# Low Cost VOIP Providers

R

#### rickman

Jan 1, 1970
0
With many things you can find good, low cost sources. But with some
things you have to choose... "good, fast, cheap - pick two" is common.

I've been Googling for VOIP providers and none of them seem to fair very
well unless they are a bit pricey with plans that remind me of cell
phones with limited minutes. There seem to be a few low cost providers
but they tend to get poor reviews on voice quality or dropped calls or
requires a modest yearly payment, but makes it so hard to do that some
give up and subscribe all over again.

I don't get it. This is not new technology. Has anyone found a decent
VOIP provider? I'd like to use my existing phone number (seems not all
will let you transfer a number) and port the device with me when I
travel. Ideally it would support E911 and allow me to easily update the
info when I travel.

Otherwise I just need for it to replace my land line and not cost any
more. I'm only paying $15 a month to Verizon for that, and of course I have to spit each time I write the check... I'm not a fan. What are you using? D #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 I've been Googling for VOIP providers and none of them seem to fair very well What are you using? Rick I am using Pioneer long distance service. Not voip ,but long distance at 3 cents a minute. http://www.pioneertelephone.com/ Dan J #### John S Jan 1, 1970 0 First of May I changed from Centurylink (nee Qwest) to Ooma. I went Premier, so I'm effectively$12.28/month (each line, I have two,
prepaid rate).

Nice features, including a personalized reject list, since the Federal
DoNotCall is a farce.

And a joke. I stopped reporting the calls because it does no good. Now I
look at the CID and, if it looks unfamiliar, I simply answer and hang up
immediately to stop the annoying ringing.

R

#### rickman

Jan 1, 1970
0
<http://www.future-nine.com/plans.html>
I'm on the cheapest plan at $75/year. I've been a customer for about 4 years. I've also setup accounts for several of my customers. A few problems occasionally, but nothing catastrophic or chronic. If you need tech support and hand holding, forget it and find another VoIP provider. I suggest that you check your internet connection for jitter before attempting VoIP. Run the test several times at various times of the day: <http://myspeed.visualware.com/indexvoip.php> Use G.711 (uncompressed). Due to their method of rate limiting, Comcast cable internet can be particularly bad and erratic for VoIP. Also, please make sure that you have QoS configured in your router so that SIP packets get priority (or just reserve some bandwidth for SIP). A friend brings her phone with her when she visits and it works ok through my router and service. She has Comcast at home and it works ok there too except that it drops once a day at about some given time. Her VPN also drops at the same time. I think she said she got one or two drops on my system too, but I don't recall for sure. So I think the connection is ok for VOIP. I just need to find a decent plan. What is SIP? I see this listed at the future-nine site, "Free outgoing SIP calls". But the lowest plan charges per minute. So what is an SIP call? I looked it up and I don't get why they are free. Are they computer to computer and don't go through the PSTN network? Their prices seem good but their site is not very clear. For example most plans charge a monthly fee. The "Pay as you go" plan has no monthly fee and charges per minute. But they charge monthly for a US phone number... what? Doesn't having a phone imply that you have a number? How is that different from charging a monthly fee? Oh, I just read the "learn about us" page and see they now have E911 service... as of 2009! But no mention of this on the main page. Still, if you say they work well I'll consider them. I just wish they made their plans a bit more clear. M #### miso Jan 1, 1970 0 I wouldn't blow off Jeff's comment about using that visualware test. Many ISPs provide jittery data. I'm on Megapath (a VOIP provider though I don't have their service and they have their detractors). I get jitter in the 200us to 500us range. I could do broadcast grade VOIP if I wanted to. A cable modem will be in the 30ms to 50ms range. Comcast does special routing for their own VOIP service. It is not the same as using their data. SIP has a wiki: Most modern businesses use SIP and a linux box to act as the PBX. Or use something like Ringcentral. If we are talking about a home user, I don't see SIP being all that handy. There are all sorts of phone plans for home use, or just use a cellphone. For a SOHO, I would say the goal is to get one phase of AT$T out of your life.

SIP phones? Well, they talk SIP. Hook 'em up to a network and beat your
brain trying to set up Asterik. SIP phones are old hat enough that they
show up in Silicon Valley surplus stores.

