Economics: Home-Grown vs. Full-Service VoIP Providers

While wallowing around getting the Asterisk/Trixbox up and running, I’ve been wondering about the economics of this especially when placed against other possible solutions. For example, Packet8 offers a business phone plan as a service; they provide you with phones, but everything else is provisioned over the internet. No server required.

Packet8 is a full service IP phone provider with both business and home phone plans. They offer a business service with a required minimum of three phones at $40.00/per extension. This includes unlimited calling throughout the U.S. and Canada. Calls to Germany are 2 cents per minute. So, the minimum would be $120.00 per month. They’ll sell you phones for about $99.00 each which is a good deal. If you would rather not buy the gear, and you can commit to a minimum two-year contract, they’ll give an option for $49.00 per month.

That covers the outbound calls and provides you with one inbound number. Additional inbound numbers, which can be virtual numbers, are $5.00 /month. They have a calculator on their site which gives you an idea of what the upfront and monthly costs will be.

If you wanted to start up with an Asterisk box, you would still have to buy IP phones. You can’t get a phone for much less than about $80.00, so that part of the equation is comparable.

Now, as I said with VoicePulse, there is a charge of roughly 2 cents per minute, and it all depends, on the amount of calling you are going to make. Comparing with the Packet8 rate, of $40.00 per extension per month, you would have to talk for thirty-three hours for a single extension to use up the $40.00 bucks. Further, with Packet8 the 5th or 8th phone costs as much as the first phone; there are no cost breaks as you scale up. They have a calculator on their web site that shows the upfront and monthly recurring costs.

Inbound virtual numbers with VoicePulse are $11.00 per month. Of course with Packet8, you don’t have a server; everything is done virtually over the internet connection.

After reading several reviews, (decidedly mixed), on Packet8, I’m thinking that the idea of the Asterisk box is still a good one. For one thing, using an Asterisk server allows you to maintain a hybrid system; a mixture of VoIP and connections to a landline. It also allows you to mix and match your own IP phones and soft phones. And, for me at least, the monthly charges are negligible. I can add as many extensions as I want, for just the cost of the phone hardware.

More Links:

Here’s an older review of the VoicePulse regular (non-Asterisk) service.

Test your network for VoIP. This service will place test calls between your location nd several cities including Sydney, Vienna, Boston, and Montreal.

A similar test for videoconferencing.

Finally, I ran into this great article about how to rewire the phone wiring in your home or business to use VoIP. Many systems, like the home service of VoicePulse, Packet8 or Vonange assume that you want to connect a single telephone to their servcie. This article explains how to work around that problem, and includes a great deal of general information about phone wiring. Get your dykes and screwdrivers ready!

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