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VoIP Guide | Update June 2016

Rhoonet Top 10 VoIP Providers, Bios and Summaries

Traditional telephone technologies (analog telephones) use a public switched telephone network to transmit voice, voice messages, faxes, and text messages from one user to another. voipVoIP technologies use a broadband network to perform all the same functions. With VoIP you can talk, text, and fax via the internet, without a landline or cell phone subscription. VoIP is popular because it is less expensive than traditional technologies and, for commercial customers, can offer a greater number of professional features. There are many VoIP providers to choose from – here are ten of the most popular:



Residential VoIP Providers

Phone Power

voipPhone Power focuses on providing low-cost calling solutions to residences (primarily) and businesses (secondarily). It offers unlimited international(capped at 1500 minutes) and U.S. & Canada (capped at 5000 minutes) calling plans for residential customers. Phone Power also provides cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems to small businesses and, unlike other providers, also allows businesses to use its residential plans for commercial use (perfect for the self-employed). Phone Power’s international plans come without contractual obligations. Its U.S. & Canada plan is also available without a contract, but Phone Power reduces the monthly fee for customers who agree to a one-year prepay or a two-year contract. Phone Power’s business plans require either a one-year, two-year, or three-year contract. Customers who break their contract must pay an early termination fee (ETF) of $99.00.
Phone Power is the residential VoIP provider with the highest customer satisfaction. In online reviews customers praise the provider’s customer service, but cite lower call quality and reliability when compared to analog phones.


voipVia:talk offers VoIP plans to both residences and small businesses. Its two residential plans offer the same features: unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada (capped at 5100 minutes) and 60 minutes of free international calling.   The VT Business_1500 plan includes 1500 minutes of free calling to the U.S. and Canada and, intuitively, the VT Business_Unlimited plan includes unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada (capped at 10,200 minutes).   Via:talk frequently runs promotions to attract new residential customers. These promotions include a range of obligations that sometimes require a prepay or a two-year contract. After a fourteen day grace period, Via:talk charges its customers a disconnect fee of $50.00 per line and an hardware fee of up to $50.00.   Via:talk is affordable, but the downside of this affordability is Via:talk’s questionable customer service, customer service that PC Magazine has unabashedly described as “terrible.”




vinasVonage offers eight VoIP plans through DigitalVoice that cover domestic and international calling, limited (100-1500 minutes) or unlimited calling (capped at ~3000 minutes), and residential or commercial calling. Vonage offers competitive plans specific to calling the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and India. Vonage offers year-long contract and contract-free subscriptions. New customers are allowed to cancel their contract without penalty within the first month. After the month long grace period Vonage charges an early termination fee (ETF) of up to $120.00.Vonage customers are, overall, satisfied with the quality of their VoIP, but dissatisfied with the company’s customer service. Vonage has a sordid history of using poor customer service to mask deceptive business practices; in 2009 it entered a voluntary settlement for deceptive marketing and preventing customers from cancelling service. Since then Vonage has sought more ethical business practices.



Commercial VoIP Providers


8X8 Incorporated

8X8 offers VoIP business phone systems, cloud-based contact centers, and a unified communications suite to businesses around the world. 8X8’s 40,000 customers include large multi-national corporations, so scale is not an issue for this provider. 8X8 emphasizes the fact that their VoIP grows with its customers, so it is a good choice for a business anticipating rapid growth. 8×8 offers all the typical VoIP services (voice, voice messages, fax, text messaging) and more. Because they offer many services on many different scales, 8×8 forgoes pricelists in favor of a quote system that gives customers a tailored plan and contract. In online reviews some customers voice suspicion that their small-business accounts were neglected in favor of larger, more lucrative accounts, but customers are typically satisfied with 8X8’s high quality and feature rich VoIP and its professional customer service. 8X8 is one of the largest and longest standing VoIP providers, so they have to be doing something right.  


voipeVoice offers VoIP services to small businesses and professional entrepreneurs. Its four plans offer up to fifteen extensions, up to 45 numbers, and up to 4000 free minutes. The small scale of eVoice’s plans limits their clientele to small operations. eVoice’s features – toll free numbers, extensions, automated call handling, hold music – lend a professional gloss to small businesses’ phone system. Its other features – conference calls and, for premium subscribers, video conferencing, call recording, and transcriptions – lend functionality. eVoice sometimes offers promotions, like free trials. It does not charge cancellation fees and users may be eligible for a partial refund if they terminate their account. Instead of charging per user, eVoice charges per account. This translates into savings for larger small businesses. Because the capabilities of eVoice are limited, the service has mixed reviews. PC Magazine gives the provider a positive review, citing its useful features and lack of a set-up fee.




