It seems like everyone is jumping on this thing called VOIP (or VoIP), That's Voice Over Internet Protocol, a fancy phrase for making phone calls over the Internet. I say "everyone" because even the phone companies are getting into the business; Verizon, my local telephone provider, recently began their VoiceWing service to compete.
But the phone companies are greedy. VoiceWing is $29.95 a month (for unlimited calls) if I am Verizon DSL customer (which I am) or $34.95 if I'm not. Compare that to non-phone company VOIP providers whose plans are in the $20-25 range for unlimited calls. Heck, my phone bills for a simple residential line were $45-$50 because of all the incremental charges that Verizon tacked on.
That and their lousy service prompted me to look at switching to a VOIP solution a couple of years ago. Back then, about the only VOIP provider on the planet was Vonage, but I found the service just wasn't ready for prime time. About half the time the calls would just drop and most of the time the voice quality just wasn't up to par with the phone company.
Because of a move I made recently I wanted to look into getting the service again. I'd have gone with Vonage again, but unfortunately my telephone number -- which I wanted to keep -- couldn't be transfered to them; apparently they don't have a presence where I lived. Fortunately, Packet8 did and their website indicated that my number could be ported to them. So, I jumped in.
The online signup was easy. Once I selected the plan I wanted ($19.95 a month for unlimited calls), I provided my credit card information, etc., and filled out a form for Local Number Portability. (Part of the process also involved faxing to them a copy of the first page of a recent telephone bill, to prove the number I was transferring was mine.) Then I waited for my welcome package.
About five days later I received a box with a small piece of equipment that looks similar to an external modem. Following the instructions, I plugged it into my router, plugged a regular phone handset into the box, and applied the power. I lifted the handset and voila! I had a dial tone. A single call to activate the service and I could now call to my heart's content for less than half of what I was paying before.
The price is only half of the story, though. The quality of the service is what would make or break the deal for me. I found that 18 months down the technology road really made a big difference in the level of quality I experienced. After using Packet8 for a month I'm pleased to say that I have had no issues with dropped calls or lousy connections and I have no regrets in my choice.
A concern I had in the process was the transfer of my number. I knew it would take 6-8 weeks for the transfer to be completed (Packet 8 provided a temporary number in the meantime); in fact, it was completed in just over three weeks. There was a brief period, no more than a couple of hours, when dialing my number resulted in a disconnect message but, soon after, dialing my number rang my Packet8 phone.
I do have one disappointment, though. All of my calls have to be dialed using 11 digits (1 + area code + number). This shouldn't be necessary, since I don't live in area with an overlay area code, but this isn't apparently an issue with most of Packet8's customers and isn't really a big deal to me.
Great service, painless process. Now I can do the same for my business line.