Yahoo vs. Skype vs. SIP

It’s not news (anymore) that Yahoo’s outsoucing their Yahoo Voice service to JaJah. What’s news (to me) is that their dial-out service costs $0.01/minute for calls to the US and just under $30 for a dial-in number on an annual subscription ($2.49/month). Sounds like a good deal, right?

Skype’s pay-as-you-go rate for calls to US numbers is $0.021/minute and $30/year for a dial-in number on an annual subscription.

Yahoo’s USA per-minute rate is less than HALF what Skype charges on a per-minute basis. No-brainer, right? Wrong! Skype offers a monthly rate for unlimited calls to US numbers: $2.95. Yahoo doesn’t offer an unlimited plan … at least not that I could find.

I’m still paying less than that for my VoicePulse Connect service. If Skype opened their service to SIP without the need for translators and bridges like HipSip and Voxeo (see an explanation of how to make this work here), I’d jump.

Yahoo vs. Skype vs. SIP Read More »

Wireless VoIP phones

No, not 802.11 — apparently those aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. No, I’m talking about DECT wireless VoIP phones.

Currently I’ve got a run-of-the-mill POTS phone plugged in to my Linksys SPA3102. That particular device can accept a PSTN line so I’ve got my landline plugged into it, too, allowing me to take and make VoIP calls and PSTN calls over my analog handset. This setup, while cheap, loses a lot of the advanced functionality afforded by VoIP.

Enter wireless VoIP handsets. Thanks to a few friends over at Twitter (@GarrettSmith and @VoIPSupply), I’ve found a couple that look promising. The snom m3 is my favorite but I’m hoping that Siemens will bring their C470 IP over to the United States soon. I’m looking for more information about the Polycom IP200W but, so far, nothing concrete has materialized.

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VoicePulse update — I’m pleased

I started with VoicePulse Connect on January 10. As of today, I’ve used 972 minutes (a little over 16 hours). It’s cost me a grand total of $10.64 or a little over a penny per minute. Service and call quality has been excellent and I haven’t had to mess with my router for about 2 months.

If you’re interested in the details or more about how to set it up for yourself, drop me a note. You know how to reach me — tony at this domain.

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Some VoIP sites I need to remember to get back to …

I’ve been banging around some VoIP sites again and have come across some services/providers that I haven’t really had time to investigate in any detail. Rather than keep the sites to myself pending a more thorough investigation, I thought I’d at least post them with the little bit of information I have. If I can get back to them, I will post more detailed entries but, if I don’t, at least you all will have the benefit of what I’ve found.


Inbound number in an area code that you don’t pick. Upload your contacts, call it from one of 3 numbers you designate and you can call the contact through them. Your contact doesn’t see your RingBranch number. If someone calls your RingBranch number, it’s forwarded to one number you select. 1000 minutes/month. Free right now.

RNK’s Phone Number Bank:

$9.95/month after a 60-day free trial. Transfer your phone number to them and they’ll forward calls to that (or those) numbers to a single phone number.

T-Mobile’s Talk Forever Home Phone:

Wireless router is $50 and the service is $10/month with a $39.99/monthly plan (2 year contract).


I know they’ll disagree but the easiest way to descibe it is to call it, essentially, GrandCentral in a paid form. $9.99/month after a free 30-day trial. Has a website optimized for the iPhone as well as TalkPlus applications for Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Palm and others.

Masque Number:
Sort of line Vumber. $9.95/month for the first number and then an incremental cost for each additional number. Each number comes with its own voicemail.


Free, expiring phone number. Currently “scaling our infrastructure” so not accepting new subscribers.

Some VoIP sites I need to remember to get back to … Read More »

Another new home VoIP provider: Phone.com

Phone.com launched back in December. For a $29.95 start-up fee and $16.88/month (annual plan) you get unlimited inbound and outbound domestic calls, your own DID, an ATA and all the standard features you’ve come to expect (voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, etc — see their features page). You can pay monthly and you can opt for a plan that only offers 200 minutes — see their pricing and plans page.

Another new home VoIP provider: Phone.com Read More »

VoicePulse update

I fixed MY mistake in my Sipura’s configuration last night and made a couple of calls using VoicePulse Connect. The quality is amazingly good – better than my PSTN line! Some local calls, calls to places within a mile of me, cost $0.019/minute but the rest of them were $0.005/minute. Of course, I can download their complete rate sheet to find out what my cost will be, and when I finally put up a PBX that talks IAX, I’ll query their rates on each call and adjust my provider dynamically, but, for now,

I’m quite pleased!

