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craigg

join:2001-06-04
Princeville, HI


4 recommendations

Packet8 : A Detailed Review

Up until the past month I have been sitting back taking the wait and see approach on VOIP implementation in the consumer marketplace. I have seen the many successes in the business marketplace but up until recently VOIP never made sense in the consumer marketplace. I have experimented with various forms of VOIP as far back as 7 or 8 years ago. I beta tested and even became a subscriber of I-link’s 800 one number service for several years. I also tested a few other services, mostly which have gone out of business. The quality of these services in the past was acceptable for consumer use but was never up to the standard a business would require and could never be recommended as a complete replacement for a standard POTS line.

I decided to subscribe to Packet8 as they appeared to be one of the newest services targeting the consumer and small business market. I liked Packet8 as they offered a greater selection of pricing plans and were overall slightly less expensive than their immediate competition. For small businesses or consumers looking to save money on local and long distance service, Packet8 offers a way to slice ones calling costs a minimum of 30 to 50 percent.

Packet8 currently offers three plans, $34.95 for unlimited usage, $19.95 for 2000 minutes, and $5.95 per month plus .08 per minute, all with a one year contract. For month to month plans the rate is $39.95, 24.95, and $9.95 respectively. There is a $29.95 activation charge for all plans and an equipment charge on the month to month plans. This pricing structure offers a plan for just about everyone whether a light or heavy user. The only downside that I see is that with the metered plans, usage is deducted for both incoming and outgoing calls. I find this to be opposite of most VOIP plans that I have reviewed. Ip calls have no termination fees and should be priced accordingly. A more realistic pricing approach may be to make all incoming calls free and perhaps reduce the free minutes in the metered plan to a lower level.

I placed my order online via Packet8’s website. The order process was simple and I received an immediate confirmation. My order shipped within one business day and I received it eight days later via UPS Ground. The package contained a DTA310 (Packet8’s proprietary sip adapter), a CD, and a one page quick start guide. The installation was very simple. Since I currently have a wireless network / firewall installed, all that was involved was to plug the DTA310 into an available Ethernet port, connect it to my telephone, and then to dial an activation code. At this time I was live and able to place and receive calls, all within about 3 minutes.

In evaluating the service, my primary concern was reliability. I have made about 100 test calls over the past two weeks both to and from my Packet8 number. I never once called my Packet8 number and had it not ring through. Also, virtually every outbound call went through on my first attempt. As for call quality, the sound quality is excellent, a bit louder than my standard POTS line. I made several international calls which included Hawaii (5500 miles) and Mexico (2000 miles), with the only discernable difference in quality being a slightly greater latency as compared to a standard POTS line.

I feel that the key consideration of most customers looking into VOIP is to first save money; however new features and convenience are also important factors too. Packet8 has made the initial setup very simple and convenient with no additional equipment to buy for those that already have a network. Packet8 includes with all plans a modest suite of features. The feature set is not as rich as their nearest competitor; however I have been told that new features will be added soon. I will give a brief description of each feature below.

Area code selection: Packet8 offers area codes in a growing number of areas, and while transferring your existing number is not officially supported, I have read that in some cases it can be arranged.

Online account management: Web based access with online billing although the billing feature does not appear to be in real time.

Number portability: The DTA310 phone adapter allows for the use of your Packet8 phone number on a remote basis. All one needs is an internet connection.

Call forwarding: I found this to be a particularly interesting feature yet I would call it either “Find me” or “Follow me” call forwarding. The setting is activated via the online account management feature and what this does is ring your call forwarding number simultaneously with your Packet8 number. The first handset that picks up connects the call and the other handset stops ringing. This feature works exceptionally well combined with a cell phone as you can leave call forwarding always on and let your calls follow you wherever you go.

Personalized voice mail: This allows a person calling you to leave a message after approximately 4 -5 rings. When a message is left you receive a message waiting indicator on your DTA as well as a stutter tone on your phone. This feature did not work for me out of the box and it required a *firmware upgrade, but the upgrade was quick and I will provide details for it below. Voice mail is accessed by calling 1-408-404-3099 from any phone. Calls to this number from your Packet8 line are free for all users. There is no email delivery or notification of messages at this time.

Caller ID: This allows for number identification only of most calls. Initially I did not receive any caller ID information. In testing I found that I could get caller ID to work on some handsets yet it would not work on others. I have no more information as to why only some phones work properly.

Dialup connection support: I tested this feature and found call quality to be acceptable over a dialup line. This is a nice feature for those traveling as this allows one to make a call over any dialup connection providing at least 30k of bandwidth to any number worldwide at a very low cost. In countries with high international rates this feature should prove to be a popular one.

