Good experience with VoIP service: Metrotel

Try­ing to cre­ate a more se­ri­ous look­ing in­fra­struc­ture for my con­sult­ing busi­ness, I de­cid­ed I need­ed a non-­mo­bile phone num­ber, and a way to re­ceive Fax­es [1]. While I would use this as a sec­ondary busi­ness num­ber, it’s just my home phone.

Since the costs for old-­fash­ioned phone ser­vice in Ar­genti­na are stupid [2] I start­ed in­ves­ti­gat­ing VoIP al­ter­na­tives.

On a sub­way tick­et, I found an ad for Metro­tel which is quite in­ter­est­ing.

First, there is the num­ber­s:

  • No in­stal­la­tion fee
  • $35 for 1000 min­utes
  • Cheap­er long dis­tance ser­vice

What they do is pro­vide you a sim­ple Handy­tone 486 box, and you plug it to your In­ter­net-­con­nect­ed LAN on one side, and a phone on the oth­er.

You can al­so plug in your land line and use the phone to call on ei­ther one, and an­oth­er eth­er­net de­vice (ex­am­ple, a com­put­er o switch). If you have on­ly one com­put­er, you just stack it on­to your ca­ble­mo­dem or what­ev­er.

Ab­so­lute­ly triv­ial in­stal­la­tion… un­less they ship you the wrong gad­get, as they did to me, send­ing me one that was dis­abled. But that’s ok, they fixed it in a cou­ple of days.

I have three small is­sues:

You have to sign a 12-­month con­trac­t. How­ev­er, if you take the small­est plan, the 12-­month con­tract is cheap­er than the con­nec­tion fee for Tele­fóni­ca de Ar­genti­na! And you still get 1200 free min­utes in that year!

You must use the gad­get. While it’s a sim­ple SIP de­vice, they won’t give you the us­er and pass­word, so you can’t use a soft­phone or a re­al VoIP phone with this ser­vice (un­less you hack it, but why both­er).

Be­cause of that, it’s kin­da tricky that the ads say you can use this phone line “ev­ery­where”. I mean, it’s true… if you have broad­band in­ter­net con­nec­tions with eth­er­net con­nec­tions “ev­ery­where”.

How­ev­er, if you do your due dil­li­gence and fig­ure out what you are get­ting in­to, it’s a very nice ser­vice, which works well, and has great cost ad­van­tages over the tra­di­tion­al al­ter­na­tive.

It’s spe­cial­ly great if you want to have a Buenos Aires phone num­ber and work from some­where else (for ex­am­ple, labour costs in oth­er prov­inces are usu­al­ly be­low 75% of those in Buenos Aires).

[1] Although Faxes make no sense whatsoever in 2007, some companies still ask me for a fax number.
[2] How about $181.50 to install and $36.50 monthly with no minutes included? And that’s for home service. Commercial service is more expensive still. Those are pesos, but trust me, they look just as high to me as dollars would for you. The beauties of local monopoly!

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