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Low Cost VOIP Providers

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by rickman, Aug 14, 2013.

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  1. rickman

    rickman Guest

    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
    even completing calls. I've even read about one provider that only
    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?
  2. Guest

    I am using Pioneer long distance service. Not voip ,but long distance at 3 cents a minute.

  3. John S

    John S Guest

    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.
  4. rickman

    rickman Guest

    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

    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.
  5. miso

    miso Guest

    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.
  6. miso

    miso Guest

    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.
  7. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi John,

    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

    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*
    your calls on your behalf and disposing/routing them as required
    ("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!)
  8. John S

    John S Guest

    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.
  9. rickman

    rickman Guest

    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.

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

    Great, all I need now is to understand what is meant by "SIP calls".
  10. Don Y

    Don Y Guest


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

    hamilton Guest

    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.

  12. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi David,

    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
  13. miso

    miso Guest

    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
  14. miso

    miso Guest

    OTOH, I've already experienced one extended "storm related" outage
    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

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

    Robert Baer Guest

    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.
  16. Peabody

    Peabody Guest

    Jim Thompson says...
    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.
  17. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    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.
  18. rickman

    rickman Guest

    I appreciate your effort, but the issues of the protocol are not what
    I'm asking about. The VoIP provider talks about "Free outgoing SIP
    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

    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???!!!
  19. rickman

    rickman Guest

    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.
  20. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Rick,

    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
    (Analog Telephone Adapter/FXS adapter) to which you can connect
    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
    offer -- should you opt to head down that road formally!
    (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
    Cost of admission. They figure you know this *before* looking into
    VoIP services :>
    <grin> SWMBO has a prepaid cell phone for "emergency use". She
    grumbles about how *impossible* it is to talk to someone about
    the service, rates, billing information, etc.

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