Blog Post

How Do Wireline Voice Services Measure Up?

If you are like me, then you’re one of the many millions who have cut the cord with their landline and gone all wireless. However, that doesn’t mean people don’t want phones for their homes. Of course, for them, there are many options — some that use traditional telephony like AT&T (s T) and others like Vonage (s VG), which provide broadband-based voice service. It’s hard for folks to pick the one that is the best and most reliable.

Audio Quality Rankings
  • Comcast Digital Voice
  • Verizon VoiceWing
  • AT&T Landline
Service Reliability Rankings
  • AT&T landline
  • Time Warner Digital Phone
  • Verizon VoiceWing

Keynote Systems recently conducted a study (link to PDF) of some of the more popular services — AT&T VoIP, AT&T Landline, Comcast Digital (s cmcsa), Time Warner Digital (S TWC), Verizon VoiceWing (VoIP), Packet8 (s EGHT), Vonage, Lingo and Truevoice. According to their study, AT&T’s landline service was the most reliable service, while in terms of voice quality, Comcast’s Digital Voice came out on top.

I wish Keynote had not been stingy and shared complete rankings instead of these teaser results. Nevertheless, even the very limited data they made available show that pure-play VoIP services ranked pretty low, hinting at poor quality and less reliability.

More importantly, not a single service measures up to being both reliable and exhibiting good quality; and though Verizon VoiceWing is a good enough compromise, it’s not clear if you can actually sign up for the service. I tried on their web site and failed — only existing customers can seemingly log into the site.

These results align closely to my own findings — while AT&T used to work, the quality of the calls was just horrible. I could not make a single call to India without redialing. So I gave up that service and then opted for Comcast. I very quickly realized that spending $40 a month for a voice service when I could easily get nearly unlimited minutes from my mobile phone just didn’t make much sense. Good-bye, Comcast.

I would love to know which service you use and what your real-world experience is.

14 Responses to “How Do Wireline Voice Services Measure Up?”

  1. I’ve used ViaCom for 4 years, or tried to use it. When I signed up for the Buy one yr/Get one Free, it put me on a Business plan. I only wanted a backup line for safety in case something happened to my cell. Numerous phone calls with no success. My mom and friends said I sounded like a robot when on a call, and an incoming call bumped my internet connection. I’ve kept it for my own sense of safety and also hoping that I could negotiate with them, to no avail. It’s going next month. We’ve considered NuVox for the office, but have concerns about sharing bandwith between intensive internet use for 10 users and 6 phone lines. Any suggestions for biz solutions? For home, I’ll use my cell and Skype or Magic Jack.

  2. I know it’s frustrating to only get a slice of the overall results, and we get this question with many of the 20+ research reports we publish per year. We always showcase the top companies and highlight best practices to emulate. It might be clichéd, but we’ve found it more useful to shine the light on where the industry in question should be going, rather than where it’s been.

    In this case, the data shows improvements, and growth opportunities. From 72,500 calls we made through our Test and Measurement network for this study, 8 out of 9 providers gave us dial tone 99.9% of the time or better and every provider had fewer than 0.1% of their calls with dropped audio. But only two of the seven providers were perfect. Comcast proved that it is possible to have excellence in audio quality and delay.

    But there is real room to grow MOS scores, which is necessary for VoIP to gain more traction, or everyone will turn to their mobiles just like Om.

  3. This discussion is all moot. What doesn’t seem to be addressed by ANYONE is the fact that call quality has hardly changed in practically 80 years. The truth is, landline operators have a golden opportunity: the chance to capitalize on demand for improved audio fidelity. And yet they FAIL! Of course! What else would we expect from CEOs nowadays?

    My GOD. Must EVERYBODY FAIL these days?

  4. I use Packet 8 VoIP by Eight x Eight and pay just $199 PER YEAR plus $4 per month for taxes (billed monthly automatically to my credit card) and in return I receive unlimited calling in the US, very inexpensive international calling, internet access to change just about everything instantly including finding me where ever I am located by automatically calling up to 3 different numbers to do so (I use that feature a lot because I can change the numbers the service calls instantly from any internet access if I forget to while at home), call blocking (great for my kids), the ability to silence all phones so the calls go directly to voice mail (I work some nights and sleep during the day), etc. The plan includes 3 way calling, call waiting and voice mail plus many more features that I do not use like video phones, faxing and multiple lines. I can even make international calls on my iPhone for 4 cents per minute with the service. I have used this VoIP service for 3 years and would never go back to a land line and I feel the quality is far superior to using just cell service. I also like having multiple permanent phones at home because my kids always seem to misplace their cell phones.

  5. AT&T Callvantage has also worked well for me. Excellent voice quality, and no difficulty connecting to NOIDA, Bangalore, Helsinki, etc. One of the really interesting and perhaps under publicized features is being able to dial into an access port (from your mobile phone or airport lounge, for example) that gives you the same rates and functionality as if you were at home.

    AT&T Callvantage customer service and tech support have also been outstanding, in my opinion. In one case, I had brought my VOIP modem with me to a hotel, and the hotel’s network provider was blocking VOIP so you would pay dollars per minutes to make calls. The AT&T support person quickly determined that the hotel was using AT&T network connectivity through a reseller, called up that company’s network admin and got them to unblock the port, all while I was on the line.

    I was and still am impressed! Seems like they really have their act together. The voice quality of Skype is not adequate for my purposes, which often involve long conversations to build u personal rapport, etc.

    We have no business relationship with AT&T; I’m just an ordinary Callvantage subscriber, but the service seems to be pretty good, and I’ve used it for about 5 years now.

  6. I’ve been very pleased with my service from Vonage the past four years. In fact, it’s been the best phone service I’ve ever had for home and business. It really blew away the quality, options and price offered by AT&T here in Dayton, Ohio.

    I’ve also got Skype In and Skype Out accounts. The call quality is a lot more variable, and the lack of proper Caller ID services on Skype is a bit maddening for both incoming and outgoing calls. (This is a problem they really need to fix).

    Anyway, probably the biggest marketing point that Vonage, Skype and other VoIP players fail to bring across to new customers is that the call quality is very much dependent on the quality of your broadband service. As for me, I have really nice service using Time Warner’s Roadrunner service, so my call quality is great.

    Bad broadband service is probably the cause of the majority of Vonage’s customer churn, I feel.

  7. We have land line service with RCN in suburban Washington DC. The wires they bring to the house are standard POTS (plain old telephone service). However the signal converts to digital over coax near the house and then converts to fiber optic someplace in the neighborhood. So, we have digital service, but not voice over the public internet. The quality is excellent. I like having multiple phones around the house, and use 3 of the newest Panasonic DECT phones along with some older phones. The new cordless phones compete better with cell phones on features, including a phone book and talking caller ID.

    I send and receive faxes occasionally, and need the regular phone for that. I also feel better that if we call 911 on the land line, the operator will know the address exactly. The phone is part of a package deal, along with broadband internet.

    Along with the land line, my son and I each have prepaid cell phones, with different vendors. Those are quite cheap for occasional use. We use Skype, but not often.