Recently, the VoIP industry have seen a huge increase in growth. The primary reason for this is simple – it is much cheaper to make international and long-distance calls utilizing Voice over IP.
As with any other industry, huge growth in users also means growth in businesses offering service. Unfortunately though, more often than not these providers are overpricing, charging hidden fees on top of their advertised prices, or just deliver bad quality phone calls. It is very hard to find a great quality provider at an affordable price.
When looking for a VoIP Provider, one would be wise to compare the service. Some “insider” points to look at include:
1. The Fine Print… a cheap price does not necessarily mean you are getting a good deal. While some outfits offer straight-forward pricing and bill what they advertise – most providers on the market at this time think it is good business sense to false advertise. They hook you up with an ultra-low price – only to stick it to you with USF fees, Regulatory Recovery fees, E911 fees, Made-up taxes, and other such fees which are neither tax, nor required in the VoIP world.
2. Quality, quality, quality. Let’s face it – most providers just don’t deliver in this department. If your current provider has quality problems, it means their underlying setup is wrong, and it means they don’t know what they’re doing. It also means they will never get better, and you’d be wise to take your business elsewhere.
3. CNAM (Caller ID Name) – even at this point in the game, most providers do not offer incoming Caller ID Name on their numbers. Others offer it – but charge you an extra fee per incoming call. I would advise you to stay away from providers which do not offer CNAM or do not include it in the price.
4. Per-minute rates on incoming calls – while rare, some providers offer truly unlimited incoming numbers. Such numbers will cost you around $5/month regardless of how many incoming minutes you use. Others will charge you in the range of 1.1 cents/minute – stay away from those as even moderate use will skyrocket your bill.
5. We come back to deceptive marketing here – any provider that advertises “unlimited” calling is flat-out lying to you! no VoIP provider offers unlimited and if you read their TOS you will find that they are, in fact, VERY limited! Don’t be afraid of a provider that offers you a 3000-minute limit on a half-priced plan. At least they are honest in their marketing – which is a good sign!
6. And while we are on honesty… keep in mind that the marketplace has a lot of dishonest providers. It starts with resellers who re-brand service they buy wholesale from a “real” provider, who often have no technical knowledge, and ends with providers who are more interested your buck than customer satisfaction. I would highly advise to stay away from resellers, period. They not only are not technical and therefore cannot provide you proper support – they often don’t know the product they are selling and how it works.
7. Pricing! – while most people like the saying “you get what you pay for”, Voice over IP is one of the few industries where this does not hold true! some providers spend most of their working capital on advertisement, while others concentrate their investment in the technical field. The difference is staggering – larger providers cost twice as much, and deliver far lower quality than smaller, more technical savvy providers. In the VoIP world, today, it is smaller provides who provide the best quality – and best pricing.
8. E911 – a lot of users make the mistake of thinking “if a provider offers E911 they must be good” or “E911 is reliable”. E911 is not – and will never be as reliable as regular 911. There are simply too many factors outside of the provider’s control. You would be wise to choose a provider which allows you to keep other means of contacting emergency service (cell phone, basic land line, etc.) and does not require you to pay for a service which you do not want or need.
9. Monthly plan, or pay as you go? while the larger provider are almost always monthly – some smaller providers allow you to choose pay-as-you-go as your service option. This is always the most cost-effective solution for a second line you only use once in a while. Prices can go as low as 1 cent/minute, with no monthly fees whatsoever!
10. Do your research before you take the plunge. Read customer reviews, read the TOS, and most important – get a “feel” for how honest a provider is before choosing them as your new provider. Choosing a VoIP Provider is like choosing a car – you’re probably going to end up with them for quite some time after you make your final choice. It’s either going to be a joyride, or a ride from hell!
We hope and wish you a very smooth joyride, and all the best!