Have You Experienced VoIP's Glaring Glitches?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on November 13, 2005

When I’d recently tested eight different VoIP services, I was amazed by the number of glitches I encountered. Several services were down — meaning that users couldn’t make or receive calls — for several hours during my trial. Several services’ Web sites were down multiple times. Many companies’ internal databases seemed to be in the state of having just crashed, so when I called the VoIP companies’ 411 information services, the operators couldn’t help me.

I am trying to understand what exactly is causing all these problems. Sure, Web-based calling is different from traditional phone service, but I have a hard time explaining away this enormous number of problems VoIP users encounter every day. The fact that Web calls use broadband lines doesn’t explain the amazing unreliability of the service. After all, my Internet access works like clockwork.

I would really appreciate your thoughts: Have you encountered any glitches with your VoIP service? What were they? And what do you think is causing these glitches?

Reader Comments

bob roberts

November 13, 2005 8:57 AM

Would really like to see what those eight software apps are. WIthout that list it's hard to fathom as to what you're referring?

Mark Burris

November 13, 2005 10:13 AM

I have a Vonage account. My latest frustration has been in the number of dropped calls. All of a sudden, the service goes down, yet my DSL service for online work remains otherwise uninterrupted. I read somewhere that it might have something to do with my using a portable handset instead of a direct wired deskphone. I switched and (coincidence?) have had fewer - maybe no - problems.

mike nash

November 13, 2005 10:28 AM

I must say that I am using Skype and have never had a bad day with their service. They have always been around - honoured my Skype-Out contribution via credit card and I am prtty well satisfied with their fees and their service

mike

Jake

November 13, 2005 11:22 AM

I have tested a lot of VoIP services too. The only one that works is Packet8. http://www.packet8.net

Unmatched call quality and far superior pricing compared to, lets say, a Vonage.

Jake

spookypuff66

November 13, 2005 12:32 PM

FJ Clark

November 13, 2005 12:37 PM

Read.

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/voip

By the way Skype is great. No problems.

Doris

November 13, 2005 1:14 PM

I've been on VOIP.net for one month with just a few problems. The biggest was setting up the adapter. 1st one was a dud, 2nd wouldn't activate...until my local power company gifted me with a power blip. Voila, my adapter magically came on. Tech support has 'script readers' on the front line and I had to frustrate them before they'd refer me to the real problem solver. The real problem solver called back quickly, my service hasn't been interrupted, and the calls are very clear. Voice mail & caller id features work great and the VOIP.net website has always been available to me and helps track my usage. For the savings ($70/month), it's worth these few annoyances.

PS: I am a bit annoyed that I thought I needed to buy a router when in fact I did not...the info I received was either out of date or I misunderstood.

BW Lundgren

November 13, 2005 5:40 PM

I've used Vonage for the past 18 months and constantly rave about the service. Aside from a very few instances when my Comcast cable has a glitch, which is certainly no fault of Vonage, they're provided a superior service. My son lives in England and the cost savings on calls using Vonage compared to a traditional landline has been substantial.

Bob Roberts

November 13, 2005 6:31 PM

It would be nice to know what the eight services you tried are. Knowing this would certainly help define how you define VOIP. BTW, members of my business group quit using Skype. There were too many packets dropped causing unintelligible gibberish.

Chris Yeh

November 13, 2005 7:30 PM

My company added several Vonage lines, and have been dealing with complaints ever since. People on the other end of the line have experienced choppy voice quality and even a few complete disconnects.

Nothing we've tried has fixed the issue, regardless of how much bandwidth we throw at it. I think the next thing we'll do is throw in the towel.

Joe Fiero

November 13, 2005 10:39 PM

I have been using Vonage for 2 years. In that time I have experienced a few dropped calls, but nothing significant. There were two outages that did cause a problem. One was 40 minutes, the other was the entire afternoon.

While these are issues that I would not experience with POTS, I am a bit forgiving as it is a new technology. Cellular is 20 + years ahead of VoIP and still drops calls.

Overall, I give my experience an A+ for overall performance. I average 3600 minutes a month and often have several parties conferenced. Voice quality is significantly clearer overall, but at times congestion on the net is apparent in a slight echo, or a bit of "fish-bowling".

I believe the technology will smooth over the bumps in short order.

