Thought I'd share my experience trying to get NDSL + VoIP installed for my dad. My main point is for anyone doing something similar to realise the gotchas, but also to some extent I am pointing out problems with Slingshot's inconsistently great-then-terrible customer service in this.
Dad is a real estate agent. Thus phone calls are important. Missing a phone call can mean missing a sale. He usually diverts his home phone to his mobile while he is out and about. This means paying the horrendous mobile toll charges and sometimes he forgets to divert. Likewise, sometimes he forgets to undivert.
I thought I'd kill both those problems, and add a bunch of new features by moving him over from his current Telecom Land line + Slingshot DSL & Tolls to Naked DSL + VoIP from 2talk. Unfortunately Xnet and Snap internet class my dad's address as rural, therefore were going to charge an extra $20 on top of their normal urban plans. Slingshot don't differentiate, therefore I chose to keep with Slingshot.
Problem 1: Downtime
A couple of different people, plus 2talk and Slingshot themselves, warned me that trying to transition an existing DSL connection to naked DSL and porting the phone numbers (phone + faxability number) would most likely at least result in up to 48 hours downtime, and had a chance of all going pear shaped.
The best solution was to get the 2nd physical phone cable coming into the house connected by Telecom, and then to have NDSL provisioned on that (therefore having 2 DSL connections in parallel). Then get the numbers from the main line ported to 2talk and close the Telecom account in the process.
Slingshot refused to arrange the NDSL on a non-active line and insisted I get telecom to connect it first. NO worries there - organised telecom to connect the line (required a site visit as it hadn't been connected in >3 years - we used to use it for dial up net before DSL came along years ago). That went smoothly. $49 plus at least 1 month's rental - fine.
Problem 2: Crap Slingshot service
Called up slingshot to arrange the naked DSL, saying the 2nd line had been connected. No worries they say - best thing is to sign up via the net. No problem - did that. Put in the number of the new line (which naturally had no phone connected to it because it was only going to be temporary). Also gave them a cellphone number. Called up afterwards to make sure it had been done right, and also said how they need to not disconnect the original line - just take over the 2nd line - they said that'd be fine and noted it in the provisioning request. They said it'd be up to a week - no worries.
A week later I had heard nothing and the DSL hadn't been connected. Dad had called up a couple of times during the last couple of days in that week a) to get me added as an authority on the 2nd account, 2) for some technical help. I had also called up in that time to get the account number. So after that week was up I called up to find out what was happening. Apparently they had been trying to get hold of us for the past 2 days. They mentioned nothing when we had called the other times.
They hadn't called the cellphone - no calls were received on it and there were no messages left. I'm assuming they only tried to call the landline number only, which wasn't connected to any handset!. Grrrr! Nor had they emailed.
What they had been calling about was that the second line actually needed to be on a seperate telecom account (they had said the 2nd line was fine when I first ordered the connection). They couldn't do anything about it until that was done.
Fine. I went along to telecom and got a friend who works there to create a 2nd account and move the 2nd line over to it. Called up Slingshot again and gave them the details. They were going to call me back to tell me when it would be provisioned.
That was early afternoon Friday. Its now late monday afternoon and I hadnt heard from them so called them up. They say it'll be provisioned Wednesday 5pm. We'll see.
I submitted a complaint on their website, and sent their twitter account a message - neither have acknowledged or replied, and CSRs didn't seem interested in making it happen faster.
All the equipment is installed now. Using a Draytek 2700VGN. Have rewired the phone sockets to connect into 1 of its its FXS ports. Installed an RJ45 patch panel for the exchange lines, house phones, 3 ethernet sockets and the central DSL filter to terminate on to make it easy to move and change things in the future. For now have it connected over the existing DSL connection with the phone diverted to a temp local number. Is working well.
So my lessons:
- Moving to NDSL and porting to VoIP can result in downtime. It costs more to avoid this (eg extra line $49 plus rental $40 plus DSL connection $99), but may be worth it if you dont want to drop any calls.
- If you are going for the parallel setup, the 2nd line should be connected on a seperate account before you order the DSL connection. This may require a site visit by a Chorus tech.
- Make sure you know exactly what you need. Telecom was very easy to deal with when I knew exactly what they could do and exactly what I wanted them to do. Having a friend that works for them certainly helps. Also, the telecom-owned retail stores can do land line service as well, so can be worth going in to see them rather than trying to speak to someone in Manila.
- Slingshot isn't proactive about customer service. Don't believe their promises. Don't leave it to them to call you back or work things out. They need pestering to get their act together and the CSRs are often not trained to deal with slightly non-standard setups like this.
- Making a 'cut sheet' of where your plugs/sockets/wiring is going to go, and which sockets on the patch panel are what is very important!
