Phoney

First off, I’d like to say that despite the fact that my digital cable box officially barfed up its innards and quit last night, I have survived relatively unscathed.

At least I had Vonage to play with!

That’s right, I made the switch, and have abandoned my Telus landline phone. My decision was mostly financially motivated. I rarely use my home phone. However I like having two lines. That way the telemarketers have something to call, as does my family in an emergency when I’ve turned my cell off for a change.

Why?

I realize a pretty significant savings by switching. Just shy of $10/month. The Vonage basic plan (500 minutes/month and a whole slew of features) is $19.99 plus taxes, for a grand total of $22.79/month. My old telus basic, feature-free line is $27.66/month, plus fees, taxes, and any long distance calls I might make. Last month’s bill was $32.72.

Even factoring in the setup fee ($39.99 + tax) and shipping for the free VoIP router ($19.99 + tax) the change will have paid for itself in 7 months. Technically 4, because being referred by a friend (more on that below) garnered me 1 month free!

The fact that telus was kindof evil not too long ago and I’m giving them less money (since they are the incumbent and own all the phone lines in the province, Vonage pays reseller fees for them) is an added bonus.

Pros thus far

Cheaper than regular phone service. Duh. No contract either.

Keep your own number. There’s no charge for the line transfer from your existing carrier to Vonage.

Dead. Easy. Setup. If you already have a router (which most people I know do), it’s literally four steps:
1. Plug vonage router into port on existing router.
2. Plug in new router’s power cable.
3. Plug Phone cable into new router.
4. Start making calls.

If you’ve ordered online, your equiment has even been pre-activated, so there’s no online setup component either.

The sound/voice quality is excellent. There is a remarkable lack of background noise.

All the benefits of VoIP: A complete online dashboard detailing usage & storing voicemail audio files. Emails when voicemail arrives. North America-wide long distance. Free Vonage to Vonage calling. Actual phone portability. Bring your VoIP router with you anywhere on earth, plug it into an internet connection, and your existing number works. Purchase extra numbers (with any North American areacode) for about $8/month. If I end up moving across the country for school, this means I can keep my local Vancouver number, making it free for friends and family here to contact me, as well as a local to wherever I am number for people there. Plus all of the features such as Call ID, Call Waiting, Call Return, Call Forwarding, SimulRing, etc. that traditional phone companies nickel and dime users for.

Excellent customer referral program! A friend has Vonage and emails me the referral link to sign up with. After I’ve been with Vonage for 3 months, I get 1 month free, she gets 2 months free. Damn good deal for the early adopters who can refer 6 friends. That’s an entire year of free phone service!

Cons so far

My phone (a factory refurb 900mhz cordless that cost me about $12) sucks. It always has. VoIP exacerbates the problem, and I get a ticking noise in the background that comes and goes. People on the other end of the line don’t (from what they’ve said). I’ve talked on the phones of friends who have Vonage, and you’d never know the difference between VoIP and the land line. I plan on getting a new phone, and will post again on quality when that happens. Frankly, I’m not concerned.

There’s only one phone jack. Well, two, since there are two in the modem which can be split any number of times. However, they’re in the location of the modem only. There are a few ways to solve this: rewire your home (there are actually instructions on the Vonage site for this). Get wireless phone jacks, which only require a power outlet to plug a phone into. Get a multi-handset cordless phone system – again only requiring power outlets at phone locations. Of course unlike a hardwired, corded phone you’re SOL on phone talking if the power goes out. Again, I have a 900 sq. ft. apartment, and didn’t have more than one phone (cordless) anyway. These issues haven’t changed my personal phone experience.

It won’t work with phoneline wired apartment buzzers. I’ll have to plug in a dedicated buzzer telephone to let people in. Many newer buildings will allow you to program your buzzer to whatever phone number you use (cell, VoIP, landline) – mine’s not one of them.

911. Because VoIP services bypass the normal phone system, they’re also not wired into the 911 system. The onus is on the VoIP user to ensure address info is kept current, and that is passed on by Vonage to the 911 operator should you dial it. If you are unable to speak, assistance will automatically be sent to your address on file. However, Vonage (of course) takes no responsibility for a breakdown in communication between its information and your local 911 service. Knowing that all local cell carriers now have E911 fully implemented (if you can’t speak, they’ll triangulate to your cell and send help to it), and that I’m a pretty safe, healthy individual, I’m ok with that level of potential risk. If I had someone disabled, elderly, or terminally ill in my home, it might be an issue for me.

