Skype: Your Wi-Fi called

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. Our new rural office has poor cellular service and no landline, but it does have satellite dish-based internet access; therefore, we'd like to implement Skype to make and receive phone calls. Is it possible to forward our employees' mobile phones to their Skype accounts when they arrive at those rural offices?

A. The solution you seek is possible, but I also have an even better option for you to consider, which is explained after the following Skype solution.

Skype allows you to set up a Skype Number, which people can dial just like a regular phone number, in which you receive those calls using your computer's Skype application. To set up a Skype Number, select My account from the Skype menu and, in the Manage features section, select Skype Number, Get a Skype Number (as pictured below).

Select your Country, State, and local area, and then select the Skype Number you want to use from the 10 available options. Click Continue and complete the process by entering your payment information. (Skype Numbers are priced at $18.53 or $52.26 for a three- or 12-month subscription, respectively, as of March 2016.) Once your new Skype Number is set up, virtually all wireless phone service providers offer call forwarding (for free) in which your employees could forward their mobile phone calls to their Skype Numbers as they arrive at those rural office locations. For example, to forward calls using Verizon, you would dial *72, followed by your Skype Number where you want your calls forwarded, and then press the Call button. To disable call forwarding, dial *73 as you leave the premises. (As an alternative, a receptionist or an assistant could use the company's Verizon account, assuming he or she has the company's Verizon account username and password, to activate each employee's call-forwarding service as the employee enters or leaves the offices.)

A better option, I believe, is to set up Wi-Fi Calling, which enables mobile phone users to place and receive calls over a Wi-Fi network in places where cellular service is poor or nonexistent. Most major phone service providers offer this free Wi-Fi Calling service for many popular phones. Once your mobile phone is set up to connect to the Wi-Fi in your offices, then each employee's incoming and outgoing calls are automatically handled by the Wi-Fi network (as opposed to the cellular network) whenever your employees are in range of your office's Wi-Fi signal. As an example, following are steps for setting up Wi-Fi Calling when using an Android device on the Verizon network.

  1. Log in to office Wi-Fi. On the mobile phone, log in to each office's Wi-Fi router(s) using the appropriate Wi-Fi usernames and passwords.
  2. Activate HD Voice. Activate the mobile phone's HD Voice from the Home screen by opening the Apps menu and selecting Settings, Advanced Calling, Activate Advanced Calling (follow the on-screen instructions, if any). (Note that your HD Voice option may already be activated.)
  3. Activate Wi-Fi Calling. Activate Wi-Fi Calling from the Home screen by opening the Apps menu and selecting Settings, Advanced Calling, Activate Wi-Fi Calling (follow the on-screen instructions, if any).

Wi-Fi Calling is a better option than the Skype Number solution because it is free, and it allows your employees to use their smartphones 100% of the time, without having to constantly enable and disable call forwarding. In addition, Verizon's Wi-Fi Calling also supports video calling, as does Skype, so the functionality of both options is similar.

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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