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Technology

PC Magazine's In-Depth VoIP Review 153

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-you-voip-what-i-voip dept.
Voipster writes "PC Magazine has completed their in-depth review of six VoIP providers. The Editor's Choice award goes to AT&T's CallVantage service. Unlike other reviews that consist of making a few phone calls, PC Magazine uses Minacom's PowerProbe 6000 VoIP testing equipment which provides hard numerical scores for a DTMF detection test, a fax transmission test, and two voice quality tests, PESQ (Perceptual Evaluation of Speech Quality) and VQES (Voice Quality Evaluation System). However, after a very detailed analysis of each provider, the calculated scores don't carry much weight as they award AT&T's CallVantage the Editor's Choice and four other services strangely tie for second place."
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PC Magazine's In-Depth VoIP Review

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  • Interesting Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bumjubeo (849737) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @11:54AM (#11379095)
    What will happen to the phone companies that offer dsl and phone service when the cable etc.. companies start offering VOIP. I myself know that when my cable ISP starts offering voip im dropping my phone service from the local provider. Anyone Else?
    • I myself know that when my cable ISP starts offering voip im dropping my phone service from the local provider.

      Does your cable company offer broadband?

      Why wait for your cable company to offer VOIP. Signup for Vonage [vonage.com], Broadvox [broadvox.net], etc now.
      • I myself know that when my cable ISP starts offering voip im dropping my phone service from the local provider.

        Does your cable company offer broadband?

        Why wait for your cable company to offer VOIP. Signup for Vonage, Broadvox, etc now.

        Presumably because if the cable operator was offering VoIP, they'd use some sort of Quality-of-Service scheme to make sure that your packets arrive in-order and with low latency at their end - which is conveniently located on the other end of the 'last mile', so your p

    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:05PM (#11379151) Homepage Journal
      The only worrying part about moving to VOIP is losing the emergency services.
      Our broadband is quite stable, but quite often I have to reboot the STB, taking time away from my connection, I have had the box replaced numerous times, and am working from cleaned up installations (both win and linux).
      Also, what happens in a power outage/problem, usually the last remaining "life-line" is the phone, and was invaluable when the main fuse box lit up in my old house.
      So, all in all, no I won't be changing.
      • That is quite worrying actually. You would hope that somehow this would be either fixed or worked around, because yeah that would really suck if you needed to phone 911 and couldnt because you needed to reboot your STB
      • by FLEB (312391)
        Don't most cellphones allow 911 calls, even without service? Depending on your location, you could just find an old cell somewhere and stash it on the charger for emergencies.
        • Your kind of right, but it wouldn't always be me that needs to call. Unless I start leaving up big "Emergency phone" notices, when needed, a person will pick up the dead phone and waste time trying to get through.

          Until I can use my VOIP land line when theres a power cut, I will stay away tyvm.
      • 911 service on the traditional telephone network is still supposed to be functional even if you stop paying for phone service, so you can just leave a phone plugged in for this purpose even though you're no longer paying for service. Also, you do get 911 service with VOIP, but the address they'll autodetect is the billing address, so you have to make sure you're not using VOIP from some other address to call 911. Anyway, it's apparently kind of a myth that they can always autodetect your address when you di
      • Re:Interesting Idea (Score:3, Informative)

        by Smallpond (221300)
        A friend who has Vonage told me that he registered with a 911 database, so he can make 911 calls on his VOIP phone. He lives in New Hampshire.

        • Your friend may well be able to connect to 911 services when his house has electricity.
          I can connect to 911 with the power on, but as soon as the lights go out, so does my internet connection.

          Same problem with cordless phones.
          • Re:Interesting Idea (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Simple. UPS. It will last for HOURS if it's just the broadband adapter (dsl, cable, wireless bridget, whatever), and VOIP adapter plugged into it. It works fine. How do I know? Our neighborhood went dead when an errant truck plowed into a transformer building. Still could make phone calls fine.
            In addition, the cable company's version of VOIP installs even heavier duty UPS boxes when you order through them. 911 also works as expected - I know this because my young daughter sometimes dials "911" inste
            • That's assuming your broadband provider's network can stay operational too. From what I've heard, the battery backups for HFC networks often have dead batteries or the batteries have been stolen. If one of those inoperational power boxes is powering a repeater between your house and the other end, or the power for your node fails, your connection is gone. Same goes for field DSLAMs in RTs on a copper network. If you're lucky enough to have a line that doesn't go through an RT and you have DSL and a UPS then
      • I have to reboot my CM pretty regularly too. It's on a UPS and the only machine connected directly to it is a linux system so I'm pretty sure it is either the fauly of the CM or the cable company, in my case comcast. The modem really ought to be intelligent enough to detect when the carrier is there but the signal is not, so that's the modem's fault, but it always seems to happen most when there are power outages (the modem is on an APC UPS with a fairly new battery) so I blame the lost connection on the ca
        • Re:Interesting Idea (Score:3, Informative)

