Review by Chester2
Good "Inexpensive, 2-lines, Buttload of features"
- Location: Menlo Park,San Mateo,CA
- Cost: $8 per month (24 month contract)
- Install: about 3 days
Bad "Can't fax, wiring all home phones takes time and thought"
Overall "I'm saving $40+ a month by dumping AT&T"
Ease of Installation:
Value for money:
(ratings match consensus)
My home phone bill had grown to $45+ a month: $20 phone, +$10 Caller ID, +$8.50 AT&T LD access, +$4.50 fees/taxes, +a few dollars of toll calls when I forget to dial with Google Voice. To me this is way too much. I wanted to keep my old number that everyone has and I like using the nice speakerphone on my desk but not for $45 a month! Time to look into VOIP.
I did a lot of research comparing prices and features of the many VOIP providers. I narrowed the field down to: Obihai, Phone Power, Callcentric, Ooma and VOIPo. In the end I chose VOIPo because of their low price, good features, and they look like they will stay around a while.
VOIPo's cost works out to about $7.40 a month. $149 for 2 years pre-pay, +$36 fees/taxes totals $185 for 2 years service. Plus, I found a coupon for a free month service on the web so I got 25 months for $185.
I marked VOIPo down for its website. The documentation is poor. Some features are totally undocumented and when they are it is difficult to find. There is a user forum but it appears that the VOIPo staff doesn't read it often as questions often go unanswered there.
I placed my order late Thursday night. Friday I received an email that my ATA had shipped. I received it Monday (signature required). I initially installed the device on my desk next to my computer. Following the simple instructions I had a dial tone in under 5 minutes. I was sent a Grandstream HT502 ATA. I'm told they often send Linksys PAP2T devices which don't have a second Ethernet port. If you don't an empty port on your router or any router at all ask for the Grandstream when you order.
I placed my ATA between my router and PC and using its web interface put it into bridge mode. I changed some settings on my Netgear router that are supposed to improve call quality. I assigned the Grandstream a reserved IP and placed it in DMZ. I also disabled SIP ALG.
Quality of my first calls were mixed. A call to my wife was fine. A call to my mom was garbled she said she couldn't hear what I was saying. A call to my friend was dropped (could have been his crappy cell service). Because of this I was initially a little leary of switching to VOIP but after a day or so everything smoothed out and calls have been great since. If I make back to back calls land line and VOIP I can hear a small reduction of quality in the VOIP call but it is small enough that you wouldn't notice without listening to one right after the other. I made a call with bittorrent running (throttled to about 90% of my broadband capacity up and down) and the call went perfectly.
VOIPo has a 30-day money back policy so I took advantage of that to test my service. You are given a temporary number to use while you are waiting for you old number to port over. I held off sending in my porting documents until I was sure I liked the service.
The temporary number I was sent didn't work. It was in use by someone else. I submitted a support ticket after hours Monday night and receive a reply that it was being looked into that night. The next morning I was given a new number and all was well. A small foul up on their end but Tech Support is excellent.
I installed structured wiring in my home years ago with all the phone jacks coming off a Levetron patch panel. I moved my ATA to the wiring cabinet and from there I can plug it into any/all of my home phones. I used a L1/L2 splitter backwards to connect the two lines coming out of the ATA to one 4-wire phone line. This way I can plug a 2-line phone into a wall jack and have both lines on the phone work. I have my modem/router/ATA on a UPS in the cabinet. This will help keep my phones going in a power outage or as long as Comcast keeps my Internet connection working.
FAX - So far I haven't been able to make my fax modem work. Fax isn't supported by VOIPo but many people say it works. When trying to receive a fax I get a "No receiver protocol (T.30 T1 timeout)" error. VOIPo does offer a free outgoing fax service from the control panel. You can purchase a dedicated fax to email phone number for $36 a year. I'm giving the free Voxox service a try for faxing.
Features - There are a ton of them. Many I will never use. Some I don't even know what they are (back to the poor VOIPo documentation). I really like the cloned second line, Caller ID (of course), Voicemail with email and SMS notification. I haven't used the call routing/blocking features yet but I'm sure I will.
After a week with VOIPo I am happy enough to stay. I sent in my papers to port my phone number over and pull the plug on my AT&T land line. My port is supposed to be done next Tuesday. I'll post how it goes.
===== UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Sun. 9-5 I scanned and emailed the porting paperwork to VOIPo (a form and copy of my last phone bill). The same day I received an email from VOIPo confirming receipt of the documents. You also have the option of faxing the documents but email is easier for me.
Mon. 9-6 I received an email for VOIPo saying that I had a FOC date of Tues. 9-13 for completion of my number port.
Tues. 9-13 Sometime during the day my landline stopped ringing and my VOIP phone started ringing. My land line still has a dial tone, perhaps so I can call 911 on it.
Number porting took about a week and was painless. Call quality is not as good as my land line but for the money I'm saving I'll deal with it. I'll continue playing with my ATA & network configuration and hopefully I can improve the call quality. So far still happy.
===== UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
I've been using VOIPo as my main phone service for a couple of weeks now and I am still very happy. The initial call quality problems haven't returned. I bumped the Call Quality rating a notch to reflect this. Calls are quite good with the exception of a light background hiss that only occurs when no one is talking. It goes away as soon as any party speaks.
I really like being able to use my phone and not think about "toll calls" and having to use Google Voice to dial calls.
I've never been able to get my fax modem to work with VOIPo. The good news is that VOIPo offers free outbound faxing that works fine. I signed up with Voxox.com and got a free phone number that among other things does free incoming fax-to-email.
One small annoyance I've come across is a pause after dialing. After dialing *69 it takes at least 10 seconds before a connection is made. At first I thought the feature didn't work but found out I just wasn't being patient enough.
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updated 2.5 years ago