Auckland-based ISP WorldXChange is jumping on the internet phone bandwagon with its Xnet VFX service, launched at the end of August.
For $11.25 including GST a month, residential Xnet VFX customers get free local calls. Furthermore, calls between VFX customers are free, while national calls and international calls to Europe, the US and Australian cost just 5¢ a minute. Mobile calls, which are usually the most expensive for both residential and business customers, are charged at 30¢ per minute to New Zealand subscribers.
Subscribers are also able to transfer their Telecom landline number to the VFX service, an important consideration for small business customers. WxC has local numbers nationally as well, if needed.
Voicemail is also included in the price, as is three-way calling, call waiting, and anonymous call rejection and call forwarding. The service will eventually include extra features for small businesses, such as mini IP PBXes and extensive call logging, WxC says.
WxC is launching the service in conjunction with Cisco, using the networking giant’s Linksys routers. DSL customers get the Linksys WAG54GP2 router, with a built-in 4-port switch, wireless access point, firewall, VPN capabilities, and an analogue phone adapter with two ports, for $250, including GST. However, I reviewed the service using a Linksys SPA2100 2-port phone adapter as my Wired Country connection is delivered as straight Ethernet.
Setting up the Xnet VFX service was mercifully easy compared with other VoIP offerings I’ve tried in the past. Minimal configuration was needed; it was just a simple matter of assigning IP addresses to the network interfaces on the SPA2100, and I could start making calls.
Once configured, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the call quality was. The only difference between landline calls and ones made on the VFX service is that the latter usually sound better. Calls connected quickly and reliably — to local and national landline numbers, mobiles and overseas.
The service is set up to use the G.729 CODEC rather than G.711, which provides very good quality but at the cost of high bandwidth utilisation. Even so, the audio on the VFX service was excellent, with no discernible artifacts. At this stage, I should point out that the Wired Country service has both higher upstream and lower latency than Telecom-supplied DSL. Your experience of the VFX service could vary from this, depending on the type of broadband service used.
This should change once “naked DSL”, or Telecom broadband-only connections become available, as it’s expected these will have better upstream speeds and none of the artificially induced delay variation currently used to degrade VoIP and other real-time applications.
There are also extra features on VFX that Telecom’s service doesn’t provide, such as a web portal to manage most aspects of your internet calling activities. It’s possible to get email alerts for missed calls, have voicemail forwarded as an audio file and divert calls to other phones. Access to voicemail can also be set up from designated phone numbers, such as a mobile phone. The web portal is feature-rich without being difficult to use.
For the money, Xnet VFX is hard to beat as a VoIP solution. The best thing about it is one tends not to think of it as VoIP, with all the complexities that can entail. It works no differently to a normal Telecom landline.