VoIP service recommendations

Hi everyone. Sorry for the bad title and long post.

I usually travel a lot around the world because of the nature of my work. Roaming is always very expensive to me and really just depends on where I am.

My plan is to decouple my Signal/WhatsApp number from my cell calls numbers. i.e. I’d like to always have one permanent number that is not tied to any particular carrier or country (Twilio comes to mind) and ephemeral numbers depending on where I currently am in the world.

It’s much easier and cheaper to grab a local sim card at the airport, pop it into my phone and use it for the remainder of the trip while also maintaining my Signal/WhatsApp social graph.

I never plan on registering Signal/WhatsApp on any ephermal number so I don’t confuse my contacts, natrually they’ll ask “Why can’t I find you on WhatsApp?” and then I’ll give them my permanent number and call it my “WhatsApp number”

You might be wondering, why not get a phone number from your home country to be used as the permanent number?

Well, multiple reasons,

  • A bill that doesn’t stop regardless whether I’m using my number or not.
  • What if i relocate somewhere? Having to use “change number” feature in messengers or spam people “hey this is my new number” is confusing and I’ll definitely lose some of my social graph.

My criteria is somewhat simple:

  • A service that doesn’t need me to have a phone number for verification to use the service.
  • None of that weird verification “send us your driver’s license/ssn” kinda stuff, that’s just creepy.
  • A reputable service that won’t disappear tomorrow.

Ideally: Take my money, give me a number that can receive SMS and is not blacklisted by messengers.

So what services do you recommend? And what do you think of my plan? Do you have past experiences that relates to what I’m trying to do?

Thank you :smiley:


Your post resonated with me as I too have been trying to decouple my phone number from my cellular identity for all the same reasons, and have already cycled through a bunch of VoIP providers in the process.

If you’re dead set on using a VoIP number (plenty of reasons to avoid them), I wouldn’t touch business solutions such as Twilio, Telnyx etc. These the flakiest of flaky setups available, especially for any kind of “permanent number” you’re looking to acquire. Not only are they more involved, but they’re also more likely to suspend your $1/mo retail account in some opaque and automated fashion. It’s better to stick with someone who openly caters to your use case, but might be slightly more expensive as a result.

If you’re from US/Canada and/or don’t mind using a US/Canadian number, JMP.chat is for you. If you’ve never used Jabber before they might seem funky at first, but once you get your head around it you can’t beat them at 5$/month.

If you’re from UK you might want to check out Andrews & Arnold and their 07 (mobile) number alongside their SIP2SIM offering. I would love to use it myself but unfortunately, they are only available to brits. They allow for your SMS messages to be emailed to you (handy).

If you’re from elsewhere in world, you can try VoIP.ms, but on top of some of their international numbers requiring KYC (not their fault) they might conduct KYC of their own if they deem your registration suspicious. They also allow for your SMS messages to be emailed to you.

When else fails, there’s giffgaff if you don’t mind having a UK number. They’re regular MVNO. They ship anywhere and allow you to roam permanently so long as you’re prepared to pay normal rates. No KYC.

All of the above allow to port your existing number in and out. However if you pick some number that doesn’t require proving your connection to the prefix today, that might change tomorrow, and then there would be nowhere for you to port out. So much for “permanent number”.

With VoIP numbers you always have to be ready for at least temporary limits or outright blocks. I never had issues with Signal, but my WhatsApp account was temporarily disabled and Telegram account was also temporarily limited, presumably because these numbers are easily recognized as VoIP. So before you commit to a number be sure you can use it where you want to use it.

If you’re planning to make or receive any calls outside of Signal/WhatsApp/Telegram with your VoIP number then it’s worth mentioning that pretty much all softphone applications (paid or free) for VoIP calls are atrocious, if they work at all. I would rather forward calls to whatever local SIM I’m on at the moment.

Hope that helps!


That helps a lot! Thank you.

It seems like VoIP is an eventual loss situation. Regardless of where I decide to go, the chance of losing my social graph is certainly possible.

I actually had high hopes for VoIP but your experiences makes me weary of it.

Since we share the same intention of decoupling our phone number from cell id, what did you eventually settle with? And are there any alternatives to VoIP?

While my experience is not be all end all, I know others who share my view. This infatuation with VoIP numbers in privacy circles, popularized at least in part by Michael Bazzell is, in my opinion, quite misplaced.

I use a +44 number that I ported to giffgaff, at least while I roam around, partly because:

  • Big chunk of my social graph is in UK/Ireland/Europe
  • It’s a prefix that doesn’t raise eyebrows anywhere I go
  • If rules change I can probably find ways to keep it and/or port it out
  • It’s a real number and therefore I don’t need to worry that my account will be banned on a whim “because VoIP”.
  • giffgaff ships replacement SIMs and allows me to swap my current number onto a new SIM. I keep a couple of fresh ones lying around in case I lose mine.

But it’s not really a “permanent number” in a regular sense of the word, much like my email and my domain. I’m open to changing it when such need arises. If I later move to US or Germany for example, at some point having a UK number becomes more a liability and a nuisance.

In short, I caved.

