Voice Carrier: Hosted VoIP with straightforward pricing.
Voice Carrier, Inc., headquartered in San Jose, Calif., has the distinction of inventing yet another acronym in the telecommunications industry: CaaS, which stands for Communications as a Service. The firm, which has been around since 2007, recently changed its name from Ring Carrier, to better emphasize the strategic goal of driving voice communication convergence across multiple platforms including computers, tablets, smartphones, and SIP phones, which may traverse different networking paradigms and enterprise geographies.
The company has based its architectural platform on proprietary extensions to the Linux-based open source Asterisk technology. The patent-pending design combines multiple virtual PBX building blocks into a single system that includes real-time transcoding (thus supporting end systems based upon different voice encoding technologies), geographic failover, and guaranteed quality of service (QoS) for SIP trunking. This architecture also allows the firm to offer phone services to the small and medium business market that previously been typical of much larger enterprises, with features that include enterprise-grade PBX capabilities, a highly scalable, virtualized VoIP fabric, and a simplified Web-based front end to facilitate service provisioning and phone extension management.
Voice Carrier sells its services to customers in the continental United States and Canada, and has plans to expand their coverage internationally. Their target market is small and medium size businesses with 4 to 50 employees.
The system supports a number of phones, including SIP, softphones, and analog phones through ATA converters. Phones can be purchased or financed through Voice Carrier, and are then preconfigured and programmed by the company to support the customers requirements. Customers that already own SIP phones that are supported by Voice Carrier also have the option of paying the company to reprogram those devices and then reusing them. All of the pre-configuration effort pays off in reducing the time it takes to connect a phone to the PBX from days or weeks to minutes, typically.
Given the Asterisk basis for Voice Carriers platform, the feature list is extensive. The capabilities are divided into four major groups: incoming call management, outgoing call management, message management, and other features.
The incoming call features include caller ID, call screening and call waiting, call return (*69) and forwarding, simultaneous ring and follow-me services, do not disturb (*78), plus follow me services.
The outgoing call capabilities are caller ID blocking (*67), last number redial, speed dialing, and three-way calling.
In the message management category are voicemail, voicemail-to-e-mail conversion and fax-to-e-mail conversions.
Other system capabilities include an auto attendant, music on hold, call logs and recording, a conference bridge, dial-by-name directory, and mobile applications.
The Asterisk-based system also comes with extensive administrative tools, allowing each user the capability to configure each of their extensions to set up voicemail-to-e-mail, call forwarding, and find-me/follow-me, as well as to view call detail records to determine specific extension usage.
The company provides support on a 24 x 7 x 365 basis, delivered by both phone and e-mail. The companys Website includes an extensive, searchable knowledge base, plus plans for an online chat support facility that is currently under development.
Voice Carrier also has the distinction of one of the most straightforward pricing plans in the industry. Unlike many of their competitors, the firm offers a fully featured PBX with all options enabled, and no contract. Three different pricing options are available. The 2-line system (where a "line" is defined as a connection between the customers system and the outside world) is targeted at firms with 1-5 employees. This package offers unlimited extensions, one conference call at a time, auto attendant, and unlimited calling for $59.95 per month. The 5-line system is designed for 6-10 employees, providing unlimited extensions, two simultaneous conference calls, a customized auto attendant, and unlimited calling for $129.95 per month. For larger firms, the 8-line system can handle 11-20 employees, and comes with unlimited extensions, three simultaneous conference calls, a customized auto attendant, and unlimited calling for $209.95 per month. For all three systems, additional phone lines are priced at $29.95, with additional phone numbers costing $2.00. Voice Carrier also offers a 30 day trial of the service, including two VoIP phones, two phone numbers, and five extensions, at no charge.
Voice Carrier also offers an adjunct Internet fax service that intercepts incoming fax transmissions, converts those transmissions to PDF files, and stores those files in users' online accounts. Incoming faxes can be received by either local or toll-free numbers, and do not traverse the VoIP PBX system, thus never consuming voice networking resources. Recipients can receive the fax as an e-mail attachment, or be notified by e-mail when the fax is received. To send a fax, the user creates a message on their computer, and then attaches the document to be faxed. The system also enables users to read, send, receive and forward faxes from any web-enable mobile phone. Pricing for the fax service is based upon the number of pages sent/received per month, and is available at several different service levels.
Further information on the Voice Carrier solutions can be found at www.voicecarrier.com. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.