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Join the increasing number of people who are saving themselves substantial money by turning off their regular phone and using a combination of cell phone and VoIP phone instead.

 
 
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VoicePulse VoIP Internet Phone Service

VoIP phone technology is now stable and accepted.  Here's a review of another good VoIP phone service.

Part 3 of a 7 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven

 

 

VoIP phone service can give you lower cost 'basic' service, and can save you even more money on long distance and international calling.

If you're a business, you should consider adding one or more VoIP lines to your PBX system.  And if you're looking for home service, maybe VoIP service can completely replace your regular home phone.
 

The VoicePulse Product

The VoIP service offered by VoicePulse is very similar to that offered by the other two products reviewed (Packet 8 and Vonage).  But there are some differences, with VoicePulse offering a broader set of features than either of the other two products.

VoicePulse uses yet another type of voice processing interface box compared to the other two companies, but it has one very important thing in common.  It too is totally easy to set up.  Simply plug the power into the power socket, a LAN cable into the network socket, and of course a phone into the phone socket, and - as if by magic - it is immediately working.

All cables and connectors were included, and the power supply is an international multi-voltage one, making it easy to take your phone with you when traveling both within the US and internationally (an amazing concept!).

Although probably not necessary, VoicePulse send you a helpful 24 page user manual with your equipment.  If you're like me, you'll probably never look at - and never need to look at - this document.

Bandwidth Requirements

As discussed in the other articles in this series, bandwidth might seem plentiful (and free) but it is a precious commodity and the less bandwidth that a VoIP phone system uses, the better the quality of service will generally be.

Packet 8 uses the least amount of bandwidth for a phone call with reasonable quality audio (about 17kb in each direction).  Vonage uses an unknown amount, but probably twice as much.

VoicePulse has three bandwidth settings - allowing 64kb/32kb/16kb of bandwidth for the service (in each direction).  They recommend using the default 64kb setting for best quality, and certainly we agree that the 16kb provides unacceptably poor speech quality.  They use the same encoding for their 64kb service as do Vonage, using the same amount of bandwidth.

Making and Receiving Calls

Making a call is exactly the same as with any other phone, and exactly the same as with the other two companies. Pick up the handset. Dial the number.

All calls should normally be dialed in the form of 1 (area code) phone number - ie, eleven digits, but you can also program in a default area code, allowing you to then make shorter seven digit calls, just like with regular phone service.

Receiving calls is the same as with a normal phone.  The phone rings.  You pick it up and start talking.

VoicePulse better supports Caller ID than the other two companies.  Whereas Vonage and Packet 8 only show the number of the calling party, VoicePulse usually can show their name as well.  It did get tripped up by one of my cell phone numbers that shows my name when calling to a regular phone, but VoicePulse was able to tell me that it was a cell phone number and from Washington State, which was definitely better than nothing.

It is also possible to program in your own caller ID phrases for each individual phone number, so if I wanted to, I could make 'My cell phone' appear when calling the VoicePulse number from my cell phone.

When calling other numbers, the VoicePulse number appears in the Caller ID, but no name is shown.  Depending on your personal preference, you might consider this either a good or bad feature.

Quality

When using the high bandwidth (64kb) option, VoicePulse phone calls have splendid quality - at least as good as regular phone calls and seemingly even better (this is probably not the case, but subjectively, the clarity of speech is stunning).

Assuming you have a good internet connection with plenty of bandwidth and low latency, you'll have no problems with echoes or delays, either.

Indeed, the only indication I had that I was using the VoIP service rather than a regular phone line was the fact that the quality seemed better than average, rather than worse than average.

Reducing the bandwidth to the medium setting (32kb) had a noticeable effect on speech clarity, but would probably be acceptable for most people if you were short of bandwidth (eg, if you were trying to squeeze lots of VoIP circuits onto one data line).

Taking the bandwidth down to the low setting had a major impact on sound quality.  People at the other end said my voice kept cutting in and out, and they had difficulty hearing me, and from my end, the sound of the other person became fuzzy and distorted.  You should not normally use this setting.

We recommend you use the 64kb settings.

What Happens if the Power Fails

One of the criticisms of VoIP phone service is that if you lose power where your VoIP phone is located, then because the computer hub and the VoIP control box lose their power, your phone service fails.