          by whoever57 (658626)
          have to reboot my CM pretty regularly too. It's on a UPS and the only machine connected directly to it is a linux system so I'm pretty sure it is either the fauly of the CM or the cable company, in my case comcast.

          Next time your cable modem is down call Comcast. Get them to send a truck out. Explain that the cable modem keeps failing.

          I did this and I have not had a single droppped connection since the tech came and re-routed the wires. And, yes, it is Comcast! The problem was that the initial installer

          • No, my initial modem (RCA) failed and was replaced (motorola surfboard) but now I use my own modem (GI surfboard) and I only have problems with it based on its design, not failure. If I got their modem again it would just be another one of these and I'd have the same problem when their router [interfaces] flapped.
      • If I was truly worried about emergency services I would purchase the cheapest line from the phone company and put a special 'RED' phone hooked up to the line. Then I would use the main phone(voip) for all regular phone calls.
        • Re:Interesting Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Leo McGarry (843676) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @01:28PM (#11379581)
          That's not necessary. If you pick up a phone on a disconnected line with no dial tone, and dial "911," you'll get an operator. That's a key part of the 911 system.

          Do not try this to see if it works. In most places, there's a fairly steep fine for making a non-emergency call to 911.
          • So how can you tell if the disconnected line with no dial tone is just marked down at the switch or has an actual line fault? I don't think it would be a good idea to rely on such a line. If the Telco was sort of switch ports or cable pairs your 911 service could be lost without notice.
          • Bad advice. The only way to know is to test it periodically. Call your local non-emergency police department number and tell them you would like to test your phone line to ensure 911 calls will go through properly. They will advise you to how they like to handle it. If you don't follow their instructions, sure, you may be subject to a fine, but as long as you do what they tell you to do, then you won't have to worry.

            In my area, they just tell you to call during an odd time in the afternoon or morning,
      • Also, what happens in a power outage/problem, usually the last remaining "life-line" is the phone, and was invaluable when the main fuse box lit up in my old house.

        What, no cellphone? No neighbors? Then perhaps you should have a power generator to power you HAM radio set.
      • Do both. That's what we did. We canceled our SBC local service, but left one "911" phone (a non-electrical, non-cordless type) attached to the POTS network. 911 is still available even if you don't have service. All of our other phones use VOIP for a very low fee.
      • "The only worrying part about moving to VOIP is losing the emergency services."

        Your local telco probably doesn't want you to know this, but there are regulations requiring 911 emergency services be available on every phone in their service area. There are undoubtedly many variables involved here so do your own due diligence before relying on this, but you will probably still get access to the E911 system even on a phone line where the service has been disconnected. In other words you can cancel all your
    • Re:Interesting Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zymurgyboy (532799)
      I already long ago dumped traditional phone service in place of cell-only telecomm at my crib.

      However, I might consider getting a VoIP replacement at home through Comcast (are you listening Comcast guys??) when they offer it for two reasons, assuming they include call plans I want and it's cost effective.

      1) Clarity on the cells in my brick/plaster walled townhome are often kinda crappy. The cheaper, multiuse, single number for everything, unfettered nature of cell phones has far outweighed my desire fo

      • Maybe you would be better off with a high gain antenna of some sort. They make extendable metal aerials for my motorola v300 flip phone (tri-band, but here I am using gsm1900 only) and of course there are car antennas and the like available. There are also amplifiers and even directional antennas available that will work with cellphone gear, although that kind of equipment can be quite expensive.
    • In concurrence with the other poster, get Vonage. It really is wonderful. Unlimited local and long distance for $24.99. I've never had dropped calls and the clarity is just as good as a traditional land line. Comcast is already offering VOIP with their cable for $39.99, but why would you get that when you can get Vonage for much cheaper.
    • I heard most phone companies were planning to make all their infrastructure TCP/IP-based. That means that they will effectively be supplying VOIP services themselves. Will this mean that phone plugs will be RJ-45 in the future? hmmm...
  • AT&T Bleh! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "However, after a very detailed analysis of each provider, the calculated scores don't carry much weight as they award AT&T's CallVantage the Editor's Choice and four other services strangely tie for second place.""

