So a few weeks ago Rogers sent a letter saying that my Internet and Home Phone services were going up $2 per month beginning in March. Not a huge increase, but then it made me realize I’d be paying nearly $50 a month for my landline, which I don’t use all that much (and I use the prepaid cellphone even less). I looked into possibly replacing both the landline and the prepaid cellphone by a smartphone with some “decent” plan (and coverage, for when I visit family), but no one company had anything that really satisfied me (Koodo Mobile was the closest). That was still a rather expensive proposition for something I knew I wouldn’t use all that much (and I’m not interested in becoming one of those cyberzombies that walk around head down, their eyes glued to their smartphone).
I decided to take a second look at VoIP. That’s a technology I’ve been staying away from because I wasn’t too keen on relying on the Internet connection being up all the time. But then again, in nearly six years I don’t think my connection has been down six hours – not while I was at home anyway. Also my nephew has a MagicJack, which is probably as simple as it gets as far as VoIP goes – just plug it into a computer’s USB port. I don’t like the sound quality when I talk to him over that line, but reading various comments on VoIP forums, it seems like it could be an issue with his Internet connection – he does live in a “rural” area and maybe that connection just doesn’t have the speed that we get in the city.
So I started doing some extensive research on the various services. A lot of the big ones such as Vonage and Primus charge quite a bit for VoIP – say around $30/month (this varies). Some lesser-known services could be as low as $9.95 assuming you pay for a year in advance, but the reviews weren’t so great. That’s when I started running into “pay-as-you-go” VoIP providers and realized this was probably the best alternative for a light phone user like me.
I ended up choosing voip.ms, a company based in Montreal and has been around for almost four years (which is rather long in the VoIP world). Some of the reasons for choosing them were that they were one of very few VoIP providers that had overwhelmingly positive reviews over at DSLReports.com, that they are based in Canada (though they charge in U.S. dollars, like most of the smaller guys), the feature set is also quite extensive – way too much to discuss here. This is also a “Bring Your Own Device” provider in that you don’t/can’t buy the hardware from them (unlike guys like Vonage and MagicJack, etc who force you to use their locked-in hardware), so I was free to buy the VoIP ATA of my choosing. And of course the prices are pretty good: $0.99/month for the phone number, $1.50/month for e911, and then after that it’s only the minutes I use. Depending on various factors (incoming, outgoing, value vs. premium routing), the price goes from about half a cent per minute to a little over a cent. Assuming you have to pay about a cent a minute, that’s roughly $10 for 1000 minutes. I normally don’t go anywhere near that. So I estimate that my monthly cost will go down to anywhere between $4 and $6, depending on how chatty I get on a given month. 😉
I first signed up on the service – for free – and ran an echo test using a softphone. The quality was crystal clear. The next day I went out and bought a Cisco Linksys PAP2T-NA ATA. 45 minutes later I was making my first phone call, and that includes upgrading the firmware, fishing for that extra phone I knew I had somewhere, and adding funds to my voip.ms account.
A week later, after testing it for a few days, I requested a port of my existing phone number. This took a week (normal delay – this can take up to four weeks if whatever company currently “owns” your phone number decides to take its time). The day of the port the phone was down for a few hours while it was being transferred between providers. Later in the day I cancelled my Home Phone with Rogers (thank you Rogers for not annoying me with the “30 day service cancellation notice”), which brought my monthly Rogers bill down by nearly half. That’s a significant amount of cash.
voip.ms is a more “techie-oriented” provider (at the moment anyway – they’re working on making things more user-friendly) than guys like Vonage or Primus, though quite frankly, with the PAP2T setup instructions on their wiki, all I had to do was follow the instructions to the letter and everything worked right away. So even though I found all the terminology and options intimidating at first, I could almost have done set this up with my eyes closed.
Obviously I can’t guarantee – and I am not saying – that voip.ms is the best VoIP provider out there. I haven’t had any experience with the other providers. But between the ease of getting things running and not having to wait for some hardware in the mail, the pricing and features, this is an excellent deal. I’ve had to contact their support a few times, not for problems but for questions and clarifications, and I always got a reply back very quickly even when I set the ticket priority to “Low”. I even got a few replies after their official technical support hours on a Saturday. And of course so far the call quality has been excellent; the persons I talked to said it sounded the same or even better than my landline. So now I can save money to cover for whatever else will be going up in price. 🙂