In closing, I have found Packet8 to be very reliable. For some it could provide a complete replacement to their local telephone company. The only downside may be limited access to directory assistance or emergency services provided via 911. Also, at present there is no support for faxes. Packet8 is working on an upgrade to provide faxes via a T.38 firmware upgrade. **A temporary fax solution is listed below. With T.38, Faxes and modems work at full speed reliably over any network connection. Another interesting feature I have stumbled upon is the ability to make pure ip calls using the DTA310. Anyone with broadband access can call your DTA310 adapter directly by entering your address as sip: (your 11 digit Packet8 #)@packet8.net. I tested this using my free world account and connected using Windows Messenger 4.7. There appeared to be no charges from Packet8 for these calls. Another nice benefit with this setup is that with call forwarding turned on, I could take the free world initiated call on my cell phone no matter where I was. I am sure the DTA310 adapter can be configured to work as a stand alone adapter with free world if one wanted. I can only envision that in the future, one would direct dial a free world number and connect directly from the handset the same way as dialing a number that terminates over a POTS line now. Since this would be a pure ip based call, the only costs associated with it would be the small amount of bandwidth used during the call. I have contacted customer service via both phone and email. The representatives were both courteous and prompt and they were able to address my concerns immediately. Overall I have been very pleased with the service and with Packet8’s 30 day money back guarantee; there is little reason not to give this service a try.

* DTA310 Upgrade Procedure
Overview:
To upgrade your DTA310 with new firmware, you will use the
DTA310's built in web pages to specify the upgrade file name
and location. To access the DTA310’s web pages, you will
need to know the IP address of your DTA310. In many cases,
your home gateway/router has automatically assigned an IP
address to your DTA310, so it has a record of this
information. Otherwise, your DTA310’s IP address can be
obtained by following the below procedure.
Get the IP address of your DTA310:
1. Pick up the telephone handset connected to your DTA310.
2. Dial the Packet8 "MyIP" server: 012-0003.
3. This service will read the IP address of your DTA to you.
Save this information in a convenient place.
Upgrading the DTA310:
4. Open a web browser (from a machine on the same network
as the DTA310).
5. Enter the IP address of the DTA310 in the web browser
(from above).
6. Click "download".
7. In the "tftp server ip:" field enter 4.42.235.170.
8. In the "filename" field enter "current".
9. Click "Start TFTP Download".
10. Once complete, reset the DTA310 by clicking on
"Reset Main Application".
After completing these steps you may close the web
browser.
Your DTA310 has now been successfully upgraded
and is ready for normal operation.

**How to send and receive faxes:
One of the best and most cost effective fax solutions is to get a free fax mailbox from one of the free services such as www.efax.com or www.k7.net and let them randomly assign you a number. Then you go to your favorite discount long distance resellers and have them provision you a 800 / toll free number at 4 - 6 cents a minute and have it terminate to your newly created fax mailbox. If you need a stand alone toll free service where you can change your termination number online, check out www.telcan1800.cmg.bz. You will have to incur 200 - 250 minutes of usage or 400 - 1000 fax pages per month just to reach the $9.95 fee that Efax charges for a local number. K7 allows you to set up an email fax sending service if needed with a charge of .11 per minute. Your clients will appreciate the toll free fax number plus in the event that Efax or K7 goes bankrupt or you decide to use a dedicated fax machine, then all you need to do is change the ring to number for your toll free line. I have used several of these for a few years and rarely spend more than a dollar or two on usage charges per month.

***Please note that this review is only based on my personal experiences. If you have a question, post a reply and I will try to answer it. I will edit or add to the review as my experiences continue. If you have a technical question, I am sure Schnauze will do his best to answer it.
[text was edited by author 2003-03-05 08:20:43]


AJuan
Anon Juan
Premium
join:2002-08-14
Miami, FL
craigg,

Many thanks. I for one appreciate the time you spent writing such a detailed posting on the service from Packet 8 - start to finish.
--
Unofficial Vonage FAQs
--


BillRoland
Premium
join:2001-01-21
Ocala, FL
kudos:3
I second that. A terrific review, thanks for the effort!


Cam
Premium
join:2003-01-25
Luther, OK
reply to craigg
Craig, Thanks for the review of Packet 8. I have been looking for something just like this. It is nice to see lots of information about other services in the VoIP world.

I also like your suggestions for faxing at the bottom.

Cam


Cam
Premium
join:2003-01-25
Luther, OK
The www.telecan1800.cmg.bz is not working do you have another link to them? I will also try it again later just in case it is a temporary glitch.

The Way Out

join:2003-01-20
reply to craigg
Great review and this review mirrors my experience. Great job, Packet8.

IT broadband

join:2002-07-25
Los Angeles, CA
reply to craigg
Nice summary....

You seem like you've seen it all.

Let me mention one more type of service that may interest you..."VoiceOverT1"

I work for a company that sells an integrated T1 that allows the consumer to maximize their bankwidth.

For a very affordable price, the consumer gets a internet 1.54M pipe along with free phone lines attached to the T1.
The phone lines ride off the T1 using only 32K per phone line.