    Could you elaborate further?
    • And just like Cable/DSL service, your exact milage of quality may be different depending where you are.
    • I signed up with AT&T CallVantage nine or so months ago, when it first became avaiable in this area.

      I LOVE it.

      It has tons of features, and it's great to be able to get email notifications at work of calls I received at home, and then be able to check my messages via the web right then and there.

      The quality is good, the service has been good, and they keep adding features while lowering the price (it started out at $39.95/month, and they dropped th price twice while I was still in the "first six month
  • by BobPaul (710574) * on Sunday January 16, 2005 @11:59AM (#11379122) Journal
    Hard-wiring additional phones will most likely require an electrician.

    I don't know why they always say crap like this. All you have to do is go outside your house the to telephone box, disconnect your phone line from the local network (it's a good idea to leave a note saying that it should remain disconnected and tape the leads, just so it doesn't get reconnected...)

    Once you've disonnected your house from the POTS, you can plug your analog telephone adapter into ANY telephone wall outlet in the house! This makes all of your phone jacks live with telephone service from your VOIP connection.

    That is, unless of course you have DSL. In that case you should either use a 2-line adapter to run your VOIP phones on line 2, or change your DSL connection to line 2 and plug in your ATA normally.
    • I don't know why they always say crap like this.

      I'll tell you exactly why...

      "errr.. I got me this new intarweb thingy, but when I went to fix my outside box, I wuz standin' in dat dere puddle, and I gots me shocked!!! I'ma gunna sue dem bastards!!!"

      need I say more?
      • need I say more?

        Yeah... how you were able to get a deadly currently through a phone line, for 1.

        Oh, and why a puddle at your feet has any effect in a DC telephone system for another.

        I wouldn't press the leads of a phone wire across my tongue like some kiddlings do to test 9-volt batteries, but touching both leads with your bare hands is not going to kill you, either.
        • Ringing is about 70 VAC but can be higher. Most likely won't kill you, but it would sting a bit. Always have a phone off-hook to drop the loop when you work on phone wiring to prevent getting zapped.

          Lightning has been known to induce high-voltage spikes on phone lines. You don't want to be on the wrong side of the lightning arrester when that happens.

          Electricians know this stuff.

        • Yeah... how you were able to get a deadly currently through a phone line, for 1. Oh, and why a puddle at your feet has any effect in a DC telephone system for another.

          From: Telephone line audio interface circuits [www.hut.fi]

          Safety issues of telephones

          The telephones should be designed so that they do not cause danger to the user. The 48V DC voltage in telephone lines does not cause immediate danger to the user, but the AC ring signal (70-120V AC) can give a nasty shock. Telephone wires are also exposed to any dif

        • I never said it would kill anyone... I was commenting on the fact that there are people stupid enough to sue them over something as inconsequential as a mild shock, and that statement absolves them of most of the liability.

          lets not forget we're in the country of "wasn't my fault!!!!!" these days
        • In rare cases it can happen. Nobody with a pacemaker should play around with their wires, just because the rare case is enough to kill them.

          Personally I've stood in 1 inch of water and grabbed a bare 110V wire (several times the wire normally passes 50 amps, which impresses anyone who doesn't know better). It is enough that I'd avoid it, but considering it has happened more than 5 times, I can't say I worry about it.

    • The phone wiring in our house had been botched when we bought it. When we got VOIP, we just bought a cordless phone base station, and plugged that into the Vonage box. No wiring, no hassles.

    • I don't know why they always say crap like this. All you have to do is go outside your house the to telephone box, disconnect your phone line from the local network (it's a good idea to leave a note saying that it should remain disconnected and tape the leads, just so it doesn't get reconnected...)

      Hmm..., there must be a presumption in here someplace, cause I went outside and couldn't find said box.

