Archive for VOIP


Posted in Products with tags , on July 15, 2013 by itnerd

A different sort of VoIP product has hit the streets.

The netTALK DUO WiFi is a wireless VoIP telephone device which works absolutely anywhere you can access a WiFi connection. It does not rely on a computer or a router to function taking it to new heights of convenience and portability.

Aside from working anywhere with a WiFi connection, the netTALK DUO WiFi includes the following features:

  • Free Canadian Phone number
  • No Contracts or Monthly Bills!
  • Free Call Waiting/Caller ID/ Call Forwarding
  • Free Voice Mail to Email
  • Free True Canadian E911
  • Low cost, flat-rate international call plans
  • Fax-friendly service.
  • Live customer service and technical support.

This is the sort of service that will appeal to those who want to “cut the cord” according to Anastasios ‘Takis’ Kyriakides, President and CEO of netTALK: 

“The DUO WiFi takes ‘cord-cutting’ to new heights, eliminating even the need to tether the device to a computer. It can go anywhere, with the same phone number and the same great service. Reaching new heights in technological innovation, the netTALK DUO WiFi offers unbeatable value, call quality, features and customer service. Now that’s something to TALK about!”

Now this isn’t the first VoIP product that netTALK has brought to market. The netTALK DUO is the winner of and Laptop Editors’ Choice awards, and officially designated “Business-Ready” by PCWorld. So one suspects that the netTALK DUO Wi-Fi will follow in that tradition.

The net TALK Duo Wi-Fi is available Canadian retailers. The device retails for $74.95 CAD. One year of service is included with the DUO WiFi purchase; each additional year is only $39.95 plus tax. If you’re looking for low cost VoIP based phone service, it’s worth a look. 

UPDATE: I no longer recommend this product. See this for an explanation.

Review: RingCredible For iOS Version 2.3

Posted in Products with tags , on June 3, 2013 by itnerd

NOTE: This app has been updated to version 3.0. Read the review here

Frequent readers of my blog will recall that I did a In Depth article on RingCredible who make a VoIP application for  iOSAndroid, Blackberry, and forWindows. One of their chief selling points is that they offer cheaper long distance calls than any telco and cheaper than Skype as well. Another selling point is that they are focused purely on long distance via VoIP rather than being like Skype by doing things like peer-to-peer calling and video calling. The question is, does it deliver? To find out, I downloaded the iOS version of the app from the app store which is free to do.

Setting up the app was easy as it was wizard driven. The only thing that stood out was the fact that you would be sent a registration code via text message. The app said the code would be sent in 60 seconds via SMS. But in reality, it took 7 minutes. In fact, I thought that it wasn’t going to arrive so I did the wizard twice. I eventually got two codes and the second one worked for me (presumably the first one was deactivated when I sent the request to get the second one). A minor glitch. But I thought it was worth mentioning.

Now once you’re set up, using it is just like using any other phone. Just dial the number and go. You can make calls over 3G/4G (expensive if you don’t have a good data plan) or over WiFi (much cheaper). My wife used it to call a friend of hers in Maryland (US) from Toronto (Canada). Now when she went to the extremes of our WiFi coverage, my wife’s friend reported that her voice faded a bit and my wife reported that her voice faded a bit and the call cut in and out. But the call did not drop. It also improved when my wife went into an area of our condo that had better signal strength. The fact that the call did not drop was impressive as another VoIP product that I use on a regular basis was not nearly as resilient in similar conditions. As for the audio quality, my wife reported the call quality was good on both ends. That’s important for any VoIP app as you don’t want it to be any different than a landline phone call.

A interesting touch is that the person that you’re calling sees your mobile number on their call display. I can see how that would be a plus for some people. A not so interesting quirk is the fact that when it reports how much money you’ve spent, it shows it in Euros (Not a surprise seeing as RingCredible is a Dutch company). Not only that, but when I did the math on what the test call cost in US dollars (more on the costs in a second) based on the posted rates on their website, it matched the numbers that were displayed in Euros inside the app. That is a bit of a problem as Euros should be less than US dollars at the current exchange rates. They may want to look at fixing that and at making the currency selectable while they’re at it for bonus points.