M

#### miso

Jan 1, 1970
0
And a joke. I stopped reporting the calls because it does no good. Now I
look at the CID and, if it looks unfamiliar, I simply answer and hang up
immediately to stop the annoying ringing.

All those annoying call hide behind a CLEC. But so do a lot of legit
businesses. I wouldn't hang up on them immediately unless you are
forcing them to go to voicemail. Rachel from Credit Card Services
doesn't like voicemail.

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi John,

And a joke. I stopped reporting the calls because it does no good. Now I
look at the CID and, if it looks unfamiliar, I simply answer and hang up
immediately to stop the annoying ringing.

Black lists (and white lists) are essentially ineffective.
E.g., it's relatively easy to spoof a CID so a telemarketer
could call with a different CID each day, etc. (i.e., black
list will never be up-to-date -- unless you simply want to
exclude your next-door neighbor! :-/ )

Similarly, friends/colleagues/clients/family could call
from a "foreign" (unrecognized) CID and fail to satisfy
white list criteria.

I.e., you need an authentication mechanism that isn't tied to
CID. And, that doesn't require *you* to constantly update
"tables".

I've been piecing together strategies I have used over the years
in the design of the telecom system, here.

Incoming calls go to the phone system -- not the "phones". I.e.,
the phone system decides when to *ring* a phone (because that
event is a disturbance and one that no one on the outside should
be able to initiate!).

Robocalls are handled by requiring interaction: "Press one to
be connected to the answering machine" tick tick tick tick...
drop line, unconditionally. (of course, the next caller might
be told to press *7*!)

Folks who *should* be able to get through can authenticate
themselves to the system (TT/speak an identifying token)
and the system can handle their calls as appropriate for
the person involved, time of day, whether or not the called
party is home/available, etc.

I.e., the phone system has to act like a "secretary" -- *screening*
("Oh, hi, Betty. He's left a message explicitly for *you*: he's
reserved a table at Flanagan's for 7:30 this evening...")

I haven't yet found a dual FXS/FXO on which to implement this,
though. I had originally hoped for a free-standing box (e.g.,
dual PSTN on one side, ethernet on the other -- plus a pair
of handset "feedthroughs" to handle outages) like I've done
for the DTV interface to the network, but the latency across
it is unacceptable (with DTV, the latency is all "one way"
so falls out of the equation!)

J

#### John S

Jan 1, 1970
0
All those annoying call hide behind a CLEC. But so do a lot of legit
businesses. I wouldn't hang up on them immediately unless you are
forcing them to go to voicemail. Rachel from Credit Card Services
doesn't like voicemail.

So, you know her, too. After two or three times of encountering my
process, she never called back.

That's why I provide my cell number to important contacts. If I somehow
make a mistake and dump them on my business phone, then they can contact
me anyway.

R

#### rickman

Jan 1, 1970
0
I wouldn't blow off Jeff's comment about using that visualware test.
Many ISPs provide jittery data. I'm on Megapath (a VOIP provider though
I don't have their service and they have their detractors). I get jitter
in the 200us to 500us range. I could do broadcast grade VOIP if I wanted
to. A cable modem will be in the 30ms to 50ms range. Comcast does
special routing for their own VOIP service. It is not the same as using
their data.

I didn't blow it off, I can't run it. It requires Java and I've removed
Java from my browser. Be that a good thing or a bad thing, it is done
and I'm not putting it back until I hear the all clear.

SIP has a wiki:

This doesn't tell me anything that I need to know to understand the
usage of "SIP call" in the context it was used.

Most modern businesses use SIP and a linux box to act as the PBX. Or use
something like Ringcentral. If we are talking about a home user, I don't
see SIP being all that handy. There are all sorts of phone plans for
home use, or just use a cellphone. For a SOHO, I would say the goal is
to get one phase of AT$T out of your life. SIP phones? Well, they talk SIP. Hook 'em up to a network and beat your brain trying to set up Asterik. SIP phones are old hat enough that they show up in Silicon Valley surplus stores. Great, all I need now is to understand what is meant by "SIP calls". D #### Don Y Jan 1, 1970 0 Hi, This doesn't tell me anything that I need to know to understand the usage of "SIP call" in the context it was used. Most modern businesses use SIP and a linux box to act as the PBX. Or use something like Ringcentral. If we are talking about a home user, I don't see SIP being all that handy. There are all sorts of phone plans for home use, or just use a cellphone. For a SOHO, I would say the goal is to get one phase of AT$T out of your life.