      Yours wonderingly,

      bjd
      The Netherlands
      • Most houses in the US (can't say for anywhere else) have a box that is the demarc, everything up to one side is the phone company's responsibility, the other side on is the homeowner's. It will be located wherever the phone line enters the house, frequently outside on the back wall of the house, since the phone company wants to be able to charge you if any wire beyond their drop to the house goes bad. They'd probably put it on the pole, if they could get away with it.

        I have phone via cable, and their dem
    • by jburroug (45317) <slashdot AT acerbic DOT org> on Sunday January 16, 2005 @02:00PM (#11379749) Homepage Journal
      That is, unless of course you have DSL. In that case you should either use a 2-line adapter to run your VOIP phones on line 2, or change your DSL connection to line 2 and plug in your ATA normally.

      There are other ways to do this with DSL without doing the two line thing, which may not be an option for apartment dwellers (like me) who only have one pair available.

      The first step is to identify which phone jack is the first one on the loop coming off of the phone box outside. Now take apart the jack and disconnect the pair coming in from the phone box, that is the pair that carries your DSL signal. Now wire this pair into a surface mount keystone jack or whatever and plug your DSL modem in. Put your original jack back together and back in the wall, you have now isolated your internal phone network from the phone box and wire up all of the extensions to your ATA. See pictures of the work in progrees here [acerbic.org]and the finished outlets here [acerbic.org]. For good measure I also diconnected the the last jack in the series so I'm not sending dial tone to the neighbors place :)

      On a side note I've also managed to get my rotary phones working with Vonage by ordering a Pulse to DTMF adapter from Mike Sandman [sandman.com] who also has lots of other neat telco goodies at his site. The Linksys router sends enough voltage to ring my Western Electric 302G and my 554 wall phone clearly, though the 554 wimps out after a fe rings. I think this is because my 302 was originally setup for a long party line install and has a ring isolater tube installed to compensate for weak ringing voltage from too many phones on the same line. I'm looking to replace the 554 with a 364 wall phone from a party line install, with the hope that it'll play nicer with the Linksys.

      In any case it's immensely satisfying to use a 60 year old phone on a VOIP service...
    • Unfortunately this sometimes does not work. I have a packet8 setup and when the box is plugged into the existing house wiring, there is just not enought juice to supply the house phones. I ma thinking it is a voltage drop issue. Actuall you can make calls out, but incomming calls get dropped. I am going to buy a base unit with handsets to solve the problem. Unless anyone out there knows of a telephone signal booster.
  • horrible webpage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bdigit (132070) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @11:59AM (#11379125)
    Anyone else notice that only about 5% of the webpage is the actual article while the rest of it is cluttered in ads and other crap.

    Also I love the fact that I read about 5 words and have to hit a next button for the next page. Imagine if magazines were like that? Read 3 paragraphs, turn page, read another 3, turn page...
    • "Anyone else notice that only about 5% of the webpage is the actual article while the rest of it is cluttered in ads and other crap.

      Also I love the fact that I read about 5 words and have to hit a next button for the next page. Imagine if magazines were like that? Read 3 paragraphs, turn page, read another 3, turn page...
      "

      Well, it is an online version of the magazine ;o
    • Re:horrible webpage (Score:4, Informative)

      by shakah (78118) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:04PM (#11379145)
      Choose the "print" hyperlink on sites like this to avoid most of that "crap" -- on most sites it produces a single (long) page with less graphics. Toss in Mozilla/Firefox with the Adblock plugin and all the crap is gone.
    • "Imagine if magazines were like that? Read 3 paragraphs, turn page, read another 3, turn page..."

      Apperently you don't remember the old computer shopper magazine it was 700 pages, and had 5 articles...
  • Actually... (Score:3, Informative)

    by CypherXero (798440) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:05PM (#11379150) Homepage
    eWeek has a MUCH better in-depth review of VoIP. I recieve eWeek in magazine print form, and it had a three-part series about VoIP. Also, they have an entire section [eweek.com] dedicated to VoIP.
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:07PM (#11379163)
    Security systems, such as mine, are connected to the call center via a hard wire phone line. Unless you design your house where the VoIP router is near your Security Box you are SOL. Unless of course you pay an electrician to run a wire to the location. In my case it would be the entire length of the house, through three floors. Way too expensive and/or intrusive.

    so I would have to keep a basic dialup. Anybody got a solution, ike a wireless repeater for a phone line?

