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[Discuss] Google Voice, VoIP providers

Chuck Anderson wrote:
> I use Callcentric.

I use Callcentric as well. Quite good feature set, and quite good
support...providing there hasn't been a hurricane. :-)

Hurricane Sandy demonstrated just how poorly Callcentric's
infrastructure able to withstand damage to their data center. They had
all their eggs in one basket. They were not geographically distributed.

Because of this, I wouldn't trust them with a ported-in line.

This is a problem with virtually all VoIP providers: it is very
difficult to tell from the outside whether the company has a
geographically distributed, carrier-grade setup, or merely a handful of
virtual machines running in the cloud with leased lines from a wholesale

(Callcentric was actually somewhat vertically integrated in that they
didn't outsource the POTS connectivity, which is why they had their data
center located in a building shared with other telecom providers, and
why it wasn't trivial for them to just buy space in other random data

We really need a "Consumer Reports" equivalent for the VoIP industry
with knowledgeable people that actually go and visit the physical
operations of providers to see the design of their infrastructure, and
review their disaster recovery plans.

On the other hand, do people still care enough about land line service?
A big reason why people are fine with taking a chance on an unknown VoIP
provider is that it is a cheap way to keep getting calls at their old
land line number, which they hardly ever use any more.

Rich Braun wrote:
> ...due to and end-of-life announcement for XMPP protocol (for reasons
> that are vaguely related to some unspecified need imposed by Google
> Hangouts technology)...

The discontinuation of XMPP support is no more fishy than Google's
decision to use it in the first place for VoIP. While yes, it is an open
protocol, and yes it had provisions to carry voice, clearly SIP was and
is the dominant open protocol for VoIP.

For a short while during the transition period between Grand Central
(the company Google acquired and turned into GV) and Google Voice, they
actually supported SIP. But then dropped it. Supposedly because they
wanted to integrate with Google Talk, their chat client. Right from that
point Google was hinting that they were more interested in being an IM
provider with voice added-on, than in being a first-rate VoIP provider.

Your Obi, and other similar devices, access GV by pretending to be a
Google Talk client. It's sort of a hack, and causes complications if you
try and also use that same account for IM. You pretty much need to have
a dedicated account for GV use.

Now with the transition to Hangouts, Google is going even more
proprietary. Phasing out XMPP and dropping support for exchanging IMs
outside the Google universe.

There are some small time providers that provide SIP to XMPP gateways (a
service in the cloud) as a means of using generic SIP hardware with GV.
It's possible that we will see them reverse engineer Hangouts and build
an equivalent service for that platform. (Maybe they'll use a cluster of
Raspberry Pis running Android and the official Hangouts app. :-) )

> Frankly, GV just simply *blows away* all rivals in terms of
> features/capabilities/everything-- regardless of price.  The fact 
> that it's been free for years is beside the point.

That it has been free has been the only compelling feature, in my
opinion. I have had a GV account longer than I've had an Obi, but I've
never been all that impressed with it. The features always struck me as
rather bare bones, although that did lend a cleanliness and simplicity
to it.

I'd be curious to hear you elaborate on what you see are the unrivaled
featured. I've only been a light user of the service, and could
certainly have overlooked things.

I've never felt confident enough in Google's commitment or support for
GV to risk porting a number to the service. It makes me cringe a bit
when I hear people saying they use GV for important things, like their
business. If the service goes out, can you reach a support person in
minutes? How long will it take Google to address a problem you are
having with a free service? I imagine they have exemplary overall
uptime, and fast response for problems that impact thousands of users,
but how about problems that impact only you?

As for features, I feel there is more capability in my free Callcentric
account than with GV. But the free Callcentric account doesn't include
free POTS calls.

Dan Ritter wrote:
> The major missing functionality is transcription of voice mail,
> which has never worked well for me on GV anyway.

True, but those transcripts never fail to be hilariously entertaining.

> Instead I have voice mail encoded to mp3 and attached to an email...

The provider I use for my business line, VirtualPBX, also provides this.
Which means UI can go for moths without needing to login to their UI. (I
don't necessarily recommend VirtualPBX. Their support is horrible. But I
haven't found a better option for the price/feature combination.)


Tom Metro
The Perl Shop, Newton, MA, USA
"Predictable On-demand Perl Consulting."

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