SIP phones? Well, they talk SIP. Hook 'em up to a network and beat your
brain trying to set up Asterik. SIP phones are old hat enough that they
show up in Silicon Valley surplus stores.

Great, all I need now is to understand what is meant by "SIP calls".[/QUOTE]

SIP is "Yet Another Protocol". One designed to implement the sorts
of features that you would encounter in a "high end PBX" -- but,
operating over IP networks (instead of hard-wired copper to the
PBX!). Contrast this with Skype's protocol...

It lets you initiate calls, receive calls, "transfer" calls, etc.
(calls can be all sorts of multimedia, not just "voice").

Just like having a HTTP-capable browser allows you to view
web pages, a SIP-enabled IP phone lets you participate in
voice comms over IP. E.g., you could have a gopher-enabled
client to access similar types of information "on the 'net"
but it wouldn't be able to access information served in HTTP
format! (similarly, an HTTP-enabled client/browser wouldn't be
able to access gopher services -- if any are still running! :> )

All you need to know is whether or not the handset you are using
to make your calls (or the ATA, etc. acting on your behalf)
supports SIP.

H

#### hamilton

Jan 1, 1970
0
With the NSA keep tabs on all calls, (not listening of course) they
already know where the SCAMmers(tm) are calling from.

If the NSA want to get everyone on their side, let the NSA send a few
drones over those locations.

Maybe take out a few.

The message would be LOUD and clear.

h

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi David,

I haven't seen any providers whose E911 provisioning will
*automatically* update when your endpoint moves around. Some
(e.g. Vitelity) let you update the E911 info yourself through a user
portal or control panel.

Some VoIP providers push (or insist upon) "package" plans... e.g. a
single DID, with a fairly large bundle of inbound and outbound
minutes. They sometimes include unlimited "free" minutes for calls
made to other subscribers on their own network. These plans sometimes
aren't a lot cheaper than a landline.

Another of the key (critical?) differences between VoIP and
conventional land line is the "availability" of the service.
E.g., land lines are regulated, by statute. VoIP, AFAICT,
are "regulated" by the market -- if enough people are
disappointed with the price/performance, the provider goes
out of business. (Ditto cell carriers)

I want to have a VERY high expectation of being able to
contact 911, medical services, police, fire, etc. -- regardless
of whether or not my internet connection *and* VoIP provider
BOTH happen to be "up" at the time. E.g., I can recall
exactly *once* (in my lifetime) when I picked up a phone
and was unable to make a phone call -- and that was due to a
lightning strike taking out one of the handsets on *my* end
of the line!

OTOH, I've already experienced one extended "storm related" outage
with my current ISP...

YMMV, of course

M

#### miso

Jan 1, 1970
0
So, you know her, too. After two or three times of encountering my
process, she never called back.

That's why I provide my cell number to important contacts. If I somehow
make a mistake and dump them on my business phone, then they can contact
me anyway.

Rachel has a consistent number, so she is in my contacts book. When her
name shows up on the phone, I know not to answer. But I don't make it a
point to dump all unknown callers.

I renamed Rachel to Fucking Spammer in the contacts. I hope she doesn't
mind.

M

#### miso

Jan 1, 1970
0
OTOH, I've already experienced one extended "storm related" outage
with my current ISP...

YMMV, of course

That is the problem with internet based anything. Few ISPs take service
seriously. My CPA lost her internet recently for about a day and a half.
She still has a POTS, but these tax people live off the IRS website, so
that really messed her up.

You need a modem that doesn't need booting, a router that doesn't need
booting, etc. If the power goes out, everything needs to start up after
a power outage. Say what you want about the phone company of yesteryear,
they do understand reliability.

I would tolerate devices that boot themselves, i.e. short outages. These
peddlers need to just accept that all software is buggy and incorporate
an analog watchdog scheme that will reboot the system independent of
software.

In analog we trust! Actually you can do digital watchdogs too, but the
watchdog has to be running code independent of the main cpu.

R

#### Robert Baer

Jan 1, 1970
0
rickman said:
With many things you can find good, low cost sources. But with some
things you have to choose... "good, fast, cheap - pick two" is common.