Allen

November 14, 2005 7:00 AM

I have been on Vonage for well over a year now. Of course - Vonage uses an adapter box to connect a regular wired telephone to the internet. We actually have the Vonage adapter plugged into our small home telephone system as if it were another CO [dialtone]. Our experience has been great - very few outages and much better than cellular to cellular conversations. We can tell though when the other end of our conversation is on a cell phone - or a portable phone - the quality is often reduced. I think this may have more to do with the process of digitizing their bad audio than with VOIP as a technology. The 'savings' are substantial.

Allen

Lester

November 14, 2005 8:34 AM

I have www.Championcommunications.biz/ao and the service is great and seems to always work, but I do experience clipping on my DSL and excellant service on my Road Runner cable service. I too would like to know the 8 providers.

Randy Cline

November 14, 2005 10:20 AM

I have been using Champion Communications for over a year now and have flawless service. My Time Warner cable has been down a couple of times but I never have a problem. Once I figurd out how to set the baud settings on my fax, I can fax out with 90% certainty. Plus incoming faxes go right to my email as a PDF file. I can almost pay for the service with the savings I have realized on fax machine cartridges.

Dean Wagner

November 14, 2005 4:17 PM

Our Vonage seems to get worse every week. More calls drop. More painfully screeching noises that interrupt calls. Sometimes in the middle of a call, I can't hear my caller, but they can hear me (rant). Then it drops altogether. It started out great, but has deteriorated dramtically.

Mike M

November 14, 2005 4:38 PM

We tried Comcast VOIP at home. It was a complete disaster. The service folks were at our house at least 2X a week for 4 straight weeks. The service was up and down like a rollercoaster - folks would leave voice mails in our box and they would immediately vanish. Switched back to Verizon after four weeks of zero phone service. Comcast has no clue when it comes to VOIP, in fact the last service guy left the VOIP modem in our basement. I'll pay Verizon's ridiculous prices for zero downtime.

Sherrill Quarles

November 14, 2005 5:03 PM

I use a service called StarPoint IP, I have had them for over a year and thier service is wonderful. My brother in Kuwait also has the service and it has saved us hundreds of dollars per year. The only issues are when my Time Warner brodadband drops then of course the service is not available. But we are firm VoIP fans. Like the cellular comment above, VoIP is going to get better and better

Adam

November 14, 2005 5:30 PM

Hello Olga,

There are MANY factors that can affect VoIP service. Rather than list every possible issue here, feel free to contact me to discuss.

I work as a Voice & Remote Access Engineer, so I guess that allows me some credibility in this field.

adam.geffner@gmail.com

Jack

November 14, 2005 6:38 PM

NO VoIP company is perfect, just as no cell phone company was perfect when they first started out (of course, today people almost never have problems with their cell phones). ;-) Seriously, though, out of all the VoIP companies that offer service to residential and small business customers, the one that consistently seems to get the highest rating is VoicePulse - http://www.voicepulse.com

No, they aren't 100% perfect either, but a lot of their users seem to be really happy with them. Sometimes the company that advertises the most isn't necessarily the best.

But I will also say that if you tried EIGHT companies and had problems with all of them, you either must have managed to pick eight companies that are especially prone to problems (or maybe you just happened to try them at their worst possible moments), or you are having a problem with packet loss on your Internet connection, or something else weird is happening.

I agree with the people who recommended http://www.dslreports.com/forum/voip as a good place to find unbiased reports on the various companies.

I think you will find that VoIP in general will only continue to improve, although naturally there will always be certain companies that people would do better to avoid. The one big unknown is whether people like Ed Whitacre of SBC will try to block traffic from unaffiliated VoIP providers (given his recent comments posted on this very site). If that type of anti-competitive blocking is disallowed then VoIP should flourish, once it gets past the initial growing pains.

aly hasham

November 15, 2005 1:20 AM

Glitches in voip are usually caused with incorrect setup. for example a firewall that does packet inspection will cause a lot of problems with the party making the call. another issue is programs like skype do not use Global IP Sound (GIPS) and RTP.


Bandwidth can also be an issue , but this is not completely on the user side . since most companies do not have a dedicated line for only voice data , they rely completely on the internet. not seting up a priority for their data.


I would appreciate to know those 8 companies that you have tried this will shed more light on the issues .


i operate a Voip services . i have noticed once we implemented GIPS , RTP , VPN , with the correct codec our service has been realable , even with dail up users.