This is true, but probably not very important for several reasons.

Firstly, VoicePulse have a very clever feature that redirects your phone calls to a different number if it detects that your phone system has stopped working for any reason.

Secondly, chances are you have a cell phone or perhaps even a regular landline phone to use for outgoing calls.

Thirdly, you can use a UPS (costing under $100) to give emergency power to your hub and phone controller box for an hour or so.

Fourthly, it might not only be your VoIP phone service that fails.  At work, if you have a PBX, that will stop working, too.  At home, if you have cordless phones, those too will fail.  Problems when power is lost are common to all types of phone service.

Reliability

I've had no problems with my phone whatsoever.  It seems as reliable as normal phone service.

Extra Features

The VoicePulse service includes more in the way of extra features than either Vonage or Packet 8, with most features being managed from a simple easy-to-understand set of web pages.  You log in to the VoicePulse website and then can customize your account and what happens to incoming calls many different ways.

Voicemails can be forwarded to an email account or retrieved normally through the phone.  Voicemail messages are quite large in size - a one minute message is about 950kB, so you'd only want them sent to your email account if you have plenty of space in your email box.

Fax service is not officially supported on their lines, but unofficially VoicePulse indicate that many fax machines seem to work perfectly well.

See our VoIP feature comparison page for more information on features available to you.

Where Can You Use VoicePulse

One potential limitation of this generally excellent service is that they currently only offer a limited number of area codes from 25 states.

This is only partially a problem.  If you're in a state for which VoicePulse don't have any area codes available, you can still use their service, but using a different area code from a different state.

But if you do this, you'll find yourself making long distance calls when calling 'local' numbers, because they won't be local from the reference point of the area code you have on your phone.  And similarly, anyone local that wants to call you will probably have to pay for a long distance call to where the area code of your phone is located.

Costs

VoicePulse have several different service plans.  Their lowest cost plan is only $15 a month, and includes unlimited local calling and 200 minutes of long distance.

Their best value plan is $25/month if you sign up for a one year contract, and includes unlimited calling throughout the US.

The ATA box - the device that connects your regular phone to the internet - is free for as long as you're signed up for their service.  Alternatively, you can simply buy a unit from them ($100) or use your own (if you have a compatible ATA unit, eg from Cisco or Sipura or Grandstream).

The ATA box they supply can support two phone lines, and you can add a second phone line for only $5 more each month (including unlimited local service and 200 long distance minutes) - a tremendous bargain.

International calls are more expensive than from lowest priced Packet 8, but comparable to Vonage.  You'll be spending about 5c-6c a minute to call most countries, with billing in 6 second increments.  This is a good price, but not a great price - you can get lower rates on prepaid calling cards.

Customer Service

Most things to do with configuring and managing your account can be done through their website.

Regrettably, if you have a problem, there's no direct phone number you can call to immediately get support.  Instead you have to fill in a form from their website and then wait for a response.

For many people, the unavailability of a real person to immediately help is a drawback.  Most of us expect - or even demand - 100% reliability with our phone service, and if we have an issue or problem, we need to be able to immediately access someone to resolve the problem.

VoIP instead of - or as well as - 'normal' phone service

If you're deciding on a phone service at home, you're probably thinking in terms of 'either I have VoIP or I have regular phone service'.  Few people would need both types of service at home (unless they have an office at home).

But if you're considering phone service for your office, it can be a great idea to have a mix of regular and VoIP phone lines coming in to your office.  If your PBX supports LCR (least cost routing) you can then program it to direct outgoing calls over the lowest cost choice of lines, saving you considerably in long distance and international calling costs.

You can also add incoming VoIP lines that have phone numbers from elsewhere in the country, adding the appearance of local presence in other locations, and making it easier for people elsewhere to call you via a local rather than long distance call.

Summary and Comparison

VoicePulse provide another variation on the VoIP phone service concept, and for people who only use their phones a moderate amount, with less than 200 minutes a month of long distance, it is the lowest priced VoIP product available.

It also has a very rich feature set that makes it appealing to some 'power users'.

To make it easier for you to choose the best service for you, here is a side by side comparison of VoIP services.

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Originally published 11 Jun 2004, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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