I've been Googling for VOIP providers and none of them seem to fair very
well unless they are a bit pricey with plans that remind me of cell
phones with limited minutes. There seem to be a few low cost providers
but they tend to get poor reviews on voice quality or dropped calls or
requires a modest yearly payment, but makes it so hard to do that some
give up and subscribe all over again.

I don't get it. This is not new technology. Has anyone found a decent
VOIP provider? I'd like to use my existing phone number (seems not all
will let you transfer a number) and port the device with me when I
travel. Ideally it would support E911 and allow me to easily update the
info when I travel.

Otherwise I just need for it to replace my land line and not cost any
more. I'm only paying $15 a month to Verizon for that, and of course I have to spit each time I write the check... I'm not a fan. What are you using? Looking at it sideways, i use Comcast with voice; looks and acts like a Bell wired system - but reality is VOIP. About$65/mo with lowest tier internet and no nationwide (to keep
costs down); supports E911, might be able to port a number.

P

#### Peabody

Jan 1, 1970
0
Jim Thompson says...
First of May I changed from Centurylink (nee Qwest) to
Ooma. I went Premier, so I'm effectively $12.28/month (each line, I have two, prepaid rate). Nice features, including a personalized reject list, since the Federal DoNotCall is a farce. Internet down? Automatically forwards to my cellphone. I made the same choice, switching from an AT&T land line to the Ooma Telo. You buy the box (currently$119 on Amazon),
then you pay taxes and fees monthly based on your location
($3.71 for me) and$10 per month if you want Premium. But
otherwise it's free local and domestic long distance for as
long as the box lasts. I ported my number over, and have
been quite happy with it over the last six months. They
have E911 too.

To me the personal and community call blocking feature that
comes with Premium is worth every penny. It isn't perfect,
but generally works quite well.

I should say that I use the Telo to drive three wired phones
through my original home phone wiring, and that works fine.
I don't know about the various wireless options they offer.

You do need solid high speed internet for these VOIP devices
to work well. I have Cox Cable. I have my Telo immediately
behind the cablemodem, and then my router plugged into the
Telo. Seems to work fine, but you can also put the Telo
behind the router if your router provides QOS. You need to
give the Telo priority over other traffic.

The voice quality is quite good, at least at my end. Nobody
at the other end has complained.

J

#### Joerg

Jan 1, 1970
0
rickman said:
With many things you can find good, low cost sources. But with some
things you have to choose... "good, fast, cheap - pick two" is common.

I've been Googling for VOIP providers and none of them seem to fair very
well unless they are a bit pricey with plans that remind me of cell
phones with limited minutes. There seem to be a few low cost providers
but they tend to get poor reviews on voice quality or dropped calls or
requires a modest yearly payment, but makes it so hard to do that some
give up and subscribe all over again.

I don't get it. This is not new technology. Has anyone found a decent
VOIP provider? I'd like to use my existing phone number (seems not all
will let you transfer a number) and port the device with me when I
travel. Ideally it would support E911 and allow me to easily update the
info when I travel.

Otherwise I just need for it to replace my land line and not cost any
more. I'm only paying \$15 a month to Verizon for that, and of course I
have to spit each time I write the check... I'm not a fan.

What are you using?

My advice: If you need this for business, don't switch. Aside from
technical issues with VoIP I've seen cases where phone numbers could not
be reached with calling cards anymore after they switched. There is no
free lunch.

The phone system as we know it when any number could reach any other
number no matter what seems to be beginning to unravel.

R

#### rickman

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi,

SIP is "Yet Another Protocol". One designed to implement the sorts
of features that you would encounter in a "high end PBX" -- but,
operating over IP networks (instead of hard-wired copper to the
PBX!). Contrast this with Skype's protocol...

It lets you initiate calls, receive calls, "transfer" calls, etc.
(calls can be all sorts of multimedia, not just "voice").

Just like having a HTTP-capable browser allows you to view
web pages, a SIP-enabled IP phone lets you participate in
voice comms over IP. E.g., you could have a gopher-enabled
client to access similar types of information "on the 'net"
but it wouldn't be able to access information served in HTTP
format! (similarly, an HTTP-enabled client/browser wouldn't be
able to access gopher services -- if any are still running! :> )

All you need to know is whether or not the handset you are using
to make your calls (or the ATA, etc. acting on your behalf)
supports SIP.

