VOIP – are you serious?

I have been experimenting with a couple VOIP providers lately in order to cut down the cost on my many international long distance calls. It is my clear impression that this is a market with highly immature products for private users.

Phone

My advice to anybody considering signing up for a VOIP solution at home:

  • Get some sleep before you try this. This project will require a lot of patience from your end.
  • Be flexible. Do not expect that you can make that urgent call when you need it the most. More often than not, it will not be possible to get a line at all.
  • Start reading. You are going to be on your own on this journey and some of the topics are at an extreme technical detail level.
  • Think positive. There is no point in going berserk over the total lack of response from the company offering the service. If you are lucky and actually get in contact with a real person, it is not likely they will have time or skills to help you out.
  • Be generous. When a company no longer can offer you VOIP services for some reason and you cannot get in contact with somebody, you prepaid money will be rendered frozen assets that you cannot get to.

All these statements might seem like an amusing introduction. Unfortunately this is not a joke.

Summary:
During the last 12 months I have been a paying customer at the following companies offering VOIP solutions:

  • Musimi
  • VIPtel
  • Jajah.com
  • Skype

The only company offering a reasonable call out service is Skype. Many people do not realize this, but you can purchase Skype Out credit and use that to call standard phone numbers from your headset.

Pricing, Euro/Minute

No doubt about it – there are a lot of good reasons to consider supplementing my standard mobile calls with VOIP if you look at the fees I pay at my local mobile network provider, Sonofon. Listing all the services I have been using on a few of the countries I have been dialing a lot, reveals that even between VOIP companies there exist significant differences.

It seems like, there would be a good argument for having several accounts and select the best option from time to time depending on the country you need to call. However, that is assuming the technology works…

Call to Musimi
from Denmark
VIPtel
from Denmark
Jajah
from Denmark
Skype
from anywhere
Sonofon
Mobile Fee
Netherland 0.024 0.401 0.350 0.220 0.537
Thailand 0.204 0.537 0.350 0.093 1.812
Hong Kong 0.043 0.051 0.190 0.017 0.554
USA 0.024 0.032 0.190 0.017 0.232

Singapore 0.027 0.046 0.190 0.017 0.911

Australia 0.249 0.262 0.190 0.165 0.805

Comments:

  1. All prices are in Euro and listed as mobile to mobile if available info was present on vendor websites.
  2. The Sonofon column is for a “Variant” subscription
  3. Currency was converted to Euro October 18th 2006

My general findings are summarized below. I think I will have to keep looking for the perfect solution. Let me know, if I am missing anything here…

Musimi
Started as a small Danish company with a very supportive group of developers making an abundance of nice features available for a growing user base. In my opinion the product/service ceased evolving and started deteriorating shortly after Musimi was acquired by Tellio.

Website: www.musimi.dk

Pros:

  • I liked being able to call my Musimi number, type a password and then dial an international number.
  • Used to be very responsive and flexible with user support
  • Not necessary to purchase special hardware with dial in service (assuming this is a service Tellio will offer again eventually)

Cons:

  • Suddenly the dial in service stopped without notice
  • Impossible to get support
  • No responses after 1 month in helpdesk
  • Userforum apparently not monitored by staff
  • Tellio phone service declines to service clients using this service
  • Available balance made unreachable
  • No personal contact
  • When the service worked, I usually had to dial in many times before I got to the password dialog. Typically between 3 and 10 times before I could attempt dialing anything.
  • Line quality was often very bad, noisy and was frequently disconnected.

VIPtel
Like Musimi this is a relatively new Danish service. I wanted to have an alternative to Musimi and they looked like a solid option. On the phone and email, they convinced me I could get the same dial in functionality as I enjoyed at Musimi.

Website: www.viptel.dk

Pros:

  • Personal contact offering support. Even technical assistance.
  • Friendly and responsive
  • You can do a lot of things with the equipment settings, if you know how to.

Cons:

  • Line quality on long distance lines very bad. I often had one way connections to Thailand
  • either the recipient could hear me, or I could hear him, but only at a few occasions was it possible to have a conversation..
  • Had to purchase a special Sipura box to setup a dialin functionality like Musimi.
  • After more than 3 month attempting to configure my box, I had to give up and close my account.

Jajah.com
This is the newest addition to my VOIP trials. Jajah offers net based call back – you setup an account with two to three different phone numbers you want to use from this account. For example your home, your mobile and your direct office number.
When you want to place a call, you go to their site and type in the recipient number and jajah will call both of you.

Website: www.jajah.com

Pros:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to use
  • Responsive user support. When I complained about being charged for sessions that never connected, the total was transferred back to my account after a couple of weeks.

Cons:

  • Very bad line quality. I have had a total of one successful long distance call using this service.
  • You will have to be on the internet to use this service
  • You cannot get to the jajah.com page from your mobile device

Skype
I was reluctant installing Skype originally but must admit this is my preferred service today. I use it frequently to call other Skype users for free but also enjoy a reasonable line quality when I dial international long distance numbers using Skype Out.

Website: www.skype.com

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Reasonable price per call
  • Calling other Skype users is free
  • Most often very good line quality

Cons:

  • You will have to be on the internet to use it (or purchase special phone equipment)
  • Sometimes the line quality is just lousy