VoIP – was it worth the switch?

Last year, I documented parts of the process of switching my phones over from a BT ISDN2e line to a VoIP service, using the 3CX software PBX. So, now I’ve been using VoIP for just over a year, has it been worth the work in switching over? And how much money have I saved?

Costs

As far as costs go, it’s a bit tricky to work out the exact figures, because obviously I don’t make the same calls all the time, but broadly speaking, I don’t think there’s been any significant change in my calling patterns – I’ve not suddenly acquired a need to speak more to friends and family abroad, and I’m doing roughly the same amount of work as I was before.

There are also some minor complications in terms of working out exactly comparable figures for billing, with VAT at three different rates in the two years concerned.

All that said, the costs have turned out dramatically lower. BT’s ISDN2e service is, in my view, massively overpriced, and you pay for just about every little extra – customer controlled call forwarding, caller ID, and for each of the extra numbers allocated to the line. The lowest recent bill I ever had was for £147 a quarter, the vast bulk of which was line rental and service fees. By comparison, switching to the SIP trunk from Gamma Telecom (provided via my ISP, Wizards) means I pay just £10 per month, plus VAT. That gives me two channels, which is what I had with ISDN, and there are no additional monthly fees for the numbers – which were all ported over – or for things like call diversion, and caller ID, which can all be handled by the 3CX software PBX in any case.

Compare that with the BT bill that I have for April 2010. Line rental and other ‘basic’ charges were £151.41 plus VAT for a quarter. £9.90 of that was for BT’s ‘Total Care’ package, which I took out after their mind-boggling incompetence caused me various losses of service in the past.

Even stripping that out, the rental of an ISDN2e line on its own is £103.41 per quarter; the basic two numbers numbers allocated to the line were an extra £2.40, plus an additional £19.20 for the next eight. Plus £8.25 each for caller ID and call forwarding. That’s £141.51 per quarter, or £47.17 per month. So, I’m now paying just 21% of what I was paying BT, for a broadly equivalent service.

In terms of call charges, that same BT bill showed calls costing £24.96 plus VAT; in the first year of using the Gamma SIP trunks, my total call costs have been £75.46, so I can estimate a saving of around a quarter, depending on call patterns.

Of course, I still need broadband to provide the SIP trunks, but I had that anyway, so I’ve not factored that cost in to these calculations.

Roughly, I’m probably saving about £470 a year, plus VAT, even after ignoring the fees for BT care, and the £9 a quarter they have the nerve to charge people who don’t give them permission to dip into their bank accounts. That’s easily enough to have paid for a brand new PC to run the 3CX software and a couple of VoIP phones, if I didn’t have them lying around.

Reliability

What of reliability? That, of course, depends on the broadband, and I have had a couple of outages over the year, which naturally left me out of contact by phone too, for a few hours at a time. Depending on your point of view, that may or may not be critical. But I can live with the level of service I’ve received, especially since I’ve had problems with the ISDN line in the past that have left me with no service there – sometimes due to BT and at the end, due to a complete hardware failure of my ISDN PBX. So, broadly speaking, at the moment, I’d say things are pretty evenly split.

I’m certainly glad to have seen the back of BT’s over-priced ISDN2e service at last and all told, around £500 a year better off, too.

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