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August 14, 2008

Boy Scout approach to VoIP

We at the Bleeding Edge Centre for the Study of Computer-Induced Psychopathologies are particularly proud of our latest contribution to DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition).
Only our intimate involvement with technology allowed us to identify Obsessive Boy Scout Syndrome: a condition which leads to an overwhelming desire to Be Prepared.
Unfortunately, as frequently happens with our particular field of specialisation, we developed the condition ourselves: a fact which has allowed us to track the progress of OBSS, and identify the apparent cause.
Our studies have proved conclusively that OBSS is directly associated with internet telephony. The symptoms generally occur shortly after the subject is introduced to VoIP (Voice over IP) telephony, and realises just how much money might be saved — provided one has carefully deployed one's resources and has carefully studied the fine print.
The preparations begin with the choice of VoIP carrier. Most people are happy with one. The OBSS sufferer, however, finds his woggle tightening about his throat at the very idea of having only one VoIP service … and possibly paying more than he needs to for particular calls, or depriving himself of a particular advantage.

They're not the same, you see. When the director of the Bleeding Edge Centre for the Study of COmputer-Induced Psychopathologies first set up VoIP services for his spouse's practice, he used the services of Melbourne-based Mytel.
Mytel's call quality is excellent, but its call rates are significantly higher than some of its competitors. Its advantage, at the time, was the availability of a hosted PBX service which provided some of the advantages of having an in-house Asterisk open source PBX system on a rental basis. When it became obvious that the business would make substantial savings by having its own Asterisk server, however, Mytel was no longer attractive.
Earlier, the director had been using MyNetFone as his personal and home office provider. On a Whirlpool Saver account, which is available to members of the free Whirlpool VoIP forum, MyNetFone is only slightly more expensive than the cheapest of its competitors, and its customer service is very good, although the Web ordering process can at times be a touch byzantine.
But their Web services meant they had to be one of the VoIP providers. In fact it was the MyNetFone DID (dial-in number) which the service chose to advertise, on the basis that users can divert incoming calls to another number if their Asterisk server comes down. If you're obsessed with Being Prepared, that sort of facility is extremely important.
On the other hand, one also has to Be Prepared for the high cost of calls to mobile phones. Although most VoIP services offer substantially cheaper rates for calls to mobiles than the telcos, none can compare with the GoVoIP Aussie Pack offered by Queensland based GoTalk. For $14.95 a month, users get 300 free local calls, 300 free national calls, and 100 free calls (up to 500 minutes) to Australian mobile phones.
GoTalk accomplishes this by having a cheap interconnect fee with mobile carriers, which has largely arisen from the huge phone card business which is the company's principal activity. Its chief executive, Steve Picton, who spent nine years with British Telecomand was director of marketing at AAPT, has built a substantial business from the philosophy that the average caller has better things to do with his time than taking every available opportunity to make enough mobile calls to destroy the company's profit margin.
That would have left only one area of unpreparedness in the director's VoIP strategy: calls to 13 and 1 300 numbers. There has been an increasing trend by companies to use these numbers, which are widely perceived as being the same cost as a local call. In fact they're considerably more expensive.
A preparatory MyNetFone and Pennytel, whose cheap call rates make it an obvious candidate for any well-prepared VoIP plan, as an example, charges 25c for each of those calls. A local call on Pennytel's untimed plan is just 8c. GoTalk does not regard 13 and 1 300 numbers as free local calls. The unprepared user will instead be paying 14c per minute.
Last week, however, this gaping hole of unpreparedness was suddenly filled by Melbourne-based VoIP provider Freshtel. If you sign up to their $9.95 monthly plan, and take the $5 per month National option, All calls to Australian landlines — including those 13 and 1300 numbers — up to a maximum of three hours per call and a total of 10,000 minutes per month, are free. That makes Freshtel an obvious choice for any small business that's worth its woggle.
That, of course, is only the first step in the well-prepared VoIP strategy. The next step involves choosing hardware like handsets and computers and Uninterruptible Power Supplies. But we'll prepare you for that in a future column.

Posted by cw at August 14, 2008 01:28 PM

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