I feel like I have been conducting my own survey over the last couple of years. I started with Vonage, used it for a year, and then installed my own [email protected] system to handle phone service for my home, my office, and my wife’s office.
- Each incoming (DID) VoicePulse Connect phone number costs $11.00 per month.
- Outgoing calls via VoipJet cost $0.013 per minute to the continental US.
- The Sipura SPA-2100 telephone adaptors cost about $85 each and support two phones apiece. I have a pair of these, one for the office (my wife and I each have our own extensions) and one for the home.
To make Asterisk work, I have tried a bunch of VOIP providers. In a nutshell, here are my findings:
|VOIP Provider Experiences|
|Vonage||Great for home or SOHO use.||Worked great, just like a “real” phone. The only surprise was that is “just worked” with no fuss. I would probably still be a Vonage customer if they would let me use the Vonage service with Asterisk.|
|VoicePulse Connect||Great, if you have your own hardware.||I am very happy with this and have settled on it for incoming calls and outgoing calls to toll free numbers (which cost nothing if dialed out through VoicePulse Connect). Tech support response is a bit slow but you can call VoicePulse’s regular tech support phone number if you have to have an immediate response.|
|VoipJet||Great, if you have a system where you can configure outgoing calls through one provider and incoming through another.||Fantastic for outgoing calls. Just 1.3 cents per minute for the continental US. I haven’t a clue what their tech support is like; I have never needed it. Note that VoipJet only handles outgoing calls, no incoming. Also, you pay for calls to toll free numbers at the same rate as everything else.|
|Broadvoice||Not so good.||Call quality varied a lot. Occasionally, it was great. Often, people complained that I sounded like I was gargling or under water. Lots of calls got disconnected. The customer support people are polite, if you have the patience to wait on hold until you get to talk to someone. Unfortunately, problems never get resolved and promises to call me back were never fulfilled. I cancelled my BroadVoice service. Perhaps the best thing about BroadVoice is that they are prompt about giving refunds to dissatisfied customers.|
|Free World Dialup||Very good but cannot call “normal” phone numbers.||FWD’s chief attribute is that it is 100% free; $0.00 cost. The downside is that you can only call other people who subscribe to FWD (with a few exceptions). It was great for testing [email protected] when I was first setting it up. Now I only use it occasionally when calling one friend who also subscribes. I think this would be much more useful if I placed international calls more often.|
|Teliax||Stay away!||This company is the pits! Absolutely the worst! Wrong billing, awful customer support, etc. I have left phone messages, sent email, and used their on-line tech support system. Rare responses and nothing got resolved. They would not even return calls to the Denver Better Business Bureau! I have even had to dispute charges through my credit card (something I have only done once before in my life).|
A note on “unlimited” calling plans. Many places want you to pay about $45 per month for an unlimited business line or about $20 per month for an unlimited home line. Those often do not make much sense. If you make your calls on VoipJet at 1.3 cents per minute, the break-even points are 3,461 minutes for a business line and 1,538 minutes for a home line. How much time do you really spend on the phone in a month? I talk a lot during the business day… and I am only on the phone about 2,000-2,500 minutes per month. And much of that time is on “incoming” calls which are free in any case.
Only Vonage supports emergency 911 dialing, though the FCC says that all of the VOIP providers have to start supporting E911 soon. I expect this will change. This is not an issue for me since I do have one real phone line coming into the house. If you pick up any phone and dial 911, Asterisk routes that call out on the SBC phone line.
All in all, this has been quite a trip. I have learned a tremendous amount, so it was worth it to me. I cut my phone bills by more than 50%. I increased my aggravation level by more than 100%. Would I recommend switching your home or SOHO to Asterisk and VOIP today? No, unless you like to play with techie projects. Would I recommend that you switch your home or SOHO to Vonage? Sure; without hesitation.