Aly Hasham

voip.hashamaly.com

talk.to.visioncomm

Adarsh Narayan

November 15, 2005 12:54 PM

Cable tends to work better than DSL for some reason. Also in office environment, the bandwidth allocation for an ongoing call may not be prioritized, so some other activity may hog some bandwidth. There are many situations which can affect quality of service and the bandwidth loss can be at any point in the temporary point-to-point connectivity. Needless to add that the best quality will be experienced when "equal" bidirectional bandwidth is available to both ends. In short, many things can affect service and many are out of control of the user or the provider. I take it with a pinch.. as an economical solution.....

Bob Roberts

November 16, 2005 9:07 AM

When it boils down to everything it is unlikely Ms. Kharif even looked at eight services. She probably pulled the old journalistic trick of fabricating it all. We're on to her.

Olga Kharif

November 17, 2005 2:18 PM

Hi everybody,
Thank you very much for your comments on this! The services that I've looked at were Vonage, AT&T CallVantage, AOL TotalTalk, Comcast Digital Voice, Verizon VoiceWing, Packet 8, Lingo and Skype.

Miguel Mesias-Acosta

November 23, 2005 12:49 PM

I started laughing when i reached the end of the entries....cause my experience with "digital" phone from ROAD RUNNER in Shreveport has been hillarious!
IT worked okay for about 1 week then i started experiencing problems with everything RoadRunner provided. I asked the technicians if it was VOIP phone and he said yes but that internet connection problems where not his concern and wouldn't address nor investigate as the cause for the drop calls, sudden silence and return of call, etc... calling the techincal national lines was another HUGE mistake. They can't even understand the difference between a network issue and a signal issue (meaning is it on or not). Anyone calling me at home usually calls me on my cell, cause they get really really really (did i mention really) fustrated at either not hearing me or me not hearing them in the middle of the conversation.
I have even been told by techs that they really are just cable tv people and don't have any real training with phone/internet service.
Someone told me that even though the Time Warner/Roadrunner employees get huge breaks on The services, most that have tried it have returned to other comunication providers.
If you have TIME Warner cable in another area, you might have better experience, but i doubt it, from my dealings with the company for over four months now, the national techs can only "suggest" resolutions. The local affiliates are really in charge.

so, unless you like aggravation. Save $ on the blood pressure medicine and skip out on RoadRunner.

TOBY MITCHELL

June 18, 2006 12:56 PM

I HAVE HAD LINGO FOR ABOUT 3 WEEKS I HAVE NOT HAD ANY PROBLEM WITH IT OTHER THAN NOT BEING ABLE TO USE A FAX MACHINE. BUT I WILL TELL YOU ONE THING KNOW. FOR 5 YEARS I USED MCI AND THAT WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE IN MY COMPANY HISTORY. THERE CUSTOMER SERVICE IS THE WORST IN THE WORLD AND THERE PRICES ARE A JOCK. IN THREE WEEK I HAVE SAVES 1.200.00 JUST BY NOT HAVEING MCI AND LINGO HAS GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE.

TOBY MITCHELL

SkyNetBreaker (AIM)

June 26, 2006 2:48 AM

My Comcast Digital Voice plan that my family has been using since 2005 has been experiencing many problems. The problems ussualy occur more often during summer time than any other season. What happens is our internet would constantly drop and when our internet drops, our phones are out of service.
Last summer, we called comcast asking them about the problem, they just wasted our time giving us useless information. They blamed it on our phone provider, so we than called our phone service provider and they blamed it on comcast. So it was just two companies pointing fingers at each other. Up until this year, I still have the problems. Our phone only works 30% of the day.
E-Mail me at skynetbreaker@gmail.com if you can help me with this problem!

Rathore

July 10, 2006 2:37 AM


I am using IPvaani. It is free service. I never faced any problem till now. Calling also very simple. Just dailing 5 digits. I never feel that I am using VoIP phone. Now I stopped using calling cards for International calls to India. There are no monthly charges like other providers. Here is url for that www.ipvaani.com It may not useful for local calls. But is more than worth for long distance and for international calls.

