2talk First Impressions

, posted: 15-May-2008 16:26

Have just signed up to the 2talk VoIP Service, thought I would make a post of my initial impressions.

Have been tinkering a little with VoIP for a while. I have used iTalk a fair bit with no troubles, but its a fairly basic service. Am interested in the WxC VFX service but I need and want to be able to use a softphone so for now they are not a contender. Have also used skype extensively for both PC - PC and PC - PSTN calls, and use Skype, MSN and GTalk for text chatting.

The signup process was fairly easy. They make you call them to confirm your details (although this may just be because I signed up a Canadian IP using an NZ physicql address, not sure). They allocate you an 028 number which is a mobile network number. It means you can get a free account, and they make money out of terminating calls from the PSTN which are charged as cellphone calls.

You can also get a local number from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Whangarei, Pukekohe, Kaikohe and Kaitaia, and they say they are looking to add more regions within a few months. You also get a seperate fax number to use with their Fax-Email/Email-Fax service, or to use with their seperate T.38 SIP Faxing gateway.

Number ports are available from the regions that they currently have local number ranges, however initially they allocate you an 028 number and you contact them seperately to arrange the port.

Once you have signed up and called them to activate the account, you receive an email with the login details which you can use with any SIP-compliant device including softphones, IP Phones, ATAs and IP-PBXs. For the latter they have a specific SIP trunking service.

The web based management portal is very extensive. It offers LocateMe (ring up to 3 alternative numbers at once untill I answer), and 'OneNumber' which allows multiple SIP registrations for a single number. This is on top of standard forwarding, call waiting, answerphone services. There is also the ability to assign extension numbers if you have multiple lines on the account for quick dialing the other lines. This essentially turns it into an IP centrex system. There are also business plans that allow DID blocks and multiple simultaneous calls and so on.

There are also some nice features such as the remote call back service that allows you to call your number, hang up, and you will be called back and then you can dial an number and it will be charged at the normal 2talk rate for both the call to your remote number and the outwards call. There is also a built in 'Group Room' feature which allows people to either call a 2talk number and enter a pin, or just call your number if you have it set to go straight to the room, and they are entered into essentially a Voice Chatroom.

There are also date/time services like wake up calls, and you can control the LocateMe, Call Forwarding (forward on no answer, busy or unavailable) and Call Screening based on up to 3 schedules. There is also the ability to reject anonymous and/or blacklisted caller IDs.

On top of that there are address book and calender modules as well as the ability to add credit and add additional lines from the portal. A screen shot of the settings part of the portal is here

To test it out I downloaded Conterpath's Free X-Lite SIP client and plugged in the settings and used a basic Logitech analogue headset through the onboard sound card on my laptop. Made one call to a landline in Tauranga for around 30 mins, one to a lower hutt landline for 1hr and one to a Vodafone cellphone in Auckland for a couple of minutes. All of them said they could hear my even better than they usually do for calls, and I could hear all 3 extremely clearly. There was the occaisional slight fade, but thats not surprising seeing as I am in Eastern Canada. My ping rate is fairly stable from here to 2talk.co.nz - sits mostly on 210ms with the occaisional spike to 220 - 230ms. Am looking forward to testing it out back in NZ, and also plan to set it up on my father's PC to test calling between PCs which assumably should be excellent quality.

It's hugely better than using Skype for PSTN calls, and about the same price per minute but there is no connect fee. An inbound landline number is slightly more expensive than Skype, but if you make a lot of calls its far cheaper seeing as the $15/mo plan includes 500 minutes to 40+ countries. Of course you can just use the free plan and give people your 028 number, although this will cost them the same as a cellphone call. EDIT: Turns out you can buy a local number with the free acount for $7/mo with no included minutes.

So far I am very impressed by the feature set and pricing structure. Will continue to use it and see if I run into any issues. Will be looking forward to getting an IP phone to hook up to it, and would ideally like to try it from a Wifi SIP handset as well as from a Smartphone using the data connection as well as Wifi.

I think they could set up quite a good business if they decided to become an MNVO - could provide a single number for landline and cell calls as well as texting. If they could charge the same rate, with perhaps a fixed surchage for calls from the cell that reduces for a monthly contract, they'd be onto a winner.

They also have a customised version of the Open Wengo softphone client. It also connects to MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Gtalk, and Jabber. It has the advantage of built in SMS and a balance display, but functionally it isn't particularly complete compared to X-Lite and others. Its nice that you can do all the IMs in one, but as a softphone its a bit basic. It allows conferencing, but only if initiated without a call in progress (ie, you can't add a 2nd caller mid-call). It also doesnt seem to offer many codecs.

Only downside so far is that they don't 'support' emergency calling. That doesnt mean you can't call 111, but they are just shielding themselves from the liability and hassle of reliable connections to 111 and the physical location problem.

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Comment by nate, on 15-May-2008 17:06

You are correct - since your IP address doesn't map to a NZ location, you have the additional step of verifying who you are. This step doesn't appear when you sign up for NZ - this is purely to stop fraud from our overseas "Nigerian prince" friends.

One hint - make sure you register your credit card to auto top up so that you can continue talking without worrying about being disconnected.

Author's note by mushion22, on 16-May-2008 06:30

Yep, have done that. I also added a Wellington local number. Seems a little dodgy seeing as my registered address is in Tauranga, but they have no Tauranga number ranges yet so maybe that's why. Rego'd a Wgtn number seeing as I have lived there for the last 4 years and plan to return, but at the moment I only have my family home address in Tauranga to officially go by.