    • All you have to do is disconnect your outside telephone line, then plug the viop router into your regular phone line. Then, all your phones in your house should work. If your security system uses a modem, only some of the VIOP providers support modem or fax over VIOP... I know that Vonage does.
      • no phone jack near my router either. Don't ask me why, but the builder (Washington Homes - would not buy a dog house from them after this experience) only has one phone jack on the top floor (where my router et al are). I could get someone to install one extra outlet, since I believe they can go through the attic relatively easily. But that is still a pain in the A$$
    • My ADT service was hooked up to become the first device in the daisy chain of POTS equipment. That allowed it to disconnect any call and make a call to ADT in the event of an alarm.

      As others have noted, your alarm system is probably hooked up in the daisy chain and can be served by the VOIP box. In my case (and perhaps yours), that still left me with a dead connection when an alarm went off, because I was providing phone service from the other side of the alarm system. My box immediately noted this (well,
  • Early in the game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) * on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:16PM (#11379203) Homepage
    After reading through far too many one paragraph webpages, clicking every five seconds, I have to say that my overwhelming impression is that this is still pretty rough and ready technology.

    The lack of a consistent way to connect with real world telephone systems, the sketchy support of 911 services, and the inability of the competing VoIP services to interact make it look as if it will be at least another year before it's viable for most people.

    In particular I can't see abandoning a hardwired phone line yet. Internet is still too prone to outages and other problems. What happens when you lose your telephone service because some idiot has launched a DOS attack on Vonage or the Verizon VoIP center?

    Or when you lose your main business phone service because a mistaken RIAA takedown notice [slashdot.org] causes your ISP to shut down your Internet connection?

    Until the VoIP services can match the traditional phone companies for reliability and services they won't get my money.

    (I admit that Verizon [news2mail.com] pretty much sets the standard below which no phone service could ever drop, but you get my point...)
    • What happens when you lose your telephone service because some idiot has launched a DOS attack on Vonage or the Verizon VoIP center?

      If you really rely on it as your primary means of voice communication, that would be unacceptable.

      For someone like me (see my earlier post in this discussion), the response would probably be a shrug and an 'oh well,' followed by moving on to another activity while it gets sorted out.

      Depending on the age and condition of the copper in your phone lines, they may be more pro

      • Re:Early in the game (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)
        SBC left me without POTS service for three days when the fault was absolutely in their wiring. I responded by dropping SBC and getting a cellphone. Since then, I have had zero outages, though reception and thus call quality is poor in my area. With a better antenna, I'd be better off. My comcast cable internet connection was down for two days once and has been down for a few hours at a time many times. Cellular is still the best non-POTS option IMO.
        • Sounds like my Verizon POTS experience. Though that was actually worse than a total outage. At first it took them three month to connect my service because they mispaced my initial check to get it. Then, it was mysteriously disconnected because they ended up having two accounts for me. This was done to get around their brainless accounting and billing practices with the original SNAFU. It was easier and quicker to start from scratch with a new attempt at an account than fix the mix up. Only problem is
      • Q. What happens when you lose your telephone service because some idiot has launched a DOS attack on Vonage or the Verizon VoIP center?
        A. The same thing that happens to your landline, when some idiot hits a telephone pole, and knocks out service.

        I am a vonage customer for a couple years now, and I have never had a service problem. My internet has been out, and my router has died, but vonage keeps going. I even traveled to europe last summer, and used my vonage phone to call family and friends from the i

    • I have had Vonage for about three month now, and it works great. I know three months is not very long, but I have had zero problems with it. The sound quality is good, but just a tad quieter than a POTS line. It has more features included in the package than I even knew were possible.

      As far as 911 calls go, you fill out a web form to set up your emergency area so that your call gets routed to the correct area. Also, it's not difficult to setup a speed-dial on most phones to the direct number for your loc
  • Real world factors.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by freelunch (258011) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:23PM (#11379244)
    There is a great deal of variability in VOIP provider performance. Unfortunately, I don't think the carriers are cooperating (with tools) in making it clear where the problems are. Whether on their networks, PSTN gateways, etc, or broadband ISPs. They could do a lot to clear this up. Though the potential for the finger to point at them is a reason for them not to do this.