Switched

For me, while the list of cons is significant, their impact on me and my situation vs. the direct benefits I get from switching to Vonage made the choice easy.

If you wanna join me, and make the switch yourself, leave a comment or drop me a line, and I’ll send you the referral email. Remember, it means you get a free month of happy VoIPing too!

UPDATE: (21-03-06) I just purchased a set of GE 5.8MHz phones, and any sound quality issues I had have been eliminated.

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16 thoughts on “Phoney

  1. jen

    are you sure about the buzzing people in part? we’ve had vonage now for quite a while and although i do remember there being some issue about hooking up the line to the buzzer, it definitely wasn’t a problem and i think just involved a call to the management company. of course i could be wrong, in which case disregard this comment. πŸ˜›

  2. Michael Johnson

    My problem is that it won’t work during a power outage, whereas land lines will.

  3. shnewt

    wow. thanks for the detailed post on the pros and cons of home VoIP. Its hard to make these kinds of decisions when reading the propaganda crap from the companies offering the service.

  4. peechie Post author

    jen: I am, I checked with the building management. Older buzzer systems (my place is 20+ years) are hardwired into the telephone lines.

    Michael Johnson: Yah – that’s a pain, though since my cell phone will work during a power outage I’m ok with it. I haven’t had a corded phone in my house for years anyway.

    shnewt: you’re welcome!

  5. Java

    nice. Question… did you also research the Shaw telephone system? I hate the vonage ads, and just cant go there…. I would rather subscribe to my local oligopoly anyway. πŸ˜›

  6. peechie Post author

    I did check out the Shaw system. It works a little differently – kindof like Primus – just a resller who uses your original phone system, and their backend is all digital. They’re just offering a similar bundle to Vonage.

    I’m not sure how their voicemail stuff etc. works, but they’re not true VoIP. And as such, can’t offer me a reasonable rate for the usage I incur.

    They’re also not available yet in my area, even if I did want to go with them.

  7. filmgoerjuan

    Are you still using TELUS for ADSL service (to connect the Vonage into) or are you on Shaw (or someone else)?

    I’d love to eliminate at least *one* of the local monopolies out of my life; however, I need my ADSL and TELUS, being the jerks that they are, seems to charge you a lot more for things if you’re not bundling up your services with them. πŸ™

  8. peechie Post author

    I’m with Shaw for TV/Internet. They too suck you in with the bundles, and I’m hopelessly addicted to my internet/television. However, now I’m telus-free, so one has been eliminated!

  9. danny!

    a few notes from the east as i’ve been away from the internet most of this month so far:

    i bet you’re happy that theo got traded to colorado.

    george stroumboulopoulos broke the news to me.

    he also likes how my last name is only three letters long… to his seventeen.

    great umbrella. it says what everyone’s thinking, if everyone was thinking in french.

    and only in quebec can rrroll up the rim to win cause people to be so stupid. i hope that tim’s just sends the families 28 000$ worth of tim bits instead of a the s.u.v.

  10. peechie Post author

    brad: I saw that myself, and talked to some friends before switching. It turns out the “VoIP tax” hasn’t made it to BC yet, as nobody here’s been dinged with the extra fee.

    Shaw also responded and stated that it doesn’t just haphazardly charge people the “service enhancement fee”, instead it recommends customers pay it to get the most out of their VoIP service. In BC anyway, we can pay an extra $10/mo for “Xtreme Speed” internet – which is what I’m assuming they’re suggesting people with VoIP use.

    I don’t agree with their tactic – scaring the uninformed into paying extra – but I don’t believe it’s as shady a situation as Vonage is making it out to be.

  11. Yvonne

    Does the referral have an expiry? I was planning on switching in the next 8 months or so. Feel free to refer me – I am working on being Telus-free. πŸ˜‰

  12. cam.

    unless something has changed drastically, shaw is in fact true voip. They will install a second (or perhaps fisrt) cable modem that that your phone connects to. This phone dedicated modem has a battery in it for those pesky power outages (I can’t remember the last one we had)

    BUT! They’re both far more expensive than SixTel! http://www.iax.cc
    It’s not as plug and play, not as many fabulous features, and you do need to buy some hardware ($100.) but oh-so-cheap. I’ve been playing with it s bit, and it seems to work frighteningly well.

    Plus if you’re really hardcore and into ‘nix and asterisk and all that, the sky’s the limit.

  13. peechie Post author

    Interesting. Also.. aah asterisk.. oh the memories. That’s the product we used at CT in the bad ol’ days – and I’ve QA’d it to death.

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