voipFonality offers three business phone systems for small to medium-sized businesses. Features include all management and collaboration with built in presence, instant messaging, screen sharing, and audio conferencing. Fonality Ultimate, the provider’s most feature rich plan, also includes video conferencing. The more users on an account (Fonality offers a pricelist for from one to 100 users) the less expensive the service costs per user. At its least expensive (100 users on the Fonality Essentials plan) Fonality can cost as little as $19.99 per month per user. New customers sign a 12-month contract that locks in the monthly service rate. Fonality is an international provider that serves 30,000 businesses in 99 countries worldwide. Its 300 employers operate from five global offices and four data centers. Like Nextiva, Fonality’s service is simple to use and the company backs it up with good customer service, which results in uncommonly high customer satisfaction.




voipJIVE Hosted PBX offers VoIP services to enterprises, businesses, institutes of learning, government offices, and hospitality-related establishments. Like many of its competitors, JIVE also offers its customers bonus features like video calling and video conferencing. JIVE does not list its monthly fees online (it uses a quote system instead), but a PC magazine review reveals that JIVE’s graduated monthly rates decrease in proportion to the number of users. Businesses with 50 or more users pay the lowest rate per user, as low as $19.99 per month. JIVE customers typically enter into contracts that last either eighteen months, two years, or three years. The fines for breaking a contract with JIVE are hefty: up to $300.00 per user, but the fines are waived in instances where a reallocation of funds makes continuing the subscription impossible for the customer. JIVE customers are, overall, very satisfied with JIVE’s sound quality and customer service.




voipNextiva offers three VoIP plans, hosted call centers, and expandable private branch exchange (PBX) trunks for small to medium-sized businesses. All its VoIP plans (the least expensive of which is a very competitive $19.95 per month per user) include unlimited calling. Nextiva is less expensive than other VoIP providers, but it offers fewer features. For a company that requires a simple VoIP solution, Nextiva is the sensible solution. For Nextiva customers, contracts are optional. If a contract would benefit a business, the customer can negotiate terms with Nextiva directly. Nextiva is an award winning company that prides itself on being a good corporate citizen: it purchases carbon credits, contributes to military charities, and has been one of Phoenix Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” multiple times. Nextiva’s service is simple to use and the company backs it up with good customer service, which results in uncommonly high customer satisfaction.




voipPhone.com offers a virtual private branch exchange (PBX) phone system, plus features, to small and large businesses. Its features include an unlimited number of extensions with voicemail, high definition call conferencing for up to 500 people, and call forwarding and scheduling. Its plans are customizable, but separated into two types: Pay Per Minute (suggested for accounts that use under 600 minutes per month) and Unlimited (suggested for accounts that use more than 600 minutes per month). Both types get unlimited toll free minutes and the Unlimited plans get unlimited local minutes. Phone.com’s Pay Per Minute plans do not require a down payment. Its Unlimited plans start at $19.99. Neither type of plan requires a contract. Because its Unlimited service is highly affordable most customers were very satisfied with Phone.com (one cites cutting his phone bill to one fourth its previous balance). Dissatisfied customers mostly complained about the Pay Per Minute Plan, which they accused of having uncommonly high overage minute fees.


voipRingCentral offers three VoIP plans for small to medium-sized businesses. The plans offer between 1000 and 10,000 toll-free minutes, conference calls for between 4 and 50 people, domestic and international calling, a call queue, and other features to facilitate successful business communication. Designed for the modern office, RingCentral is synched with Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, ZenDesk, and Desk.com. RingCentral offers contract-free subscriptions with no early termination fees. Customers are charged a monthly fee dependent on the number of users attached to an account. Flexibility, of course, has a price: RingCentral’s monthly fee is higher than alternative VoIP providers given, especially, that its plans do not include unlimited calling. RingCentral is somewhat of a darling with industry insiders. The Silicone Valley start-up was named a 2010 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, is a two-time winner of PC Magazine’s Editior’s Choice Award, and was named a 2009 CNET Webware 100 award winner. Note: The conclusions regarding customer satisfaction were drawn from an aggregate of customer reviews posted on yelp.com, voip-info.org, and voipreview.org.


The Future of VoIP Looks Bright, But There Are Still Dark Spots in Rural Service

Telecom analysts consistently predict growth – as high as 28% in the next four years [1] – for the world’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) markets. It makes sense that

consumers are rapidly adopting the technology. VoIP calling is a fraction of the cost of traditional calling and has a higher potential call quality. Unfortunately, the benefits of VoIP calling are (literally) lost in many rural areas.


