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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
I've had no problems with my
phone whatsoever. It seems as reliable as normal phone
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.
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
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.
Most things to do with
configuring and managing your account can be done through their
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
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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11 Jun 2004, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.