Brett Arends recommends DIY VoiP

Monday, August 27, 2007

In his article “Skip Skype, Vonage: Get VoIP for Next to Nothing” Brett Arends describes how easy it is to setup VoIP on your own and wonders

"how any telephone companies, including voice over Internet providers, are going to make any money at all down the road."

In this case, he must mean by "voice over Internet provider" companies like Vonage because he uses a VoIP service provider account in the DIY setup too (a Gizmoproject/SIPphone account).

It should be noted that Brett's DIY setup is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison with a Vonage service, because Vonage (and all the other companies offering more or less the same thing) offer a full replacement for a landline, including services like forwarding, voicemail, and (in particular) 911. Also, if you are paying Vonage $25 a month, it's more likely that they will take your call if you need technical support, whereas most DIY service providers offer little or no support (ironically, almost none of them have telephone numbers that you can call).

The DIY setup described in the article WILL NOT provide 911 service (or 411, 511 etc.) That's something to be aware of. Depending on the provider, it may or may not include voicemail, but even it it does, it is unlikely to be as seamless or integrated as a Vonage service.

I also think the article overstates how "easy" it is. While the Voxilla configurator is a terrific tool, many (most?) mainstream users would be overwhelmed in trying to repeat the setup Mr. Arends describes. And if anything goes wrong, they will be up a creek.

I'm not suggesting that Vonage (or one of their competitors) is a better choice, I'm simply pointing out that, to be fair, it is not a apples to apples comparison.

Emails to go unanswered

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ooma claims to be different than all the other VoIP startups. However, just like most the rest, they ignore queries from customers. I have sent several emails to and have yet to receive a single reply.

Update: I did finally get a response to one of my questions. I asked about 911 when using ooma without a landline. They don't support this usage yet (they require a landline) but when they do, then your 911 calls will be routed over the internet with the address you register with ooma - so it seems that ooma essentially gives you the equivalent of a Vonage-type "broadband phone service" (in FCC lingo this is a "replacement" service) with unlimited calls to the U.S. for the price of the box up-front, instead of a monthly fee. Like Skype and their supernodes, it would seem that if nobody actually has a lineline, the ooma business model falls apart.

Techie puts up "Ooma Revealed" site

Mike Pierce has started a web site at where he dissects the new "free US domestic calls for life" startup Ooma

Mike says:

I hope that this provides the information that prospective subscribers will need to evaluate the product in regards to its pros and cons.

Although I have to say I don't see many "pros" on the site, mostly just "cons". The site details various technical, operational, legal, and security/privacy "issues" (i.e. problems) with the Ooma approach, characterizing many as "fundamental errors in the plan... that cannot be fixed by engineers."

Mike points out one of the biggest ironies with the Ooma's claims.

They further claim that they are letting everyone have "the right to screen calls" and then define a system in which normal calls from an Ooma subscriber to a PSTN subscriber will have the Calling Line ID blocked, thus denying the PSTN subscriber this "inalienable right".

The site includes some interesting recommendations for using the service, including this tidbit:

Whenever placing a call over the Ooma network, begin the call with *82 to force the call through a "secure" Ooma Gateway and to include Calling Line ID so that your friends who screen their calls will answer.

Update: per the comment from Mike P to this post, the site was taken down - a copy of the website is available for download here (per Markus Göbel's Tech News).