Bill

July 12, 2006 8:52 PM

I am trying to use Sunrocket through Time Warner Cable. It has been a disaster. Calls are dropped constantly no matter which way I set it up. TWC's modem has to be rebooted several times a day. Had no problem when I used TW's VOIP. Seems they don't want other VOIP's using their cable access. Have to switch back to more expensive Time Warner.

laurie

August 16, 2006 8:33 PM

Switched to Time Warner Cable All-in-One about 2 months ago and pretty much have not had telephone service since. Time Warner has sent techs a couple of times a week to no avail. Modems have been replaced, wiring has been replaced 2x. The digital tv freezes or tiles, the phone almost never works and no one seems to know what to do. Hate to do it, but as Verizon said, "You'll come back, most do".

Jack

August 28, 2006 9:34 AM

I have been using paket8 for over a year and we have nothing but good to say about it. only downside was we had to get a new number but the service has been fine at less than half the price bellsouth.

Daniel W

August 28, 2006 8:01 PM

Packet 8 has been great for me. I have had it for several years. The downside has been the faxing (rather lack of) through the 8x8 network. But the price is great. Several of my friends and I have had great luck. Maybe it's the location on the "backbone" that makes the difference. I'm going to trying MyPhoneCompany because they say you can fax through their system but it doesn't have the follow-me-anywhere feature of Packet8. Oh well, We modern-day consumers are so conditioned to accept trade-offs from incompetent(sic - imcomplete) businesses, anyway!

Steve

October 25, 2006 10:43 AM

We have had Comcast Digital Voice for about 3 moths, and uit has gone out on us at least 3 times that we are aware of. One time we only knew it had gone out when poeple were trying to call us and couldn't get through. We tyreid our phone and received a dial tone but calls would not go through. The other 2 times the phone was completely dead and we had to reset the modem.

Adam Geffner

October 27, 2006 3:54 PM

I have received numerous emails from users who have seen my older post on this topic. Many people have asked me about problems they are experiencing with Vonage, and also my thoughts on Packet8. I am by trade, an Architectual Design Engineer specializing in Voice and Remote Access. I am always happy to help try and resolve people's questions on these kind of VoIP items. I own a VAR that has chosen to partner with 8x8 offering their packet8 service. Want to know why Packet8 is better? Contact me. Want to stick with your current VoIP provider but want some free troubleshooting advice? Still feel free to contact me.

Cheers,

Adam Geffner
CEO
Bridged Networks, Inc.
www.bridgednetworks.com

Edward Staley

October 28, 2006 6:24 PM

We are so happy with our phone service thru Packet 8. We did have problems such as people told us they could hear our voices "echoing" and could not understand us clearly.
A tech guy from Comcast helped us almost 2 hours,
then packet 8 sent us directions in answer to our email to them, and we solved the problem.
Packet 8 referred us to Linksys whose Tech guy sent us instructions to help with that problem.
In all of this, we found we had a bad cable.
We originally started to try Vonage.
Determined not to change our local number, we called and told them we wanted to cancel.
That person was nice enough, but said he needed his superior to take our cancellation.
He said that he would have them call us the next day. It is 6 months later and we haven't heard from him yet.
Guess what? Bell South offered us money to come back to them.
I flatly told them no way!
If they thought so much of me they could have given me the money to stay with them.
Edward Staley

odelia

November 24, 2006 4:16 PM

I am a Vonage customer and am extremely disappointed with them. I was probably one of the 1st to sign up and am in shock from today's customer service/tech support. They wasted my entire afternoon explaining that I would be receiving credit + a new device. My phone calls have been choppy since day 1. I also fell for their initial public offering of Vonage stock shares and watched in plummet-i lost approx $1700 and wouldn't have lost that $ if it wasn't for them taking their time to help me/or not help me sell the stock. I am trying to find the right service without any of these issues.
DO NOT GET VONAGE! My family is having their own problems as well w/ them!

pete

November 30, 2006 12:07 PM

Not even close. For my job I have to call over 800 people a month. I can always tell who has the VOip phone. Also my ISP shaw cable prioritizes packets and drops udp packets- these are voip packets, so the quality is bad.