    VOIP quality must be measured over time. How is the performance at 8PM EST on Saturday? How many drop outs on a 1 hour call?

    This gets more complicated as ISPs compete for service. I know of someone at Cox who was intentionally messing with VOIP provider traffic (and laughing about it).

    I switched to Packet8 in September after using Voice Pulse for 5 months. Voice Pulse call quality had become embarassing, even after trying their higher compression codecs. "Mom, can you hear me??"

    Packet8 quality has been excellent (much cheaper too). All this on Comcast. I can even run P2P at 10KB/sec upstream with P8. VP was problematic with no P2P.

    A friend who lives 50 miles away has tried Vonage, Voice Pulse and Packet8. They all pretty much suck for him. He is on Comcast but it is former TCI infrastructure.

    He agrees that the best VOIP he has ever had were when we use Creative Labs VOIP Blaster between Seattle and Virgina for over a year.

    Voice Pulse tech support was useless when it came to outages (yes, they had lengthy outages) or performance problems.

    My rule of thumb for VOIP is to be prepared to drop them if performance is bad. Don't waste your time. Don't get caught in a contract or a situation that will be expensive to get out of.

    And don't become attached to the phone number. VOIP is a commodity, treat it as a commodity.
  • Idiotic Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrinella (548257) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:25PM (#11379253)
    Have to love how they discuss free services like Skype:

    As these services are running on the Internet, though, they are susceptible to latency, distortion, and other factors that can lower performance and sound quality.

    Glad that the reviewed fee-based services aren't using the Internet as well.

  • Right now there are just too many variables to rely on a review of these services. All they do is give you a starting point. You may be able to use them to decide if some of them are lacking features that you require.

    I think you should pick a couple that the most people had luck with, and use their free trials. If they don't work well for you, send back the equipment.

    For example, I tried out Packet8, and it didn't work well for me. It does however, work great for others. I sent it back, they gave me
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:33PM (#11379289) Homepage Journal
    I've had unacceptably bad audio quality on my Vonage line the past week or so. Though it's hard to tell - over the past year of service, I've had enough problems that my frequently-calling friends probably don't mention it anymore, and the problems almost always affect their reception, suspiciously sparing my reception entirely. After a couple of days I emailed tech support, got an email offer to troubleshoot over a day later, and my immediate email response supplying their requested windows for troubleshooting sessions during the next couple of days went unanswered until past the windows. Then my followup was answered with an apology, but they dropped my response to that with new windows. I haven't heard from them in several days, though they must know there's an outstanding problem; since their Telephone Adapter dropped dialtone entirely yesterday, I haven't heard from *anyone*, and the lack of activity/carrier should trigger something.

    Even their service that rings my PCS mobile while also ringing my Vonage "landline" has started flaking out. And the standard voicemail problems (mostly delayed/dropped/phantom message notifications) continue, though mostly in theory with no calls. Vonage was a great test of the VoIP concept. It's about time to switch to a system that offers something at least approaching the basic reliability of the old NYNEX residential circuit, even if I run the server myself over my redundant cable/DSL connections to my home. If there were a company reinvesting its revenue in IAX datacenters for uptime, I'd jump into my own Asterix server right now, and phase out Vonage. Maybe this review's results will withstand "corroboration testing" research on the Net, but I'd rather get a system that I can fix myself, or hire a contractor to work on. At least it beats slamming the phone down on the table.
  • by IronChefMorimoto (691038) on Sunday January 16, 2005 @12:33PM (#11379290)
    I got Vonage a few weeks ago at a new house where I had no intention of paying for a landline (went from DSL to cable). My wife was pissed after we learned that our entire end of the cul-de-sac is in a cell hole from hell. We couldn't make/receive cell phone calls for longer than 2-3 minutes in our home. Oops!

