Sunday, August 24, 2008

Should I switch to VoIP?

I am fed up with my current telecommunications "solution", as it is riddled with problems and frankly, I feel that it is overpriced. Deregulation of the telephone industry has made everything more expensive. I like competition and feel that we should benefit from it, but really all I see are expensive (and often annoying) ad campaigns combined with confusing marketing packages leaving consumers baffled by choices so that they just pick some phone plan without fully understanding the features and costs, and then when they try to make a change, they find that they are locked into a 3 year contract. When doing some comparison shopping, it is impossible to compare apples to apples, so you just end up going with the company who's commercials annoy you the least.

I have often thought that I'd like to get rid of our land line and just rely on a cell phone. I work from an office all day where I have my own land line (although it startles me when it rings since it happens so seldom), and I don't make that many phone calls on the evenings and weekends, so why have both a cell and land line? Plus, I can supplement the long distance calls with Skype. But, I don't really like talking on a cell phone -- reception is not great and I don't like the ergonomics. I always feel like I'm talking into a tiny spy device that sounds like a tin can, so I haven't made that bold move yet.

My latest telecommunications problem forcing me to make a change is that my voice mail does not work for long distance calls. This is particularly annoying since both our parents live outside our calling area, and all they ever get are three beeps and then it disconnects. I have reported it four times and Rogers still has not fixed it nor followed up with me! I was just going to cancel my voice mail plan and buy a new phone that has a built-in answering machine. We'll save $5 per month and have a "solution" that actually solves the problem. Plus, we need a new cordless phone anyway. But when I was in the store, I saw a Vtech set of two cordless phones that works with Vonage, a local VoIP provider. It was the same price as the other set of phones, BUT it comes with tons of nice features, and the monthly charges are half of my current bill. Humm. Getting away from one of the monolithic telecoms and saving money is very appealing to me.

I had considered going with VoIP three years ago when we moved here because Bell screwed up our order and we were not going to get a land line for 5 weeks. But Dan needed the land line for his job at the time and I could not guarantee that the VoIP line would be reliable. With all the other decisions that need to be made when you've moving to a new house, deciding on a new tele technology was just too much. So we did what Bell recommended and went with the competition. Rogers was happy to set us up with a land line in the newly created 647 area code and has been charging us about $45 a month for it ever since.

Yesterday I did a live chat with a Vonage rep and found out that I can get 500 minutes of long distance plus all the call features (voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, phone messages emailed to you, you can retrieve your message anywhere that there is an internet connection, etc.) for $19.95 per month. That includes the 911 charge and there is no additional charge for system access, etc. Plus, I can still use my fax machine on occasion without issue. So, it seems like I'm ready to take the plunge but a few questions remain:
  1. Which service provider should I use? Vonage sounds like the most established but there are plenty of others that I don't know about. My friend Andrew uses broadvoxdirect.com so I should look into that. Does anybody have any suggestions for me?

  2. Should I use my old analog phones with an adapter or buy IP phones? One FAQ that I was reading says that using your existing analog phones saves money but then you don't have all the features like transfer, hold, etc. Since I'm not running a business out of my home, I don't really need those features. I can set the phone on the table if I need to put the call on hold. I just need to know if there is improved reception and service by using the IP phones?

  3. Can I use a mix IP phones and analog phones with adapters? Or if I do go with the IP phones, will my fax machine still work?

  4. Can I set it up so that all my existing jacks and analog phones will work with VoIP? Right now I have Rogers digital home phone, which is VoIP, but at the price of conventional analog phone service. (No wonder they can afford to bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto and give away $545 tickets to hundreds of people.) The technician set it up so that all the jacks work. Can I just set up the new VoIP system to the existing wiring? Or will I be limited to only one phone in the house? (Or a set of handsets that are grouped to one base unit?)
Hopefully I will find answers to all these questions soon so that our families and out of town friends can start leaving us messages. We were really starting to think that we were no longer message worthy out here in the 647s.

1 comment:

leonki said...

There is an alternative! Check out http://www.teksavvy.com They resell DSL and Bell home phone (not VoIP). The company is the most highly rated service provider out there (check out reviews on DSLreports.com). I switched both my home phone service from Bell to them, as well as DSL (solid 5mbps!)