- Allow time, much more than you might anticipate, to get it all done!
Here is the photo. Could do with a cable tidy thingy to tidy it up some more, and maybe a shelf under the panel to put the modem etc on, but it'll do for a home office job:
Edit: The saga continues:
Chorus were scheduled to provision NDSL on Wednesday the 7th. After a lengthy discussion with one of their tech support people on Tuesday the 6th, we established that a site visit was unnecessary seeing as the wiring is all done and phones are already using 2talk over the existing DSL connection. They said the tech would call when he's on his way out and that I'd just need to explain that the wiring is done. Unfortunately the tech never called and turned up when we were out and decided that no one was home so he wouldn't provision it at all (sigh).
No one called to let us know - we just found out by switching the modem to the 2nd line to find it wouldn't sync, and the phone service was still active on it. I called the next day (Thursday) to find out why it wasn't done, and they couldn't explain. On Friday the Slingshot twitter rep started replying and said the tech had visited and left. Today (Monday) the neighbours dropped off a Chorus/Transfield business card which it turns out had been left in their letter box hah.
Slingshot rescheduled it for today (Monday the 12th) but couldn't give me a time, so I called Chorus myself and got them to book it for the first job in the afternoon. Not sure why Slingshot couldn't do the same...
BUT I got a call an hour later saying that the tech's Van had broken down and now can't be done till tomorrow afternoon.
SIGH. This is what I mean when I say allow extra time.
I'll post more about the 2talk setup once NDSL is in and the numbers are ported. Am waiting on a support enquiry from them about Faxing - the PDF and TIFFs generated by dad's Canon scanner don't play nicely with their fax servers it seems.
Thus far 2talk has been working great on the existing DSL line. Being a Callplus company, as is Slingshot, the latency is great - about 20-30ms to the 2talk servers. Am using G711a seeing as bandwidth isn't an issue, and have set up ToS markings and QoS to give VoIP priority.
- 2talk can't detect when a cellphone goes to voicemail, so it's best to use a delay (I'm using 12s) for LocateMe diverts so that the phones ring long enough in the event that the cellphone is switched off (ie it goes straight to voicemail). Have a 17s delay on voicemail on top of that which is enough to make sure when the cellphone is on it rings for long enough, but goes to the 2talk voice mail instead of the cellphone voicemail. There are also options to remove your cellphone voicemail and instead divert it to a special 028 number that just rings and rings and rings so that your 2talk voicemail kicks in instead.
- Test, test, and test again. Try and test all scenarios of calls. Eg cellphone on, cellphone off, PC hammering P2P, calls to/from cellphones, calls to/from landlines.
- When doing a parallel setup like this, 2talk allows you to fake the outgoing Called ID (CLI) of your line. You enter the number in the web portal, then it gives you a PIN and calls that number. You enter the PIN and it confirms. That way your outbound calls can appear as if they are coming from the number that is to be ported later.
- Test the latency and jittter on your connection. You may need to use a different codec (eg G.729) to allow for jitter, or you may be able to adjust the packet length to be shorter.
- 2talk can do Call Recording and automatically forward the recordings to email. This is very handy when you lose that darn peice of paper you wrote whats-his-face's number on, or where you have a dispute with someone you've called, eg utility co, or someone has a dispute with you.
- 2talk also logs all calls including local calls (unlike Telecom), which is handy for businesses where someone might dispute you calling them.
- Use a decent 'buffer' of call credit. 2talk is a prepay only service. I have set it up to Auto-topup when it gets below $50. I would recommend allowing 1 - 2 months of calling credit as your base just in case something goes wrong with your credit card (ie you go broke!)
- Your overall experience will only be as good as your weakest link. If you use crappy phones and crappy modems etc, your experience will be poor. Use decent stuff to get decent results.
- For 2talk faxmail - if your scanner has programmable buttons that can automagically scan to PDF/TIFF and drop it onto an application: I used http://www.affixa.com/ which allows you to grab that scan and bring up a gmail (and other email apps) compose window with the attachment ready to go.
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Comment by cokemaster, on 5-Oct-2009 18:12
If you wanted to stay with Telecom, there are several services that could lower your landline diverting to mobile costs significantly.
Smartcall is an addon service that rings both landline and mobile at the same time. You can answer the call on the mobile without any divert fees and you have a shared mailbox between mobile & landline.
You can add this on a homeline, or a business landline.
Comment by cokemaster, on 5-Oct-2009 20:08
When you get smartcall - it covers the cost of voicemail.
Comment by hellonearthisman, on 6-Oct-2009 03:14
Great post, that two lines on one account was a bit of a suprise.
In 2 or 3 weeks Slingshot will be offering upgrade to their New NDSL plans that have databanking and a free data period.
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