One thing I forgot to mention is that with most VoIP providers you will need to think about such things as ‘dual functionality’, ‘voice enabled only’, ‘SMS enabled only numbers’, whether it can receive domestic calls only or can it also receive international, does it support two-way SMS, is it a local, national or mobile number (and which will give you less grief in the long run), does it support receiving SMS from short codes (critical for you). It all gets old really quickly.

It was one of the reasons I ditched VoIP.ms. Outside of US and Canadian numbers all their international numbers were crippled one way or another and made no sense for someone who just wanted to bootstrap a few messaging accounts off of their numbers. JMP.chat mostly just worked, while only providing US and Canadian numbers. You need to either run your own XMMP server or create an account on someone else’s server just to use it. Now you’re breeding dependencies for no good reason just send a text.

Now, with that said, if they were to introduce at least +44 numbers, I would port mine over to them and call it a day. I have a access to a trusted XMPP server and their Conversations fork will pretty much match the experience I would get by just using a regular prepaid SIM.

I’m not sure I’ve seen that name before but the whole VoIP idea was suggested by a friend (possibly he got that idea from Bazzell? idk)

I mean there’s always the change number feature in messengers so that could help.

Good point, I haven’t thought about that part.

Primarily what I want is just receive SMS verification codes. I wouldn’t really consider it a full-fledged phone number but you’re right about what if I needed a normal-phone number feature one day? It’ll probably cause me a headache.

That wouldn’t be good in my case, having to find a trusted server or something like that, or even maintaining my own just to receive a text seems too much to me.

I found something on PrivacyGuides Github, it’s a draft pr for phone service: Add Phone Service Providers by jonaharagon · Pull Request #2099 · privacyguides/privacyguides.org · GitHub

It mentions JMP.chat, MySudo, and Hushed. Keep in mind it’s just a draft.

Apparently I was projecting, but 8 out of 10 times VoIP is mentioned in privacy context his book or podcast is usually involved. I do apologize.

I hope you find what you’re looking for, but most of it doesn’t look very good IMO to just swap out your retail friendly SIM. Situation is little better for Americans or for someone who is just looking for a secondary number and doesn’t much care what the prefix is. Depending on your platform and available payment method there’s some retail friendly options like MySudo, Hushed, JMP.chat and others.

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If you live in the US you can get a google voice account although not private you can use it just to register. and if You are afrait of being flagged for being a VoIP what I did i got a phone number with any company in the US and then you can migrate it to google voice for 20$ to have it permanently and is clean as a normal sim card just for you and can read text from anywhere in the world and calls only when on the US or VPN within the us for free. Obviously big brother will be watching but I only use it for registering using sms and not for texting or calling

I don’t live in the US and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with google really.

I want to consider silent.link from the draft pr Add Phone Service Providers by jonaharagon · Pull Request #2099 · privacyguides/privacyguides.org · GitHub but there just isn’t much information about them, who they are, who owns their company, are they likely to disappear any time soon, I don’t know.

Gabriel Custodiet of Watchman Privacy podcast did an interview with silent.link founder recently if you want to give it a listen. I heard the whole thing and I’m still not tempted. For one, they only offer eSIMs, but more importantly they also don’t allow you to port out your (their) number. If they go away or their partners decide to terminate their business with them you lose your number (37:18).

Their data plans are oddly affordable for a roaming only service, but I got that covered and their marketing is too snake oil (ish) for my taste.


That’s how I felt after I listened to the interview. Given that I’d be investing too much into a number, I don’t entirely feel comfortable with them.

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Moved post to Guide Suggestions.

I haven’t finished testing the providers in this PR (which is why they’re not on the site of course), but I’ll just add that we’re really only considering silent.link for their data plans, and it should be paired with another VoIP provider for calls/SMS, which I do say in the draft.

Their phone numbers have too many restrictions to make sense to recommend, but for $5/year it could be a nice bonus in case you run into a random provider that blocks your VoIP number, but not for using as your primary number yourself.

I personally find this to be the case with most—if not all—cryptocurrency-based projects, but in this case cryptocurrency (specifically Monero) is the main reason it makes sense to use for some people.

sorry but jmp chat referral code anyone? want to try them out first if it seems a fit to me.


You can just pay for one month?

Slightly off-topic: SilentLink sounds very interesting for data plans. But it needs an eSIM and my understanding is that on the recommended mobile OS - namely GrapheneOS - this is not possible unless you install some proprietary Google services relating to eSIM management.

Or is there any fully FOSS implementation for eSIMs?

I’m using silent.link on my Pixel 4a running GrapheneOS. Indeed, you must install a sandboxed version of Google Play services (with Google Services Framework & Google Play Store dependencies). Once the eSIM is configured, the sandboxed Google Play services & their dependencies can be removed. The process is really quite simple, too. I was pleasantly surprised.

That’s good to know! Is it possible to set all the Google stuff up in a temporary user profile, delete that, and still use the eSIM in the main profile?

I setup a second user account and the eSIM is not greyed out, although its settings button is. And mobile data won’t connect. Haven’t had a chance to work through that yet, though.

There is PeterCxy/OpenEUICC: (WIP) eSIM LPA (Local Profile Assistant) implementation for Android. System privilege required. - OpenEUICC - Angry.Im Software Forge

But its not yet integrated in grapheneos

Relevant Github issue - > Design and create eSIM LPA app to replace Google's implementation · Issue #1079 · GrapheneOS/os-issue-tracker · GitHub

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