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VoicePulse Telephone Service Review

Traditional phone service is as good as dead. Vonage started it all and VoicePulse adds to VoIP’s bright future by offering a bunch of exclusive – and highly useful – digital features. If you’re sick of high phone bills, higher long-distance charges, and taxes and fees that seem out of proportion, VoIP just might be the solution for you.

VoicePulse offers more advanced features than its biggest competitor and a faster response time on its website. If you have a reliable high-speed internet connection and want to reduce your telephone costs, we suggest you take a good look at what VoicePulse offers.

Introduction

One of the hot topics for 2004 was Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, a service that allows you to use regular telephones on your high-speed internet connection and get rid of your landline service. With Vonage leading the way, several companies have emerged as important players in the communications industry, spurred on by the relatively low cost of entry to the marketplace. Piggy-backing on the existing internet and telecom infrastructure, VoIP providers are able to provide telephone service and advanced digital features at a fraction of the cost that traditional phone companies offer.

2005 looks to be an even bigger year for such providers and while we were thoroughly impressed by Vonage’s VoIP service, the industry leader now faces some stiff competition from well-known heavyweights like AT&T and Time Warner, as well as smaller startups like Packet8 and VoicePulse.

Features and Pricing

Like Vonage, VoicePulse is a New Jersey-based company and like Vonage, VoicePulse currently offers a $24.99 unlimited local and long distance calling plan. But while the two systems share several similarities, they do have some important differences.

VoicePulse service hooks your phones up with your broadband connection with the Sipura SPA-2000 Analog Telephone Adapter. At less than half the size of the Motorola VT-1000 used by Vonage, the SPA-2000 features two telephone lines out and a single Ethernet-in port. Whereas the VT-1000 can be used as a simple router, allowing you to hook a single computer through it to access the internet, the SPA-2000 needs an existing network to plug into. You can either buy the SPA-2000 from an authorized reseller or obtain one for $79.99 with your VoicePulse order.

Besides the much cheaper pricing of its VoIP service as compared to plain old telephone service (POTS), it’s the features of VoicePulse and other VoIP solutions that really set them apart.

Included free with the VoicePulse service are some advanced digital features such as:

CallerID with Name

Call Waiting with CallerID

Call Transfer

Return Call *69

3-way Calling

Enhanced Digital Voicemail

7-Digit Dialing

Contact Lists

Distinctive Ring

Speed Dial

Anonymous Call Block

CallerID Block

Directory Assistance Block

Do Not Disturb

Calling Filters

International Call Block

Telemarketer Block

Call Forward

Line Unavailable Forward

Call Hunt / Find Me

Multi-Ring

For a complete listing of all features and an in-depth description of each, visit the VoicePulse website at http://www.voicepulse.com/features/default.aspx.

Features and Design Cont’d

While some of these features are also offered by other VoIP providers, VoicePulse heavily promotes the fact that it has the most extensive list of free advanced features.

The VoicePulse voicemail system includes the ability to receive email notifications of new messages, and even the option of having that message attached to the email as a .WAV file. Vonage offers the email notification as well, but lacks the attachment option which is something we found quite useful. You can set the time in seconds for your phone to ring before voicemail takes the call – anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds.

Another nice feature of the VoicePulse system is distinctive ring, which allows you to identify specific callers by tying their number to one of four different rings on your phone.

What sets VoicePulse apart from its competitors, however, are its privacy features. Included with the service are features such as Telemarketer Block, which hangs up on many automated telemarketing calls before you even answer, and Anonymous Call Block. VoicePulse’s Do Not Disturb feature allows you to specify times during the day that you don’t want to receive calls, automatically sending callers to your voicemail. If you don’t want calls to come through while you sleep, simply configure the Do Not Disturb feature and you won’t be woken up. The system also has an option to prompt users to hit a key if their call is an emergency, allowing them to get through if necessary.

You can also apply call filters to your account, sending specific callers to voicemail while letting others through, and even making some callers hear an “out of service” recording or always getting a busy signal when they call you. Call filters also take advantage of email notifications, giving you the option of receiving an email when filters have been used on a call placed to your number.

Another advantage that VoIP has over traditional phone service is its web-based administration and account access. With VoicePulse’s service, every aspect of your account can be accessed and edited through its secure website. One issue we had – and still have – with the Vonage service is the slow response time of its website and account center. This is a non-issue with VoicePulse as its servers seem to be nowhere near as bogged-down as their competitor’s. The SPA-2000 Analog Telephone Adapter can also be administered through your web browser, allowing you to see its current status and adjust several settings.