This allows the consumer to have a T1 that will support their local, long distance, and internet for a flat fee.

The plan starts @ $310 which includes unlimited local and toll calls @ no charge, 750 min of LD @ no charge, voicemail is included, and T1 internet connection.

There's no company out there that offers this type of package.

For more information, feel free to contact me @ 213-272-3033.

Ask for Francis Kim

craigg

join:2001-06-04
Princeville, HI
reply to Cam
said by Cam:
The www.telecan1800.cmg.bz is not working do you have another link to them? I will also try it again later just in case it is a temporary glitch.
sorry for the typo, here is the correct link:

www.telcan1800.cmg.bz


Cam
Premium
join:2003-01-25
Luther, OK
Thank you, that is going in my book marks to look over later.

unixnoob

join:2002-09-11
Odessa, FL
reply to craigg
What AJuan said !!!!!!


samm27

join:2003-02-16
90443
reply to Cam
Thanks for writing up your experience. I may be biased because I am an affiliate, but I am also really pleased with my Packet8.

Two comments.
- my billing does seem to be in realtime
- you can forward calls to international numbers (a nice feature not available in the competitor's offering)

regards,
sam. packet8@younevercall.com

alexh771

join:2003-03-03
Chicago, IL
Thanks again for Review, its was great! a follow-up ?.

how are forwarding calls, particularly international charged?

does whoever is calling get charged as if they called the number to which i forwarded my VOIP line?

or do i get charged for the forwarded line from my voip line to the forwarded number? (I think Craigg said you don't but i want to double check)

or does it just not get counted and whoever called just get's charged as normal to the call to my VOIP number?

the reason i ask is when calling to Argentina its usually double the cost to call cell phones than land lines. if i ever set up my inlaws in Argentina with a voip box then, maybe i could just have it fowarded to their cell phones and get around the double charge?

The Way Out

join:2003-01-20
reply to IT broadband
said by IT broadband:
Nice summary....

You seem like you've seen it all.

Let me mention one more type of service that may interest you..."VoiceOverT1"

I work for a company that sells an integrated T1 that allows the consumer to maximize their bankwidth.

For a very affordable price, the consumer gets a internet 1.54M pipe along with free phone lines attached to the T1.
The phone lines ride off the T1 using only 32K per phone line.

This allows the consumer to have a T1 that will support their local, long distance, and internet for a flat fee.

The plan starts @ $310 which includes unlimited local and toll calls @ no charge, 750 min of LD @ no charge, voicemail is included, and T1 internet connection.

There's no company out there that offers this type of package.

For more information, feel free to contact me @ 213-272-3033.

Ask for Francis Kim
This sounds really similar to the old Sprint ION service, but you guys are doing it over a channelized T1 instead of ATM, right?

craigg

join:2001-06-04
Princeville, HI
reply to alexh771
said by alexh771:
Thanks again for Review, its was great! a follow-up ?.

how are forwarding calls, particularly international charged?

does whoever is calling get charged as if they called the number to which i forwarded my VOIP line?

or do i get charged for the forwarded line from my voip line to the forwarded number? (I think Craigg said you don't but i want to double check)

or does it just not get counted and whoever called just get's charged as normal to the call to my VOIP number?

the reason i ask is when calling to Argentina its usually double the cost to call cell phones than land lines. if i ever set up my inlaws in Argentina with a voip box then, maybe i could just have it fowarded to their cell phones and get around the double charge?
Alex,

Assuming you have a local number in chicago, anyone who calls this chicago number would be charged whatever their rate is to make a call to Chicago regardless of where you terminate the call. If you have this chicago number on an unlimited packet8 plan, you can forward it to anywhere in the USA or Canada for free, if you forward it to an Argentina land line you will pay .05 - .06 cents per minute, if you forward it to an Argentina mobile number you will pay .28 per minute. The reason for the higher charge is that in many countries like Argentina, the cell phone service is basically free, and the calling party pays to reach the mobile user. Most of that extra .22 goes to the mobile phone company. In Argentina it will always be to your advantage to route your calls to the land line.

macdemex
Mac

join:2003-02-02
Cordova, TN
are you sure intl fwd on Vonage does not work?

craigg

join:2001-06-04
Princeville, HI
said by macdemex:
are you sure intl fwd on Vonage does not work?
It seems that I read a post that Vonage will not let one enter more than 11 digits in the forward calls box which limits your forwarding options.


AJuan
Anon Juan
Premium
join:2002-08-14
Miami, FL
said by craigg:
said by macdemex:
are you sure intl fwd on Vonage does not work?
It seems that I read a post that Vonage will not let one enter more than 11 digits in the forward calls box which limits your forwarding options.
That is correct.

So you can forward to international numbers, but only to countries that use 11 digit dialing - no 011 numbers.
--
Unofficial Vonage FAQs
--