Servicemembers get first use of Google Voice
Stars and Stripes August 13, 2009
Servicemembers can skip the waiting list for Google’s latest campaign, Google Voice.
Launched earlier this month, the free service links a user’s landline, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and cellular telephone numbers to a traditional 10-digit number provided by Google and consolidates voice mail to the user’s e-mail account.
The Google Voice number — which allows for some choice including area codes — rings all telephone lines attached to it but can be customized to screen calls as well.
While its draw in the civilian world is the consolidation factor, Google touts the Internet voice mail as the appeal for deployed troops, who must contend with time differences and irregular work hours while downrange.
There are, however, a few catches for troops stationed overseas.
Google Voice generates a U.S. number and requires all others to which it links to be U.S. numbers.Troops stationed overseas can use the system with U.S. numbers from popular services such as Vonage and Skype, but cannot have calls forwarded to foreign telephone numbers.Signing up must be done on a computer with a U.S. Internet Protocol address, available only through base networks for people stationed outside the United States.Once the account is established, Google Voice can be accessed from any computer in the world.
Stateside friends and family members can set up an account for overseas personnel and even allow their numbers to be used for the service, said Google spokeswoman Sara Jew-Lim.
Users must have a Google account but can route Google voice mail to any e-mail account they choose, she said.
Defense Switched Network phone lines would likely not be compatible with the service since they are not commercial lines, she said.
The company is rolling out the service through a waiting list but is allowing instant access for troops and anyone with a .mil e-mail address.
"Letters and e-mails are nice, but hearing their voices is so important" during a deployment, said Army Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, who was deployed to Iraq for 13 months during 2007 and 2008 and is working for Google’s public relations department in Washington as part of a training program. A Google Voice number is also convenient for troops in terms of keeping the same number when changing duty stations every few years, he said.
The service could also prove useful in reverse once the service becomes more widespread as Google plans, allowing deployed personnel to dial multiple phones back home using only one number.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond Glapion, with the 374th Communications Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, already has signed up for Google Voice but has yet to test it out.
"The features that Google Voice offers, or states that it will offer, have everything built in instead of having to get third-party software like you do with Skype," said Glapion, preparing for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.
The various phones linked to the Google Voice number can still make and receive calls independently from the service. It also allows users to check their Internet voice mail without a computer by calling their Google number with one of the phones registered to their account.
Other features include call recording, voice mail transcripts and free calls to U.S. numbers.