For residential customers in Canada looking to switch to a VoIP provider that offers SIP service with a local phone number, there aren’t a whole lot of options out there. Vonage, Callcentric, voip.ms and Anveo are among the most popular when you start searching. With the exception of Vonage, these services all promise to deliver full featured phone service with local numbers, bring your own SIP device/softphone convenience and prices starting between free and $10 / month.
After trying, but unfortunately not having a lot of success with voip.ms due to call quality / reliability issues, I decided to give Anveo a shot. In short: this is the VoIP provider I have been waiting for. And, in combination with the OBi100 ATA device, finally a convincing enough argument to abandon local phone service.
Setup and account management
Creating a free account with Anveo to get started is easy. Unlike voip.ms, the website design is reasonably well organized and inviting to use (although it can be slightly confusing at first). Once you’ve signed up, you can start using a SIP device immediately to get a sense of how the service is going to work for you.
I registered both my Samsung Galaxy S3 and Windows PC (using 3CX softphone) to the single Canadian SIP server, and both were able to deliver solid call quality with no apparent audio cutouts or glitches – a good first sign. I later registered an OBi100 (read my full review) and it, too, has been completely stable on the service.
The free plan supports G.711 ulaw (PCMu), GSM – pretty typical. Interestingly, the premium plans (which start at $6.55 / month when billed annually) also support G.722, G.729. G.722 is the so called “HD voice” codec and is not offered by many providers – especially at this price point. In practical usage though, that may not matter to you as very few SIP devices support HD voice. And in my experience it really doesn’t make a difference unless you’re calling directly to another G.722 device. The premium plans also support TCP access in addition to UDP – although again I’m not sure what scenarios that would be advantageous.
Just a weird quirk to be aware of: you can’t actually set your own SIP device password. Passwords are randomly generated and definitely not possible to memorize. Good for security I suppose, but if you ever need to re-register your device you better be able to access your account page to retrieve or reset your password if you don’t have it stored securely somewhere else.
One very nice feature that Anveo offers is SIP alerts. These will basically notify you using a method of your choosing (email, SMS, IM, phone, even HTTP callback!) that your SIP device has gone offline. For me this is great piece of mind. If my ATA device at home goes offline due to a power outage, etc. I get notified so I can look into the problem further.
Plans and pricing
In addition to the free plan there are 3 levels of paid service (really the number of features) offered – ranging from $6.55 / month to $40.55 / month. The differences between the plans are very well presented, so determining the most suitable one is not too difficult.
Anveo has also taken the approach that most features in the more expensive monthly plans can be added individually to any lesser plans – even the free one – as “add-ons”. So for my needs, I can stick with the free plan but add the one crucial option for me (the SIP/e911 alerts) for $3 / month to create a custom plan of sorts.
Since there are a lot of features, I would suggest studying the features page to get a sense of what exactly you do / do not need from your service. The good news is that most people looking for basic service will be perfectly happy with the free plan and maybe an add-on or two.
After choosing a monthly plan with the features you want, you must then factor in outgoing call costs. As described below, porting a number in or signing up for a new local number dictates how many incoming minutes you have available. Outgoing minutes are then charged at a per minute rate that varies depending on where you’re calling.
For calling within Canada, the rate is $0.005/min. Or, $2.50 for 500 minutes. So unlike home phone service from your local telco/cable provider where outgoing calls are typically unlimited within your local calling area, you do need to be aware of usage rates when calling locally. Still, when considered as part of the total monthly cost, the local calling rates are so low as to be negligible unless you spend 24 hours a day on the phone.
Long distance rates are similarly low for most countries. Calling to the US, for example, is $0.01/min. On the major home phone providers like Shaw and Telus the rate is $0.05/min on the base plans. And the long distance packages from those providers usually bring the rates down to $0.02/min. So you’re going to be saving money regardless. The only “gotcha” may be that Anveo does not offer any long distance bundles. So if you do a lot of calling to Asia, for example, you don’t have the option of a Shaw $7/month unlimited add-on. Instead you would have to pay the per minute calling rate which would work out to about 350-400 minutes depending on the country. In general, unless you do a lot – and I mean a LOT – of LD calling, you’re going to save money using Anveo.
Porting in an existing number
Porting in my existing local phone number was relatively painless. Although you do need to fill out a PDF form and e-mail it in (along with a copy of your current provider’s invoice). An online form to submit the request and required documents would have been more convenient. I did, however, receive a response immediately informing me that the number port was in progress and the port completed in under two weeks which is great.
The cost to port is $14 (one-time), or they will actually do it for free if you’ve subscribed to the $6.55 / month Starter plan on a 1 year term.
Then, depending on how many INCOMING minutes you plan to use on your ported in phone number, you pay a small monthly fee to maintain the number. Since I receive so few incoming calls I pay only $1/month which includes 40 minutes of incoming calls per day. For $2/month you can get unlimited incoming minutes. And of course outgoing calls are always billed at the per minute rate I covered in the previous section.
Call quality and reliability
Nothing extraordinary to mention here – and that’s a good thing. Since starting to use the service about 3 months ago, I have had exactly 0 problems with the service. My SIP devices have never disconnected and call quality has been rock solid. Certainly as good as my old digital phone line provided by Shaw. Anveo seems to put quality high on the priority list when routing calls – even toll free ones – so I suspect that has a lot to do with the consistent quality.
Part 2 coming soon!