I appreciate your effort, but the issues of the protocol are not what
calls". I need to know what this means in their context. Oddly enough
I don't see any contact info and their web site is an odd assortment of
pages that are poorly organized. They talk about E911 on one page as
not being up yet because they are in "beta" status, but this is dated
2008. Elsewhere they say they have E911. Elsewhere still they say E911
is not free but go to their "rate" page and all you get is a "call
simulator" which gives you per minute rates for calls between various
locations. No where do they define what they are talking about by SIP
calls.

I'm not sure I can deal with a company that has no phone support, no
email contact, in fact, no contact info at all! WTF???!!!

R

#### rickman

Jan 1, 1970
0
SIP is a protocol for making a connection (dialing), and passing VoIP
traffic. More specifically, it's a collection of protocols defined by
numerous RFC's that are needed for VoIP to function. The alternatives
are H.323, Skype, MGCP, etc.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_over_IP#Protocols>
In this case, all SIP does is define a common protocol needed for you
to talk on a VoIP service providers system.

A VoIP call that uses the SIP protocol to dial and talk. Lots of
things have to be compatible and supported for SIP to work. The most
important is the CODEC. You'll probably be using G.711u (64Kbits/sec
uncompressed). If you run into a limited bandwidth connection, like
dialup, there are CODECs with compression available.

Somewhere this is going right past everyone. I'm not asking about any
of the technical details of how the VOIP phones work. I'm asking about
what the vendor means when they say "Free outgoing SIP calls". Clearly
the user doesn't need to know anything about call setup and teardown or
what CODEC is being used. It's a phone. You make calls with it. When
the user wants to know if he is being billed for a given call how does
he know if it is a "SIP" call according to the statement on the web
page? Does that mean you are calling another Internet phone and not
going through the PSTN?

All in all I am very unimpressed by the Future Nine web site. I don't
want to become an IT expert at VOIP. I want to buy a phone, sign up for
a plan, have it work and understand what it will cost me. That's all
I'm asking. Is that too much? I thought for some reason that this is a
place where I might find someone who has gone through all the "stuff" of
finding a decent service and save myself a little trouble. I guess
that's one advantage of Ooma, it just works and I don't have to learn
how it all operates.

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi Rick,

On 8/14/2013 3:53 PM, Don Y wrote:

I appreciate your effort, but the issues of the protocol are not what
calls". I need to know what this means in their context.

Outgoing calls only require them to give you some (IP) network
bandwidth. They don't have to "give you a (persistent) presence".

You'll either install some software on a PC (that you will keep
running whenever you want to make a call) *or* purchase an ATA
a traditional handset. In either case, you will then have
to configure the device/client to know how to access the SIP
service from the VoIP provider (account name, password, SIP
port, registrar name, etc.)

You can't, for example, fire up a Skype client (on your PC) and
use their service to connect with other skype/PSTN/etc. users.

The big *draw*, of course, is to get you to want other services
besides outgoing voice! E.g., to be able to *receive* calls! :>

If they have a (truly) FREE service, why not try it out and see
what you can and can't do? At the very least, it will give you an
idea of the quality of the service (and support, etc.) that they
Oddly enough
I don't see any contact info and their web site is an odd assortment of
pages that are poorly organized.

(sigh) This is all too common. It's seen as a "chore" instead of
an *asset* by many companies. (and, to be fair, maintaining a
web presence *is* tedious -- even if all you are doing is keeping
contact info, services and rates "up to date")

I think a good many web sites are offloaded to "web developers"
with no real ties to the companies they support. "Build us a
web page..." etc. As if they were asking "Build us a parking
garage"
They talk about E911 on one page as
not being up yet because they are in "beta" status, but this is dated
2008. Elsewhere they say they have E911. Elsewhere still they say E911
is not free but go to their "rate" page and all you get is a "call
simulator" which gives you per minute rates for calls between various
locations. No where do they define what they are talking about by SIP
calls.

Cost of admission. They figure you know this *before* looking into
VoIP services :>
I'm not sure I can deal with a company that has no phone support, no
email contact, in fact, no contact info at all! WTF???!!!

<grin> SWMBO has a prepaid cell phone for "emergency use". She
the service, rates, billing information, etc.

"Many companies *despise* their customers!" :-/

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