Google Voice Now Open to All in US

Just under a year after launching as an invite-only service, Google Voice is now open to everyone in the United States.

Craig Walker, the former CEO of GrandCentral who now runs Google Voice, formally announced availability of the service for American users on the Google Voice blog Tuesday. Previously the service had only been available to users who had received invitations to join. Despite this restriction, Google estimates that it has around 1 million Google Voice users worldwide.

"Today, after lots of testing and tweaking, we're excited to open up Google Voice to the public, no invitation required," wrote Walker. "Over a million of you are now actively using Google Voice, and many of the features released over the past year (like SMS to email and our Chrome extension) came as a result of your suggestions, so thanks!"

How Google Voice could shake up the wireless industry

Launched last July, Google Voice is another attempt by the company to shake up the wireless telecom industry and is a follow-up of sorts to its open source Android mobile platform. Just as Android was developed in part to spur innovation within the mobile development community and also to give users the ability to switch to new carriers without swapping their mobile devices, Google Voice was created in part to make it easier for users to change mobile carriers without sacrificing their phone numbers.

When you make a call with Google Voice it initially goes through the standard public switch telephone network to the Google cloud. From there, Google sends the call to its final destination. This way, the person receiving your call sees that it's coming from your Google phone number rather than the number given by your wireless carrier.

Additionally, Google Voice can use VoIP technology to route calls internationally and offer international rates that are vastly less expensive than those offered by the major telcos. Mobile-to-mobile calls made over Google Voice to the Utnited Kingdom, for example, cost 18 cents per minute plus whatever additional charges you incur from using your wireless minutes calling Google's servers.

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