David L Nelson

December 13, 2006 8:40 PM

I have ACN's smart adapter and a video phone from them. I find the clarity of the voice calls to be great and the video kicks butt on webcams. Both are awesome. My chiropractor has Lingo and raves about it. My brother in law has Lingo too and doesn't rave but doesn't complain either. My personal trainer and my karate instructor have ACN's video phone and we've all been impressed. A friend mailed one to his sister in Germany and the clarity is great the price is right. ACN's customer service is very helpful and well trained and available 24/7, that was the first thing I checked, they acutally answer at 2am. ACN is building their own VOIP network which is launching soon. Want to know more, call 619 582 5904
DavidLNelsonEsq@juno.com

Nicole

May 8, 2007 5:31 PM

skynetbreaker@gmail.com : After reading your comment I would like to point out that you were in fact not using the Comcast Digital Voice platform (CDV)in 2005. Up until a few months ago there was no such service and you are most likely confusing it with Comcast Digital Phone (CDP). The CDP platform was not in fact operated by comcast, it was a partnership. Since then comcast has developed a reliable network for their phone product which surpasses other VoIP networks. I say this because the new Comcast Digital Voice operates on its own Intranet as opposed to the internet which greatly reduces latency issues as well as tightens security. To fix your problem I suggest you give comcast a call and let them know you would like to switch to CDV. I am surprised the company has not contacted you to encourage the upgrade!

Dario

February 16, 2008 11:49 AM

I just returned from a year on a tiny Greek island. We had slow (768k) broadband DSL, but Skype worked flawlessly. Now, back in California, I can't use Skype on our 10Mbps COMCAST cable without the call dropping inside a minute or two. Is this to do with Comcast's P2P blocking? In either case, I'm filing a complaint with the FCC.

Roman

December 23, 2008 12:21 AM

IPvaani works great to make unmilited phone calls.

Thomas

January 22, 2009 11:31 PM

I have subscribed to Vonage for around five years and in the beginning I was on a low band DSL connection and did have issues with the service but for the past fifteen months I have had a (6+MB)connection with ComCast and have not had any issues at all UNTIL.

Over the past two months my Vonage Service has been pretty unacceptable and at times "Unusable" I have spent several hours on my cell phone with Vonage and sometime complaining to ComCast.

To date I have setup port fowarding and the latest was the "Open WRT" Firmware update both seem to help recover some of the service lost.

Conclusion something has happened over the past two months on the network in my area "ISP" related and my VOIP service is not what it use to be.

I pay for a broad band connection to do more than read e-mail and bang around on web sites - I do not recall any VOIP stipulation in my user agreement but then again I did not have a Lawyer look it over before agreeing to become a ComCast customer.

Cheers

Jon

March 6, 2009 12:30 PM

Being a very frustrated Comcast Digital Voice customer, I decided to Google “Comcast Digital Voice Problems” and saw this thread. Since I noticed the last posting was fairly recent (mid-January 2009), I am relieved to know I am not the only one having problems with it. I didn’t much care for the Comcast letters stating I had to change to “Digital Voice” or else, with each letter enticing me to enroll (at the time being a Comcast standard home phone service customer). They stated that under a new Washington State law (one I have never heard of) that I had to switch since the law was forcing Comcast out of the analog phone service. When I didn’t comply, they started sending people out to my house, clipboard in hand, again enticing me to sign up. Where I live Comcast, they refer it as the “hot zone” or something along those lines, and want to keep as many Comcast customers as possible because Verizon’s FIOS plan is about to be rolled out here. Also, Comcast’s “Speed Booster” technology for their home internet service is “always turned on in my area” according to two field technicians. This is probably why I pay for 12MB service but hit speeds as high as 34MB when going onto SpeedTest.net or Speakeasy.net to perform speed-tests on my internet.

Regarding their internet service, I have nothing bad to say, obviously, but Digital Voice is complete CRAP. I have had problems from DAY ONE from poor reception, to people calling my number and getting the “This number is no longer in service” to the worst being completely dropped calls and then no dial-tone for a mysterious amount of time. The reception is terrible for something that is supposed to be digital. I imagine “digital” as crystal-clear, the way of the future, instead, I would rather talk to someone using a can and string instead of with Digital Voice. I get crackling sounds, “snowy” static when I am not talking and the other person’s isn’t either, popping sounds, or times when the person says to me “I can’t hear you, you are breaking up” even though I am on a cordless phone (DECT 6.0 Panasonic). When someone starts saying that, there are times when suddenly the person just “breaks up” and then silence. No dial-tone, just absolute silence (as if I was sinking into the abyss of crappy phone service). Hanging up the phone and then checking again results in nothing but complete silence. Five, ten, twenty minutes later, complete silence. And this phone service is safe? If something happened and I needed to call 9-11, then what? I have expressed my concerns with Comcast, but it usually results in a credit being issued rather than the problems being solved. I plan on calling again today as the problems continue, nearly two years into the service.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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