It's All In The Mind

Musings of an active mind

My VOIP Journey

Posted by activemind on April 24, 2006

My introduction with VOIP started back in 2000 when I wanted to get in touch with my family overseas without paying too much money. The only options I had at that time were the older version of MSN Messenger version 4.x which was amazing in itself because it was based on SIP. Yes, it was after that, Microsoft followed everyone else and moved to something non standardized. Anyways, then came Vonage in 2001 and I joined the bandwagon. I signed up for it sometime in July 01 and received a ATA 186 for the connection. Not that calling overseas was cheap but it was cool 🙂 But soon realised that the service was NOT ready for prime time. Kept the Vonage connection for close to yr and a half and then cancelled it. It was around that time that local long distance on cellphones was becoming free so I did not miss my Vonage connection for local long distance. Well after some more time in Jan 2003 I got Vonage again. This time I was determined to get rid of PacBell landline and use Vonage for pretty much everything. This time they shipped me a Motorola Box. The service was still better than what it was but soon realised that it was not going to pass the wife test 🙂 plus the package was much more than what we needed. Also at this time a LOT of new smaller players had emerged and amongst them I like Broadvoice the best. It was the cheapest with $9.99 In-State plans and all the most commonly used features. I switched to Broadvoice at that time. I stayed with them for a long time but soon remembered my real reason why I started looking into VoIP. At that time I switched my home phone to its bare minimum (had to keep it to get DSL….damn! SBC) and swicthed myself and my wife to ATTWS( now Cingular). Anyways, I tired a couple of cheaper options like packet8, Callpacket/Telepacket, Lingo, FWD, IPKall, Gizmo project, Skype, but was not impressed by anything. The closest I came was Telepacket with their $0.95/month plan with 1c/min incoming and 2.9c/min outgoing. This was pretty close to what I was looking for. I used them for like 6 months but their reliablity sucked. And I mean it….half the time the phone would be down. I was very reluctant to get rid of Telepacket because it suited my pocket but was not serving me any real purpose because it was down a lot. I went to Dslreports.com Voip forum and someone(sorry i dont remember who?) adviced me of a hidden jewel…. Callcentric. They are a bare minimum provider but ROCK SOLID. If your Internet connection is good…you cannot go wrong with them. I have been with them for past 3 months…took a Incoming number ($5.95/month) and I am all set. They dont charge anything for incoming and outgoing is 2c/min. Granted they dont have voicemail or virtual numbers or any other fancy features but I dont need them. I have this number from Callcentric mapped overseas and talk as much as you want for $5.95/month + tax. I know, if you dont scrounge the forums and are not totally into VoIP you would have never heard of them, but I would say if your needs are similar to mine….you cannot go wrong with Callcentric.
And no, I am not affiliated with them in any way. I am just a happy customer and again I dont get any referral if anyone else signs up with them after reading this. Bottom line, I do not have any hidden agenda in this.

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6 Responses to “My VOIP Journey”

  1. Avi said

    Pretty cool ! I was looking for sthg to call my folks overseas. Will try out yr sugg. and let ya know how that goes. Thx for the tip 😉

    Avi

  2. activemind said

    You are welcome. Drop me a email if you need to know anything more about the setup.
    -AM

  3. KDOG said

    AM
    Thank you for your insight on the vonage phones. Got couple of them for folks overseas. Will keep you posted as to the experiences.

    K-Dog

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  5. […] I have been thinking about all the VOIP device or so called ATAs that I have used and wanted to write something about them. Well, as I mentioned earlier here, the first ATA I was introduced to was the Cisco ATA 186. I got it from Vonage and it was locked to their service at that time. When I canceled with them, they were offering that if you pay $15 they will give you the unlock code for it (don’t hold me to it because I dont think they do it anymore), so anyways, I paid them 15 bucks and they mailed me the unlock code and the instructions. This is where the real fun began. I played around with various settings and also upgraded the firmware for this to a new image (dont ask me more details about it….I wont give any more details). I configured my ATA with various services out there and learnt a lot about SIP at that time when debugging my setup. All in all, ATA 186 was (mind you was) fun. The reason I say was because it is a no frill device. Limited (but not straight forward) programming. No doubt it was the leader in the pack at that time but if we look at it now, it seems to be pretty basic.By that time Grandstream had introduced and array of devices and I actually like this company. Not because I have some vested interest but because they make cheap, to the point devices. I have worked with BT 101, BT 102, HT 488, devices from this company and I would say they do what they are supposed to do. I used to buy them from Voxilla but recently I noticed that they have now become a Cisco house now. They sell pretty much everything Linksys only…that sucks!!Anyways,  I would recommend looking into BT 102 if you are looking for a cheap VOIP Phone which just works. The GUI is pretty starightforward and the thing just works….not that expensive so that you can really justify the savings. The look and feel is the same as that of a regular phone so this is a very good option for people planning to send devices overseas. I prefer BT 102  to BT 101 because of the extra PC port it has. That way if you dont have a mini-server room in your house and just have  PC connected to the net, you dont have to buy a router. Just put the phone between the PC and the DSL modem and you are all set to go. This is what I currently use.Another option is HT 488, this is good for someone who is slightly more ambitious in terms of not only being able to call overseas but also get a local dialtone to dial out. Again the GUI is pretty much the same as BT 102, add a couple of features. I use this device every once in a while but soon I realised that I wasnt making that many calls to outside world and was actually tieing up a phone line overseas. So I dropped it and swicthed back to BT 102. Another cool thing about HT 488 is that the dialtone thing in not just one way. It also means that you can have someone overseas call the local phone number attached to the 488 and have it transparently ring your VOIP phone here. Actually you can hard program it to forward  the calls to one fixed number all the time or again get the dialtone and dial any US number you want for a local call. I did not see much point of dialtone in the other directions so I just programmed it to call my cell phone everytime. Its a pretty cool setup for anyone who needs it. You give out you overseas local number to peple there and they can talk to you for the cost of a local call or in turn you get the local overseas dialtone and you can talk to them for a local call too. A tonne of saving there.The next is my favourite and I think THE most powerful ATA out there….(enter the dragon music) Sipura 3000. It has so many options and parameters that it does take some time actually learn and understand this thing. I can probably write a whole new article on things you can do with this device but I would rather just give out some reference and leave the rest to your wild imagination. Read here for all the neat tips and tricks or make it speak the caller Id. Thats why I said you can go wild with this thing I do have a couple of other things to write about (what I use now) like Asterisk but thats another post.So whatdaya think? […]

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