How about costs as that’s the main reason to use a VoIP app over traditional landline calls? The per minute rate to the US was $0.01 a minute with a $0.07 connection fee. In the case of the test call that my wife made, she talked for 1 hour, 10 minutes and 34 seconds and it cost $0.78. To compare this, I went to Skype’s website and found a pay as you go rate of $0.027 a minute with a connection fee of $0.069. That works out to $1.98 for the same length of call. RingCredible comes out ahead in this department.

The bottom line? RingCredible for iOS is a simple to use VoIP app that has good audio quality and lives up to the promise of cheap long distance calling. Not convinced? The company offers you a 50 cent calling credit when you sign up, which is good for up to 15 minutes of calls on average to give it a try for yourself. You can’t go wrong with that.

Ooma Gives All Subscribers 911 Alerts For Free

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 10, 2012 by itnerd

I’ve written about the Ooma VoIP service before and I’ve been very intrigued by the service. Now they’ve gone off and done something that has really gotten my attention. They’ve taken a very interesting service that sends alerts to up to 3 e-mails or phone numbers when 911 is used from an Ooma phone number. If you’ve got kids at home or a senior who lives on their own, this is a great service to have. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about from their press release:

Kellie Scrogum, an Ooma customer who lives in Kennesaw, Georgia, purchased an Ooma Telo for her parents who are elderly to save money on their monthly phone bill and for the advanced features that Ooma provides. Recently when her mother called 911 because her father needed help, she instantly received a text and email informing her that a 911 call was placed from her parents’ home.

“I was able to beat the EMTs to the house, thanks to Ooma,” says Scrogum. “My father ended up being fine, but both my parents were shocked that I knew what was going on even before the EMTs had a chance to show up. Not only is Ooma’s quality of service amazing, but I gain the assurance of being immediately alerted when 911 is called from my parent’s home. My brother, parents and I all use Ooma, and we love it. What an amazingly awesome product.”

Very powerful stuff. This clearly makes Ooma a front runner in the VoIP service space. Impressive if you ask me.

China Bans Non-Chinese Internet Phone Services

Posted in Commentary with tags , on December 30, 2010 by itnerd

In the interest of protecting the domestic phone services, China has pretty much banned Skype and any other Internet phone service that isn’t owned by the Chinese:

The ministry’s move, however, also has business in mind. China has said only state-owned telecoms China Telecom and China Unicom have the right to offer Internet phone services for calls that link telephones and computers.

But few do. The country’s major telecoms have been offering Internet phone services only on a trial basis in four cities, according to Kan Kaili, a director of China VoIP & Digital Telecom Inc., a company that has offered Internet phone services. That leaves the market to the hundreds of small-scale companies have sprung up.

“This notice is actually protecting the telecoms’ traditional voice services,” said Mr. Kan, who is also a professor at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. It’s “obviously a wrong thing, absolutely wrong.”

Lovely. One thing that crossed my mind is that their might be another reason for this. The Chinese might be afraid of VoIP services like Skype because they likely would have difficulty snooping on users.


Comwave Held Responsible For Death Of Toddler Due To VoIP…. Kind Of

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 30, 2008 by itnerd

You’ll remember that I did a post a while back about a toddler who died due to the fact that the VoIP provider that the family was using had the wrong address in their 911 system (despite having the proper billing address on file). Well the CRTC investigated this and is holding the VoIP provider Comwave responsible for this tragic incident:

“However, the CRTC’s letters suggest that Comwave should have immediately called the family back after the line was disconnected. As well, the regulator indicates that not enough steps were taken by the call centre, which is employed on a third-party contract, to determine the location of the emergency.

“Comwave’s third-party call centre operator did not follow the proper procedures for determining a 911 caller’s location, when it responded to the call,””

However Comwave disputes that this is the case. Comwave chief executive officer Yuval Barzakay argues that there are no rules that say the call should have been handled in the manner described above. Of interest, Comwave tried to keep this report private saying it’s release would “cause material and financial loss” which is corporate speak for “If this is made public, people will dump our service because people will think we suck and we’re screwed.” It’s a good thing The Globe And Mail is really good at digging this stuff up.

Here’s where things fall apart. The CRTC really can’t do anything to punish Comwave:

“Even though the CRTC believes Comwave did not follow proper procedures, the regulator can do little to punish the company. “We are somewhat limited,” said Paul Godin, a director general at the CRTC.”

