Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is It Time To Switch VoIP Carriers?

In an earlier blog article I stated that I am a dedicated Vonage customer.  I have used them as my sole wired voice provider for three years now, but I am concerned that their corporate objectives are diverging from mine as a consumer.  As I stated in a previous article, they are working on an aggressive expansion campaign and coming in line with the FCC mandate for E-911 capability.  They are laudable goals to legitimize Vonage as a reliable carrier who is for sale.  My needs are different from Vonage’s vision.

I had hoped during this year that Vonage customers would have seen many new services like those that their competitors are offering.  Wired’s recent pronouncement that BroadVoice was the #1 VoIP service prompted me to check them out.  After reviewing their feature line up and included calling countries, I promptly signed up.  A week later my Sipura 2100 ATA arrived via FedEx.  I quickly set it up and two minutes later I had dial-tone.  No special configuring was required on my cable modem, router, ATA, or PC.  Just plug it in and it works!  This is how VoIP should be.

I could easily place calls on my analog phone and voice quality was good.  My MOS comparisons against Vonage gave BroadVoice a slight edge by more than 0.2 points.  The web portal allowed me to easily configure selective ringing, do not disturb, and anonymous call rejection.  All features Vonage does not offer.  I could even provision the second line of my ATA for another VoIP provider like Free World Dialup (FWD).  After further digging I found out that BroadVoice supports VoIP peering with FWD, so I can call FWD users directly from my phone with a special dialing code and they can call me.  At this point it was clear to me that it was time to put in my local number portability request.

I filled out the form and faxed it to BroadVoice.  Their LNP group promptly e-mailed me back confirming submission to Vonage.  Committed; now the little problems begin.  While on a business call, I lost one direction of my conversation.  I called back and it happened again.  Later that day, the whole call was dropped.  I called customer service (611) and they moved me to a new server.  I only experience the problem once since then.  It happened because I changed the proxy server on the ATA and not on the application server side.  Occasionally the calls are choppy or have too much echo.  This problem is not due to bandwidth issues on my cable modem side.  There must be bottlenecks somewhere else in the network.  

Four weeks after submitting my LNP request, my primary home number is still with Vonage.  At least the call quality has improved.  Not all of the BroadVoice features are better than Vonage.  Vonage sends a WAV file with each voice mail message.   BroadVoice only sends an announcement that there is a voice mail, but it contains all of the CID information.  Vonage’s Click-2-Call feature works great with Outlook and Firefox.  BroadVoice has yet to offer a similar capability.  They have their Call Manager that can pull numbers from an Outlook contact list.  It only works with Internet Explorer and I cannot get it to work on my desktop computer.  BroadVoice Customer Service cannot figure out the problem.  Besides I use Firefox.  I don’t want to use IE just to use their Call Manager.  BroadSoft offers direct integration with Outlook.  Hopefully BroadVoice will offer it to their customers soon.

My main concern is that my LNP request has not been fulfilled.  Four weeks have passed since I submitted the request.  Wireless carriers are required to fill a LNP request within 72 hours.  Why not wireline carriers?  The FCC is so concerned with E-911 why not with LNP for VoIP?  Again we are witness to inconsistent and outdated regulation of this industry.

I have been a loyal and dedicated Vonage customer, but loyalty only goes so far.  As a consumer, BroadVoice provides me the calling features and flexibility that Vonage cannot touch.  They will probably continue because they use BroadSoft’s products.  My main concern is reliability and call quality.  They too will improve with time.  I subscribed to Vonage at about the same point in their development and lived through it.  The marketplace for voice services is becoming competitive again.  Let’s hope that we can keep broadband access open and competitive.

Tags: Vonage, BroadVoice, VoIP

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