Am yet to determine whether I still have to pay for local calls to Wellington on the GoFree plan seeing as I've added a local number, and also whether it means the forwards are still free. I would assume not because they wouldn't be making any money terminating a call to a local number.

Other thing i've found is that the outgoing Caller ID displays as 4974xxxx rather than 644974xxxx when I call my Canadian cell which might be mildly annoying for some people.

Author's note by mushion22, on 17-May-2008 08:34

Can confirm that locals calls are free with a local number on the GoFree plan. Transfers do indeed attract the standard per minute fee to transfer from the local number to others.

Comment by sbiddle, on 17-May-2008 09:19

Just a small correction. 028 numbers aren't "mobile" they are "non geographical" numbers.

There are a couple of small issues with the way that 02x numbers are used in New Zealand. 028 numbers are billed at the same rate as other mobile calls and 2talk receive this as termination revenue, this termination rate was set for mobile carriers, not landline providers. This same issue has raised it's head in the UK with some telcos refusing to interconnect calls with a VoIP provider who was doing the same thing.

Should 2talk receive revenue for terminating calls on their network? yes they should. Should they receive the same revenue as Vodafone who have a mobile network to maintain? No they should not.

Author's note by mushion22, on 17-May-2008 09:37

Ah yes, Ok sorry I used layman's terms. For all intense and purposes under current circumstances for a person calling you it is the same as a mobile number on another network, while technically as sbiddle points out they are 'non-geographical number ranges.'

I give them credit for creativity.

I dont see why they shouldn't charge the same fee as VF of Tecom for termination to a non-geographical network for calls made to that number range. They too have to operate backend equipment and are not making monthly revenue on outgoing calls from those numbers, and are certainly not charging the same rates and VF or Tcom for prepaid calling. Their system is obviously not as mobile as a cell network, but is 'non-geographical' in that it is not bound to any particular toll area.

It depends whether you are giving preference to cell phone companies as the only form of a non-geographical service.

I think it is narrow minded to say they should not charge simply because another company has higher costs. Vodafone and Telecom also make revenue from monthly fees, relatively high outgoing call rates, data, and so on.

I prefer the Canadian system where there is no such thing as a 'non geographical' number. All cellphones have a local number assigned to them and the termination rate is charged as a 'priviledge fee' for a customer who wishes to have their local number terminated on a mobile device.

Fido even have a service that gives you a GSM/Wifi handset, and routes calls over VoIP at normal landline rates (if for free) when you are in range of your WIFI access point, and over GSM with a termination fee if you are not (the 'termination fee' is usually rolled into your monthly fee unless you are on prepay).

Author's note by mushion22, on 17-May-2008 09:42

(the Fido example is why I say 2talk should become an MNVO so they could offer a similar service that also extends to IP phones with a cell phone as essentially a super long range cordless phone, but I assume Tcom/VF wouldn't have a bar of that!).

Comment by malcolmd, on 18-May-2008 11:24

Since the other networks charge a mobile call rate to call a 2talk number, there really is no issue over us collecting inbound call revenue.  It also enables us to offer free international and mobile diverts to anywhere the cost of termination is less than the inbound revenue we collect (including Canada).  And if you want your callers to avoid the mobile call cost, you can pay $7/month for a landline number with free local calls.
My 2talk phone is a Nokia N95 WiFi/GSM with the 028 number as the primary number, but it also calls the gsm number after a couple of seconds delay so I only have to publish one number.  Also, if I am moving out of range during a WiFi call, I can simply press ### on the phone and it switches in-call to the mobile network (set up on the 2talk website).  If you are out-of-WiFi range, outbound calls can be made by automatic callback as you can set the phone up to register to callback.2talk.co.nz and it will disconnect the call, then dial you back and dial the other party.

Comment by mark2c, on 2-Jun-2008 09:05

Hi, I've recently signed up with 2talk. I was able to get a Wellington number with the plan for free (ie could choose either 04 or 028). Suspect this is a recent change.

Author's note by mushion22, on 2-Jun-2008 10:43

For free with the $15 a month plan?

Author's note by mushion22, on 2-Jun-2008 11:01

By the way, I had an issue with the callback service - it was charging callbacks to landlines as a mobile call due to a caller id issue with my canadian number but they fixed this and credited my account without me having to ask for it which I am pleased with.

Comment by scottjames84, on 22-Jul-2008 14:19

I love 2talk :-D I have been using 2talk since December 2007; I am in the US, and have a dunedin number so all my friends and family back in dunedin can call me for free and I can call them too.

I have the unlimited + 100 cell mins and have call forwarding call my cellphone after 8 seconds of not picking up the phone which is connected to a Linksys SPA-2102 and since 2talk can not distinguish my US cellphone number with a US landline number it means my friends and family can call my cellphone as part of my unlimited mins not costing them anything.

Thanks 2talk you are awesome.

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Hamish Goodwin
New Zealand

Have a Bachelor of IT (Hons) majoring in Info Systems. Mainly focused on management in strategy with a bunch of development as well. Now a Capacity Planner in Wellington (No i don't really know what that means either...)

Like to play around with various gadgets, particularly networks and communications. Also like to babble and make bold assumptions and statements about various topics that catch my attention.

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