    So, we debated for 1-2 weeks after we moved and finally got Vonage. Forthwith -- the pros/cons from a new user:

    VONAGE PROS:

    - easy setup (took 10 minutes to install Motorola VT1005)
    - call quality is good so far (using QoS on a Linksys WTR54G router w/ voice terminal BEHIND router)
    - no trouble dialing most local and long distance #'s
    - straightforward billing
    - very clean web interface
    - nice basic features

    VONAGE CONS:

    - voice mail is choppy/hard to hear over the phone
    - hard to find the better-reviewed Motorola VT1005 (Radio Shack tried to make me ACTIVATE IN STORE???)
    - instructions for using services are in FAQ format mixed with a lot of technical installation stuff
    - basic features are limited compared to AT&T

    Now, I got Vonage, and then the next day after telling my boss about it, he got AT&T Callvantage for his home business line. He let me call in and access his web-based interface.

    AT&T PROS:

    - SUPERB feature set -- many more features than Vonage
    - web-based interface integrated with phone (click-to-dial -- no outside apps required)
    - call quality is good from boss' overloaded DSL connection (some servers behind his router)
    - faxing is officially supported, from what I could tell (have to jerry rig it sometimes with Vonage)
    - voicemail interface is really powerful
    - automatic phone book setup based on incoming calls that become part of account (click on # to add it after you ID the caller)
    - WebEx-ish conference call scheduling/notification feature

    AT&T CONS:

    - web-based interface is buggy (Javascript errors w/ FireFox -- no problems with MSIE)
    - cost is higher
    - really cool features aren't included standard -- expect lots of side charges

    So far, my boss likes AT&T for his business line. He's thinking about getting all of us AT&T voice terminals for our small business. The conference calling costs $.35/minute for 10 people, which isn't really bad, I guess, considering that you're doing it from your own network + an outside call-in line from AT&T.

    Vonage seems, to me, to be good for the home. It's simple and works, but I've read many a report of bad customer service and other weird issues. If you don't have to have the features for a business, then it's probably a better deal, but AT&T CV is close with only a $5/month difference for a more fully featured unlimited calling plan.

    I did my research on Vonage at http://www.broadbandreports.com/forum/voip [broadbandreports.com] before buying in. The regulars in the forum are very helpful and have a lot of diverse consumer-grade VoIP experience. For example, I learned that, in my new house, I can unwire my outline phone connection at the box and then plug in the Motorola VT1005 into a jack inside the house to power my phones. Going to try that in the next 2-3 days, I think, barring weather issues.

    IronChefMorimoto
    • I'd been considering Vonage vs. Broadvoice for the longest time. My preference was toward Broadvoice because it was open and would mesh with an Asterisk PBX, but seeing a cheap Moto VT1005 at Fry's one day caused me to give Vonage a go. That was in July, 2004, and I have had their service since. (I still plan to do the Broadvoice/Asterisk thing at some point, and might even keep both providers so as to have a backup). I've been pretty happy with Vonage, though calls to Canada have sometimes been spotty at t
      • Bah! Forgot to format :-(

        I'd been considering Vonage vs. Broadvoice for the longest time. My preference was toward Broadvoice because it was open and would mesh with an Asterisk PBX, but seeing a cheap Moto VT1005 at Fry's one day caused me to give Vonage a go. That was in July, 2004, and I have had their service since. (I still plan to do the Broadvoice/Asterisk thing at some point, and might even keep both providers so as to have a backup). I've been pretty happy with Vonage, though calls to Canada have

  • We tried VoIP from Verizon in November 2004. One important thing that the article failed to mention is that you still have to maintain a regular analog line (and the associated cost of that line) if you have certain services (such as Direct TV) that use an analog line. We decided it was worth the price anyway, so we gave it a try. But we ultimately had to switch back. The VoIP translator provided by Verizon was supposed to grab a random IP when in use, but it always seemed to grab the IP of our webserver (h
  • I don't really see the point of testing all these features for different VOIP providers. In reality, the hassles we've experienced have all been with our broadband provider. If broadband service goes out, you lose your phone service. The most frequent thing for us, with Adelphia cable modem service, is actually not that the whole neighborhood loses cable modem service for a while (doesn't seem to have happened at all in recent years), it's that our cable modem somehow loses its sync, and we have to power cy
  • Earthlink Vs. Vonage (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you want Vonage, a great alternative is Earthlink's Unlimited Voice. They are reselling Vonage service. Same pricing yet no equipment charge and the first month is completely free (beer). No $$ changes hands till after 30 days, don't like it? Cancel and no charge as long as you return equipment. http://www.unlimitedvoice.com/ [unlimitedvoice.com]

  • From the story: "... the calculated scores don't carry much weight as they award AT&T's CallVantage the Editor's Choice and four other services strangely tie for second place."

