Bell, Rogers, Yak, Comwave, Vonage, Primus, Telehop – who offers the best home phone value and which provider should you choose ?

by Jeff Wiener on February 16, 2010

Shopping for common household items is hard enough, but it turns out that shopping for a Canadian home phone provider is even more complicated. Plunging through the myriad of terms, conditions and contracts can be a nightmare for those not studious enough in the reading of fine print and this makes finding a phone company a pretty tough prospect.

As I’ve outlined over the last few days, my ongoing struggle with Rogers has really pushed my buttons. It’s not that the quality of the home phone is inferior. If anything, the quality of their home phone line was perfect. Never a hiccup. Sound quality was perfect.

Their dishonesty over rates has been enough motivation for me to turn my eyes elsewhere though in terms of a phone service. My main goal has been to find a phone company that offers reliable home phone service (whether it’s VOIP or traditional phone service), but that’s turning out to be harder than you might think.

So why am I switching ?

It’s a matter of principle really. I feel cheated by Rogers misleading advertising and poor response to my customer service complaint. I won’t rehash the story but you can read more about that here.

I talked recently about dishonesty in advertising. There’s really no way to know that any of Canada’s providers can be universally trusted, of course, and that can make going to a new provider a bit of a headache.

Rogers, as I’ve noted, continues to advertise rates that are set to increase in weeks. The odd thing is, Rogers is still advertising a Classic phone plan rate of $24.95 / month for a service they know will be increasing by $3 / month in 2 weeks. There is still no disclaimer on their web site. It’s just plain dishonest.

Shopping for a new service provider isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. So, I asked myself a few questions before staring this shopping exercise:

Do I need a home phone ? Do I care if the home phone service is reliable ?

At this point it occurred to me … I wrote a post a few months ago titled: The Office phone is Dead. It occurred to me that the HOME PHONE is also dead. Cellular phone adoption is at an all time high. Most people in North America have a cell phone attached to their person like another limb. So why do people need a home phone ?

Many don’t. Some more traditionalists still do. And people requiring access to 911 services still do.

I realized why I still need a home phone line when I was providing instruction to my daughter’s baby sitter this past week-end. I needed to explain to her how to dial “911” from our Norstar phone system. “Pick line 1 first. Then dial 911”.

So I would call the home phone the “necessary evil”. Something I will eventually cancel in favour of my cell phone, but until then, I’ve got to grin and bear the $30 / month.

So, where do I go ?

I checked out comparable services from Vonage, Primus, Comwave, TeleHop, Yak, Rogers, and Bell Canada to see who can save me the most money and who can offer me the best bang for my buck.

The metrics I have used to determine where I will sign up include:
Quality, Features, and Price.

Not all service is created equal. Some providers offer VoIP service and others offer voice over the traditional BELL phone line. My concern with regards to true VoIP is that the provider is running their service over the internet access coming into my home. Crappy internet service means crappy voice quality.

Before doing the research for this article I had just assumed that providers like YAK were VoIP providers. Surprise. Yak’s service is a traditional line resell, meaning that their service is NOT VoIP. They are using the Bell feed coming into the home. The others, as far as I could tell are VoIP providers: Comwave, Telehop, Primus, Vonage, and Rogers all use VoIP, although Rogers is slightly different because they own the pipe coming into my home.

One of the downfalls of using VoIP is – no internet means no home phone. Crappy internet means crappy home phone. No electricity or power failure means no home phone means no 911 access.

From a pure VOICE quality perspective I would suggest the best service would come from Bell and Yak followed by Rogers followed by the other players.

I’m not overly bothered by the poor voice quality considering both my wife and I have cell phones and we rarely use the home phone. I am concerned about having access to 911 though, but the fact that it might go out during a power failure doesn’t bother me much.

But, the above is worth noting when making a decision.

Believe it or not, my first choice for a new VoIP provider isn’t even listed on the list. I had assumed that I could get a Canadian SkypeIn number and could transfer my home phone number to Skype. NOT. Apparently SkypeIn service isn’t available in Canada. That discussion is worth an entire post on it’s own and a subject I will tackle in another article.

Winner: Bell Canada followed by Yak

Features and Price:
There is a mixed bag of features from all of the providers, and the importance of these features will vary from consumer to consumer. Voice Mail and call display are important to me. Long distance and call forwarding might be important to others … For the most part though the features are quite comparable across the board and although all the providers do offer all of the features, they come with different price points.

The tricky part of doing this post though was trying to compare apples to apples. Many people don’t need voice mail, or call forwarding or call waiting or (you get the point).

In this regard Vonage seems to offer the best feature for dollar value. You can take a look at the chart.

If you are looking for a more scaled down plan with pay as you go long distance then you might want to consider Comwave’s “Enhanced” $14.95 plan which includes voice mail, call display and 911 access.

I think I am going to give Vonage and Comwave a call. See how they respond on the phone. How’s the customer service ? Can they reply to the basic questions ? How long do I have to wait on hold for ? Can they port my current 905 home phone number ? Do they offer a service guarantee ?

I’m getting closer to making a switch. Let’s see how this goes.

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