VoIP, which includes calling services like Skype, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Vonage, and Viber, transmit voice over online digital networks instead of analog phone networks. Digital networks are more efficient than both wireline phone networks (landlines) and wireless phone networks (cellular). This means the cost per minute of a VoIP call might be around 10% of a traditional call.


Last year, the global VoIP market grew 5% to $73 billion USD [2]. Business to business services bolstered growth as call centers and companies switched to cheaper (and

now reliable) business VoIP services. In North America, a highly competitive market (great for consumers) stunted growth as services slashed prices to attract customers.


The global expansion of reliable 3G and 4G LTE networks (particularly in less developed countries in Asia) leads analysts, like the ones at Technavio who predicted 28% market growth between 2016 and 2020, to predict large growth. These analysts say that mobile VoIP use, which is far more convenient for consumers than desktop use, will drive growth.


Where mobile broadband is not strong, however, mobile VoIP use can be frustrating and impractical. Rural users around the world, even in the highly competitive North American market, often struggle with substandard VoIP call quality where wireless networks are weak.


The sound quality of a VoIP call depends on the service’s protocols, first, and on the strength of your internet connection, second. In the early days of VoIP, one could often

attribute bad call quality with poorly coded protocols. These days, software engineers have worked out most of the technology’s early kinks and poor call quality is almost always the result of a slow internet connection.




Unlike other online activities, VoIP eats bandwidth symmetrically. This means you need both a fast upload speed and a fast download speed. At the very minimum, your connection should satisfy the following recommendations (per simultaneous call):


VoIP Bandwidth Recommendations

Upload speed/uplink At least 100 Kbps

Download speed/downlink At least 100 Kbps [3]

Latency/pingLess than 150 ms [4]


Twenty percent of VoIP calls are unacceptable quality due to the bandwidth constraints of a slow internet connection [5]. Even if your connection satisfied the recommendations above, your call could be lost if you use your internet for other tasks simultaneously. The percentage of unacceptable calls is, also, growing as 4G LTE networks become congested with more and more unique users.


VoIP technology makes a lot of sense. It’s easier for telecoms to implement (no lines to lay), more efficient to run, cheaper for users, and has the potential to sound better than analog. If, however, the service excludes rural dwellers due to slow internet connections, the overall value of the system will break down.


Luckily, policy makers like the United States government recognize the importance of bringing powerful internet technologies to rural areas. The federal government, for example, has invested over $260 billion in mobile broadband expansion in the last seven years [6]. These funds will, hopeful, work to eliminate the rural dead zones that color VoIP’s bright future.


Skype, Surveillance, and Hackers: Is VoIP Secure?

voip1 Privacy and security are always concerns when parties use technology – whether analog or digital – to communicate with one another. For persons exchanging confidential material, interception by a third party can compromise sensitive information. For persons who have nothing to hide, interception compromises the principle of privacy in general.

Wiretapping has been around since before the Internet, but the potential to collect and store information has increased exponentially since the adoption of digital communication. Mass-surveillance is now not only a possibility, but a practice in some places. Furthermore, since wireless connections do not require a physical breach to access, hackers can intercept digital information from computers thousand of miles away.

Some users are reluctant to use voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) communication because they fear it is less secure than analog communication. In this article we examine the facts to give you a straight answer to the question: is VoIP secure?

Answer #1: Not Necessarily

voip2 Microsoft’s popular message, voice, and video chat application, Skype, is the prime example of a VoIP service that is not secure. Although Skype encrypts user data, Microsoft holds the key to that encryption. So the company can access user data (including past and present communications) in the case of, for example, a government request.

Users have also identified several weaknesses in the Skype code that let hackers track a user’s IP addresses [1] and remotely take over an account (remedied) [2]. Unlike other VoIP providers, Skype does not make its code available to independent auditors [3]. This means no impartial evaluation exists of either the code’s security weaknesses or its strengths.

Answer #2: But It Can Be

voip3 Not all VoIP services are Skype. There are a slew of personal VoIP services that offer end-to-end encryption including Tox.im, Bleep by BitTorrent, and Silent Circle. When data is encrypted end-to-end, there is no key that can unlock it in transit. This means the only vulnerable points in transmission are the send-point and the receive-point, and these are difficult for third parties to access.

Because corporate secrets are serious business, enterprises require a communication pathway with a high level of security. Luckily, VoIP services designed for businesses are almost exclusively private and secure. This is because enterprise VoIP lines are integrated into a business’s private branch exchange (PBX), virtual personal network (VPN), or wireless local area network (WLAN). PBXs, VPNs, and WLANs are securely protected with both encryption and firewalls.

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