I believe they already have punished the company. By simply releasing this report they have effectively crippled Comwave because people who have their service will likely bolt to other telco services after reading the Globe And Mail article or this blog posting. After all, nothing hurts a company more than taking away its cash flow. This report will do certainly do that.

VoIP And 911 – Mix Up Causes Death Of Toddler

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 3, 2008 by itnerd

Despite being a nerd and having a love for technology, I’ve never been a fan of VoIP technology. Despite being much cheaper than traditional landline service, 911 services don’t work the same way as traditional landlines. Any 911 call that a VoIP caller makes first have to go to to the provider’s call center and then to the local 911 call center. All of that assumes that you’re at the location that the provider thinks you’re at (As VoIP lines could in theory be anywhere in the world. Exhibit A: The V Phone From Vonage). Landlines just go straight to your local 911 call center and they can trace the exact location that you’re calling from.

This fear about 911 services was sadly validated this week with the death of a toddler in Calgary, Alberta. In a nutshell, the family called 911 when the toddler stopped breathing. The VoIP provider Comwave thought that the family was still living in Mississauga, Ontario and dispatched EMS to their old address in Mississauga (this despite the fact that the provider had their current address in their billing system). 30 minutes had elapsed before the family went to a neighbors house to dial 911 from their phone. The ambulance arrived six minutes later and toddler was rushed to hospital, but was dead on arrival.

The CRTC has started an investigation into this matter. Not only that, emergency services personnel in Toronto have commented on the limitations on VoIP. Wendy Drummond of the Toronto Police Service said:

“When you use the VoIP system, they go with the subscriber’s last information. When you call 911 on a land line, it will tell you in fact where that call is being placed from,” Drummond said. Moreover, when the Internet is down, certain VoIP services do not allow users access to the phone, meaning in an emergency, they cannot call 911.”

I had completely forgotten about the fact that a power failure or some loss of Internet access leaves you unable to use your phone as well. That’s not good.

The VoIP provider that the family was using was Comwave (who for those of you on the ball, is the same company that owns the rights to the word “iPhone” in Canada as that is the name of their VoIP service) who offers “Comwave Enhanced 911” service. What is that exactly? From the company’s FAQ:

“Comwave 911 works through a third party that answers your emergency calls and then dispatches the authorities. Comwave is the only company to provide emergency responders with key information about critical medical history. We encourage you to log on-line to the iPhone web portal to complete the 911 registration. There you will also be able to confidentially list medical information about people in your household so that in the event of an emergency the authorities will have critical information.”

I’m not sure if the family used this feature, but even if they did it sounds like something even more basic happened. The family’s current address in the companies billing system, but whatever system that they use for 911 services wasn’t updated. That my friends is life threating as this case illustrates.

I also went looking for any warnings in terms of power failures and the limitations of 911 services when used with VoIP on the Comwave website, but I couldn’t find any. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right place, but I tried for half an hour and came up empty. At least Vonage by makes their 911 info easy to find (it took 30 seconds of searching to find it) and it’s very clear:

“With Vonage’s 9-1-1 service, your call is sent to a national emergency call centre. The call centre operator will confirm your location information and then transfer your 9-1-1 call to the emergency response centre nearest your location. You should be prepared to confirm your address and call-back number with the operator. If you use a WiFi, Vonage V-Phone or SoftPhone, your 9-1-1 calls will be routed to the national emergency response centre; however, emergency personnel do not receive your phone number or physical location information. Do not hang up unless told directly to do so and if disconnected, you should dial 9-1-1 again.”

I found the above text at this page which seems to be at the bottom of most of Vonage’s pages on their website if you look for “911.” There’s a second page that gives you more detail on their 911 service that actually mentions power failures. At least with this info I know what I’m getting into. Which is one step above Comwave IMHO.

So, are VoIP services bad? No. I think that if you want to use one as a SECONDARY line to save money on long distance bills, that’s fine. But I think as this case illustrates, using one as your primary line is likely a bad idea.

Oh, what does Comwave have to say about this? I found this comment from Yuval Barzakay who runs Comwave (via Canoe):

“To me, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault, we want to ensure this never happens again.”

Fair enough, but he also said this:

“In my home I have my cellphone and I have a land line,”

That says to me that this technology isn’t ready for prime time.

UPDATE: There’s a press release (warning PDF) on the Toronto Police website warning people about VoIP.