Voice Pulse Web Interface
You can view call stats in real-time via the web console

If you want to be able to quickly call your most often called numbers, VoicePulse allows you to create “Speed Dial” entries on your account web page. Assign a phone number to a Speed Dial number, such as “1#” and you can make calls with the press of only two buttons.

One option that VoicePulse included with our test system is what’s called an open access plan. This allows you to use the VoicePulse system with other compatible adapters or, as we did, with soft-phones on a PDA, laptop, or desktop computer. We tried the Xten X-Lite softphone with our VoicePulse account and had absolutely no problem placing or receiving phone calls through our laptop computer.

Voice Pulse Soft Phone

Voice Pulse “Softphone”

Setup and Usage

Setup of the VoicePulse system was insanely easy. Simply plug the SPA-2000 into your computer network, plug a phone into a jack on the device, power it up and you’re ready to go. We were using our VoicePulse account within two minutes of opening up the box. Certain routers or networks may require a little more tweaking to get the service up and running but if you have DHCP enabled and have an available Ethernet port, you should have no problem whatsoever.

Some people may be concerned that voice quality over VoIP networks is not as clear as over regular POTS. That is absolutely not the case as our experience with both Vonage and VoicePulse proves. If you didn’t know any better, you’d never know that you weren’t on a regular phone line. There is absolutely no lag time and no sacrifice of voice quality.

Using our online account was just as easy, with all features being easily accessible and basically self-explanatory. Voicemail setup and usage was equally as easy and intuitive.

If you plan on keeping your existing phone number, VoicePulse is usually able to port numbers from POTS carriers to its customer’s new accounts. It could take from a few days to several weeks, but the company gives you a temporary number while you wait.

Comparison Shopping

It only makes sense for us to compare VoicePulse to Vonage, the industry leader. While both services offer the same basic features and much more in the way of advanced features than traditional phone service offers, they do have some differences. For one, VoicePulse does not have a 911 service. While they say that Vonage’s E-911 service is not “true 911″ – we have tested it and it does work. The lack of this feature with VoicePulse may be a turn-off to some potential customers.

As with any VoIP solution, if your internet connection goes down, so does your phone. The same holds true if you lose power in your home. The impact of these events can be minimized by putting your cable modem and telephone converter on an uninterruptible power source, like the APC Back-UPS ES725 reviewed here.

It seems to us that Vonage and VoicePulse each have certain downfalls and strengths that basically put them in a dead heat overall. Each service has some negative aspects, such as VoicePulse’s lack of 911 service, but each also have some very desirable features, such as the small size of the SPA-2000 and the advanced filtering options available with VoicePulse. VoicePulse’s current $24.99 unlimited promotion requires a one-year contract which might make their unlimited plan less desirable than Vonage’s offerings, but the price war is heating up.

The bottom line is, if you want to save money on your phone bill and enjoy the benefits of advanced digital features, you can’t go wrong with either Vonage or VoicePulse.

Conclusion

Traditional phone service is as good as dead. Vonage started it all and VoicePulse adds to VoIP’s bright future by offering a bunch of exclusive – and highly useful – digital features. If you’re sick of high phone bills, higher long-distance charges, and taxes and fees that seem out of proportion, VoIP just might be the solution for you.

VoicePulse offers more advanced features than its biggest competitor and a faster response time on its website. If you have a reliable high-speed internet connection and want to reduce your telephone costs, we suggest you take a good look at what VoicePulse offers.

Highs:

  • Cost savings over POTS
  • Call filter options
  • Ease of setup and use

Lows:

  • No 911 offering
  • 1-year contract required for best plan

Score: 9


Specs:


  • Enhanced Voicemail
  • Online Account Center
  • Phone Shortcuts

    Ringing & Dialing

  • 7-Digit Dialing
  • Contact Lists
  • Distinctive Ring
  • Speed Dial

    Privacy & Blocking

  • Anonymous Call Block
  • CallerID Block
  • Directory Assistance Block
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Filters
  • International Call Block
  • Telemarketer Block

    Forwarding

  • Call Forward
  • Line Unavailable Forward
  • Filters
  • Call Hunt / Find Me
  • Multi-Ring

    Other

  • Bandwidth Saver

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