WiFi where you’re usually at. No WiFi? Simply use Ting to pay for the data that you use.
Over the past couple of days I signed up with an account and ended up porting over one of my Google Voice numbers to the service. (I had to sign up for a separate Google Voice number because Project Fi is unfortunately not compatible with Google Voice so when I got my Pixel 2 XL I would have either had to give up my T-Mobile number or my Google Voice. Something I didn’t want to do!)
I used an existing Jabber ID that I had with riseup.net. This would cause me problems later since the riseup jabber service didn’t support all the jabber extensions that JMP requires.
The first thing you need to do is create a Jabber ID if you haven’t done so already. The jmp.chat site walks you through the process. It’s very simple and straight-forward!
My JID is [email protected] if you want to add me.
Next you need a Jabber client. If you’re using Android, Conversations is the best, but it’s $2.49 (and worth every penny). Xabber is quite good too! If you’re running iOS, JMP recommends Tigase Messenger (free), but I’m more partial to ChatSecure (free). YMMV, and ChatSecure may not support all the features Soprani.ca requires.
Next you can choose your phone number. You can either choose from one of the options presented to you, bring your own number, or pick a number in a different area code. The choice is yours! As long as it’s a US or Canadian number. Soprani.ca doesn’t support other countries just yet.
Next you’ll be asked to tell jmp.chat the Jabber ID you want to use. You can use multiple Jabber IDs and obtain multiple numbers, but only one number can be associated with one Jabber ID at a time.
The system will send a confirmation code to your Jabber account to verify that you entered the correct ID and that you’re in control over the account. This is the only “data” that ties your account to a number.
Note, if you’re porting a number an additional screen is displayed that asks you for your current phone number’s billing and accounting information. This information is required for Soprani.ca to “port” your current number over to their VoIP provider.
Once your new number (or temporary number if you’re porting) has been activated, you’ll receive a screen with some useful information explaining how to use the service. Included on this screen will be information you’ll need for configuring your SIP client in order to send or receive calls.
Print this out or save this page! If you lose this information, you’ll have to reach out to Support to get the information again and it might take a while. Soprani.ca is run by volunteers right now.
Accounts will be free for the first 30 days, but after February, 2018, the service comes out of Beta and charges will be finalized. I highly recommend upgrading to a paid account to help fund and support the project.
Next on the list for project Soprani.ca is to replace the cell-towers with a global network of mesh routers. I’m excited that Soprani.ca is planning on using cjdns for transport! Been a huge fan of cjdns and Caleb DeLisle’s work for years.
Would love to see Soprani.ca integrate with Enigmabox eventually. Enigmabox already provides Asterisk and several useful applications, all using cjdns/ hyperboria for transport. Would seem to be a natural fit for Enigmabox to include an xmpp server.
My next plans are to turn my iPhone 6S Plus, Nexus 6, and OnePlus 5 into Soprani.ca extensions by ordering data-only SIMs for them from Project Fi. I also have a 4G LTE MyFi from Calyx (thanks to an article from Cory Doctorow) for when I don’t have free wifi nearby.
Enjoy, and welcome to the future.