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Readers confirm: VoIP not ready for prime time

Nov 28, 20054 mins
Data CenterVerizonVoIP

In this week’s Backspin on “IT Things to be thankful for” I quote from a letter by reader Walt Tetschner on his experiences with Verizon’s VoiceWing. Here’s Walt’s comments in full:

I’ve used Verizon VoiceWing (Verizon’sVoIP) for the last 7 months. My conclusion is that VoIP is an absolute fraud! Performance is just awful. Calls are dropped regularly. Voice quality is generally okay, but seems to be sensitive to the voice (certain voices break up pretty badly). Call setup is a problem. After I dial a number, the delay varies. Hangup detection does not work reliably. It has been down for hours at atime.

About a month ago, I requested that Verizon move my DSL from one line to another. This became a bureacratic nightmare that caused me to lose DSL for three weeks. Needless to say, Verizon VoIP did not work while DSL was down. They still charged me though.

When I complained, they said that they aren’t responsible for what the Verizon VoIP people do. None of the three groups (ILEC, DSL and VoIP) have any communication with each other. In fact, the Verizon VoIP people announced that they do not support the Netgear router that the Verizon DSL provide.

I went with Verizon VoIP primarily to avoid the problem that you mention that most of the VoIP suppliers are trespassing by using bandwidth that they don’t own. Since Verizon owns the transport, I thought that I was safe. Little did I know.

As far as the economics, this is a sad joke. With 800 service and long distance at well under $0.05 per minute, [VoiceWing] VoIP never could save you much money.

The voice mail that VoiceWing provides is terrible. It reads the 10-digit phone number to be before every message that I receive. It reads it as a 10-digit string (and not like a person woulld say a number to you) so you are unable to make out the number. They aren’t even able to shut it off.

Incidently, technical support for VoiceWing is available between 8 and 5 only.

Wow. I wonder how unusual Walt’s experince is? My guess: Not very. If you can fail to service one customer that badly it points to an endemic problem that limits the success of your entire service offering.

After Walt’s comments I can’t help but laugh when I look at the Verizon VoiceWing home page — it relies on images of young, groovy people who seem to be in various stages of euphoria. Once again, marketing triumphs over grim reality.

I also got a letter from reader Bill Kelly:

As the ex-Chief Network Architect of Cisco Systems (until 2000), I’ve been absolutely stunned by poor customer support at Vonage. Three weeks ago, I placed a simple order with a number transfer, cancelled the number transfer and started a second order with a number transfer. That was three weeks ago. After daily phone conversations with tech support, my service is still not straightened out. I’ve had every conceivable thing done to my account except properly configure it. How could a company with so much promise be so screwed up?

That’s easy Bill. The goal is building a business and everything else is secondary to chasing the dollar. In other words ethics be damned. Customer care be damned. Charge!

Without regulatory constraints and with thousands, no, millions, of us sheep dazzled by the promise of services the phone company won’t give us with POTS lines and cheaper calls than the telcos will ever want to give us we’ve created a bubble that won’t burst but will deflate. I wonder if we’re at a tipping point in the evolution of VoIP? If some company does get it right — the technology, the quality, the customer service as well as the pricing — they could redefine and own the market. My money is on eBay and Google …


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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