    My opinion: Be very careful about anything you see in PC Magazine. My experience is that generally the ratings are paid ads. Generally, I have found, they know the winner in advance, and pick contenders that they can rate lower.

    Here's evidence: Can you find a better VOIP service than BroadVoice [broadvoice.com]? (NOTE: Not BroadVox.) Why didn't PC Magazine rate that company?

    It seemed to me that there was a time when PC Magazine began selling their ratings, and in the years after that the Magazine became much smaller very quickly.

    Other fake comparisons on the Internet:

    1) Telephone calling cards,

    2) Price comparison web sites. The comparisons are just ways of convincing you to pay more. It always seems that the apparently completely honest Froogle [google.com] shows lower prices.
  • They apparently use time travel in their review process. From the Lingo review:

    Lingo
    REVIEW DATE: 02.08.05

  • It seems that they have a great selection of metrics that they use in this article for measuring voice quality to call logs, which is great, but they forgot one major thing: service. All the call logs in the world won't help you when your ATA breaks (like mine did on my Vonage account) and you end up talking to some script reading tech in another country that you can't understand (after holding for 30 minutes or more of course.) It took me forever to get this tech to realize that the ATA was broken (I knew
  • I've been using packet8 for about 6 months now. The quality is nearly perfect for me, and there is no "lag".

    The price is good also if you live in the states and have to call Canada. I have the regular residential plan for 19.95 a month. It includes unlimited calling in the US and Canada, also has many extras.

    The bandwidth requirements for packet8 are lower than Vonage (not sure about the others)
  • I want to know where these companies have their gateways. For example if I'm using the service in London, then anywhere in the US is fine but form Australia, I need to be able to use a gateway in the San Jose area and from Africa I'll want a gateway close to MAE or CIX East.

    Does anyone have a list of of the different VoIP providers and where their gateways are?
  • I have had VoIP service thru vonage for about 5 monthes now. Haven't had any problems or any power outages. I know the concern when the power goes out but with a cell phone as a standby I am all set. I pay about $28 a month for unlimited calls and can take my router with me if I go anywhere in the country and make/receive local calls from anywhere. I would strongly suggest get VoIP if you can. Send a mesage to Verizon that we wont pay HUGE amounts for phoe service!!
  • I would like to know which of the services allow a user to connect their own hardware.

    For example, Voicepulse allow a user to connect an Asterisk box to their servers. No problem. This allows for a local PBX, instead of a Centrex style system that most provide.

    Anyone know of large providers that allow connecting your own switch?
    • I don't know anyone that has support for a PBX, but, many phone systems work with POTS lines, so for instance a Meridian system could be connected to VOIP boxes to provide a small office with several outside lines and FAX service.

      It might be time to see if any PBX equipment can go from an ISDN line to a broadband VOIP connection instead. That sounds like what you are looking for.

      A quick Google search for VOIP PBX came up with this article on just that subject..

      http://www.networkcomputing.com/1411/1411ib
      • Nope, not what I'm looking for.

        What I'm saying is that Packet8 and Vonage only allow you to connect their little cisco box to their service. All you get on the other side of that box is a POTS jack. Now why would I want to connect my VoIP enabled PBX to a POTS line when, in theory, I could connect it directly to Vonage over IP?

        Only a few providers allow for this. VoicePulse is one that is Asterisk friendly. That means that I could setup a box, connect a bunch of VoIP phones to it. Then the box could
  • Not very 'In-Depth' (Score:2, Informative)

    by hz_mp3_2001 (850526)
    I'm a a recent subscriber to AT&T's CallVantage plan, and I have to say that this article is either very late to press (how late is acceptable considering it is a web article) or it is poorly researched and written. I can only speak to AT&T's service, but I found numerous errors in the article:

    CallVantage's conference calling is NOT free, it is 0.35/min.

    CallVantage DOES have a comprehensive call log, including incoming, outgoing (missed calls show as incoming). The call log is not searchable
  • Covad has been running an ad for their VOIP service on KCBS-AM radio here in the SF Bay Area. The announcer pronounces it "voyp" rather than spelling out the acronym "v-o-i-p". I'd never heard anyone do that before.

    How do you say it? Spell it out or all one word?

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