The experiment continues …

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Trying VoicePulse

VoicePulse Connect has always interested me. It’s an incredibly low-cost VoIP service (gegnerally less than $0.01/minute from US to US destinations) that offers no frills. It’s really targeted at Asterisk, FreePBX and the like in that it’s all about IAX but will work with SIP. It’s one of those pay-as-you-go operations where you deposit some money into an account you create with them and they deduct your charges from your account. The thing that’s stopped me is that the minimum investment is $50. Well, that changed over the holidays — they offer a free trial account preloaded with a $2 credit. So I signed up on Sunday. And I still can’t get my ATA to work with it. Don’t get me wrong, the support is great, so much so that I actually got a phone call from a tech yesterday to walk me through some configuration steps. So, I tried it when I had a chance last night and … it still doesn’t work.

That’s the problem with roll-your-own solutions – you’ve got to work at them. So, I’m considering going back to Vonage, especially in light of Vonage Alpha which brings voice activated call-by-name (Vonage ContactBook), FAX by uploading a document (Vonage FAX) and a free softphone (Vonage Talk). $25/month is starting to seem like a good deal even though I’m pretty sure I’d be able to save between $10 and $15 each month. We’ll see how much more work it is to get VoicePulse to work and what their call quality is like.

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VoIP sidenote: Dial Plans

I had lunch with a friend today (hi, Gary!). He tells me a common friend from a while back (you know who you are, Bryan 🙂 was reading my weblog and has some questions about dial plans.

Dial plan syntax can be specific to the manufacturer and, in some cases, to the router itself. PBX systems like Asterisk have their own syntax so if you want to get elaborate, you’ll likely have to port your dial plan if/when you change platforms.

On the other hand, you can insulate yourself from these differences by signing up with a virtual PBX provider like Voxalot or MySipSwitch. Of course, that means you’ll have to entrust them with your precious login information and, if they get penetrated, you could have your accounts hacked. It’s a decision that’s your to make. Me? I’ve signed up with both of them but I’ve still got my dial plans in my router. And, yes, they’re a bit more elaborate than what I’ve listed in my previous entry. For instance, 8XX calls are free with SIPPhone (see SIPphone) and a lot of other numbers, including toll-free, are available for free from FreeWorldDialup. So, my dial plan contains special routing to get 800, 866, 877 and 888 number to go to SIPphone and so on.

BTW, if you’ve forgotten how to reach me, one easy was is tony here at this domain. And don’t forget to OMIT the www.

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VoIP, Part IV: Implementation

I’ve had nearly a week of working with my SPA-3102 and I have to say that basic setup is a breeze. Within an hour of opening the package, I had it connected and was making and receiving VoIP calls. Another hour or so and I had my PSTN line connected and inbound calls were ringing on the phone I had connected to the FXO port. But this little piece of hardware has so many features and capabilities that I just couldn’t stop there. It can handle a total of 2 inbound VoIP accounts and six, count ’em, 6, outbound accounts. OK, two of the outbound are associated with your two inbound but, still, that’s a total of 6. And that doesn’t include the phone line from your phone company.

Things start to get a little tricky when it comes time to configure these various accounts and choosing one or another to dial your outbound call. I have accounts with SIPphone, FreeWorldDialup, Callcentric and a few others. The only account so far that has any outbound calling credit on it, though, is my Callcentric account. So, I need to configure my router appropriately and that means dial plans. What are dial plans? You can look it up in this Wikipedia entry but, for our purposes, let’s just say they’re strings which tell the router how to interpret the keys you hit on your phone’s handset. You could direct the router to

1) Send 311, 611 and 911 calls directly to your PSTN (i.e. dial the number through your telephone company’s line),
2) send all calls that start with “9” to the PSTN line (ditto),
3) send all calls that start with “#1” to your primary SIP provider, making a VoIP call to either another VoIP user or a PSTN line,
4) send all calls that start with “#2” to your secondary SIP provider (ditto),
5) send all calls that start with “#3” to your tertiary SIP provider (ditto),
6) send all other calls to your primary SIP provider (ditto).

This is, in fact, a slightly simplified version of what I have set up as my dial plan. And let me say it took a lot of forum-reading, thinking, experimenting and, ultimately, having a conversation with a VERY good friend to rationalize and simplify it. As a matter of fact, if you live with somebody and share your phone with them and they’re NOT a techno-nerd, I’d recommend you use something similar.

What else have I done? Calls that come to my PSTN line ring on the handset that’s plugged into the SPA3102. That means I can take ALL calls with that one handset. And, as you can see from my dial plan, I can dial PSTN calls from that handset, too. And that means that, ecept for backup in the case of a power outage, I don’t need to have a phone plugged into my PSTN line.

OK, time to back off again and let that all sink in. I’ll have more later. I still haven’t discussed all of this box’s capabilities.

VoIP, Part IV: Implementation Read More »