Using a Linux desktop as a phone

I’d like to use the same device for all my computing and communication needs, including making regular GSM (3G/4G/LTE) phone calls. Is there a way to turn my big and powerful Linux Mint desktop computer into a phone, the same way Purism turns the Librem 5 phone into a small but weak desktop computer?

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You can use the standard ModemManager found in Mint to make cellular phone calls, but you will have to have a cellular modem, antenna, microphone and speakers in your desktop PC for it to work. TechShip sells a bunch of cellular modems (USB, miniPCIe and M.2) that are compatible with Linux and LTE antennas.

You will have to check if any of those modems can be used without proprietary blobs. Purism also sells its Broadmobi BM818 M.2 cards, that should work without blobs, but I wouldn’t buy one of those cards until someone confirms that they have tried them in their PC and they work.


All you need to use those modems with a PC is antenna and M.2->USB adapter with SIM slot. However, you won’t be able to get call audio working this way unless you use some custom adapter with USB hub and integrated audio card.

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Getting audio to work is the whole point. I want to make regular phone calls using my desktop computer. That means audio.

I’m in rural Finland (Europe). I have no wired broadband, but we get good deals on unlimited data, calls and text wirelessly using one sim card. If I can get this working through my Linux computer, I’ll get rid of my Android phone altogether. I really just use it for tethering now, and occasionally talking to people who only have landline phones. (I have pre-ordered a Librem 5, though.)

Thanks for the tip, @amosbatto. I’m looking at the site now. An outdoor combination antenna might be good. I really don’t understand the different lte-modules.

Might an external router/modem with a sim-card slot be a solution? At least changing sim-cards would be easier. Any other advantages/disadvantages? Can you guys recommend one? I’m not wealthy, but I don’t like to save money in the wrong place.

As I said above, you need audio interface. Most modems I’m aware of provide PCM/I2S audio on separate pins and you won’t be able to easily access that from the PC. You’d need either a modem that exposes audio over USB, or a fancy adapter that does it for you. The adapters I’ve seen and used so far didn’t do anything about audio.

Alternatively, when you finally get your Librem 5, you can setup it to use audio devices from a remote PulseAudio server on your PC, so you’d be able to use your laptop to do the calling even though it will be L5 doing the actual work.


Can you recommend one? Link, please?

I don’t like laptops and other fiddly little gadgets. I have one Linux desktop computer doing everything I need (except phone calls, for now).

That’s the hard part :wink:

s/laptop/desktop/ then, I default to laptops cause I haven’t used a desktop for many years :smiley:

What about using your mobile data and do phone calls over SIP? E.g. Sipgate (here in Germany) offers a landline looking phone number.

I’m afraid my German isn’t very good. But I’m under the impression the SIP protocol doesn’t support text and voice to all phones. Just like you can’t use Whatsapp or Signal to call just anybody.
This is my current operator:

Well one thing you could do is pay for a dial in and out number from Skype. They support such things. You would have a number that others would see on caller ID, and they would be able to call you using this number as well.

In this way you wouldn’t need a sim card, contract, or hardware. You would simply use your existing microphone.

Of course, it is owned by Microsoft. (I can see all the cat back’s arch as they hiss now. I’ve only mentioned for any who really need to accomplish this and don’t feel like running in circles and doing back-flips to get there.)

That said, I’m very interested if this is possible, and if you get it working.

No deal. (10 chars.)

I currently go without a phone and just use my linux laptop with a google voice phone number for calling and texting. I don’t like google’s approach to privacy and data, but google voice is a high-quality and useful product. I’ll probably keep up what I’m doing until I get a Librem 5 to use as a phone.

I also use the signal desktop app, but that’s kind of a pain to keep updated, since I haven’t found a way to update the desktop app without going through the process of re-linking it to a “phone”.

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Signal would defeat the point I think. You MUST have a smartphone for the desktop app to work. If you are going to have a smartphone anyway, what is the point of making your desktop one?

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I have been using message net, which uses the SIP protocol, with a Rome local number since the early 0’s and have never had a problem with calls to anyone. Calls to cell phones are more expensive. Apparently one can use the SIP protocol with jitsi on a linux machine.

Messagenet has an sms service, but I have never used it. In the US, I am trying callcentric’s sms service in an attempt to decouple sms from my mobile device.

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I haven’t been able to find an “official” webpage by Huawei for this router/modem, but it looks promising. Maybe there is a new/updated version?

I wonder if it works with open firmware like DD-WRT.

If the modem/router works as intended, what Linux GUI software would I need for the actual dialing, contacts (phone book) etc.?

You can buy the cellular modem and antenna from ThinkPenguin and ask what SIM card reader they recommend. They support a huge number of Linux distros and say that they can help you with the installation.

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Thanks again! That does look promising. But since I live in Europe, I think it would be better to get the hardware here. Import taxes and regulations can be a real problem. Maybe a USB attachable SIM card reader to accompany that intgernal modem would be good for easily switching SIM cards. Asking Thinkpenguin for help doesn’t feel right, since I would try not to get the hardware from them, but from Europe instead.

What about this:

You can use the Modem Manager GUI which is packaged in all the standard distros (e.g. Debian). Purism’s Calls app is starting to get packaged in a lot of distros (Debian, Arch, Manjaro, Fedora and openSUSE) and it is adaptive, so it can run on a desktop.

I’ve never tried any of this, so you should ask people who have done it.


Does it expose call audio at all? It’s not mentioned in the page. Most modems (vast majority?) don’t.