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Obivoice = OBi Heaven: Dumping Google Voice for Less Than 10¢ a Day

What a difference a week makes! When we wrote last week’s article about netTALK and their terrific pricing, we were pleased to report that at least one company could offer a drop-in replacement for Google Voice without breaking the bank. But, alas, all is not well in netTALK Land. For openers, the Better Business Bureau revoked their accreditation last June because of failure to respond to or resolve technical complaints. And a recent SEC Filing paints a fairly bleak picture of the company’s financial condition. Special thanks to Gershom1624 for his sleuthing efforts. This merely reinforces the difficulty of providing reliable, unlimited VoIP service at the $2.50 a month price point. But we firmly believe $2.50 is the magic price point, and it is achievable with some safeguards for the provider, i.e. residential service, no call centers, no 10,000 minutes-a-month customers. My mom loved the telephone, but she never spent 5 hours a day on the telephone. There also has to be some tradeoff in the level of support customers can expect. If customers tie up expensive support reps with multiple calls, the pricing matrix falls apart very quickly. And that brings us to this week.

Let’s review the Wish List for those that missed last week’s article. We want a drop-in replacement for Google Voice on both the OBi110 (stand-alone with any POTS telephone) and Asterisk® (PBX) platforms. It needs to provide unlimited (within reason) calling in the U.S. and Canada. It needs a feature set that is fairly comparable to Google Voice. It needs to include E911 service because the federal government says so. We don’t care much about support as long as the setup process is well-documented, the service is reliable, and calls sound great. Charging for support requests to resolve issues that aren’t the company’s fault is perfectly fine with us. But the price point for unlimited calling needs to be $2.50 a month, i.e. $30 a year or $60 every two years for the math-challenged. We’d prefer no tips, taxes, or fees. We want to keep our existing number. And, lest we forget, the company must promise to stay in business and never raise prices… forever.

Suppose we could find you a company that, with a 2-year commitment, could provide all of the above (minus the last sentence) plus fax support including a web page to send outgoing faxes from attachments, free calling and a mobile app for your iOS and Android devices, Visual Voicemail with voicemail transcription as well as email delivery of voicemail messages, call forwarding, call waiting, CallerID spoofing for any number you own, and unbelievable customer service. Not sure about the service? How about a 30-day free trial with 60 free minutes?

Let us introduce you to Obivoice. Don’t be alarmed by the one-year price of $40. The two-year price is just $60. But it doesn’t cost you a nickel to sign up and try the service. Obivoice is a pure SIP provider so the setup with PBX in a Flash™ or an OBi110™ takes only a couple minutes. Here’s the SIP trunk setup for PBX in a Flash using FreePBX®. All you need is your SIP credentials and phone number once you’ve signed up for an account. Plug in your 10-digit phone number in the Outbound CallerID and Register String, replace 1234 with your Account Number in the username, fromuser, and Register String, and replace yourpassword with your real Password in the secret and Register String.

Next, build yourself an Inbound Route with your 10-digit DID and point it to your favorite PBX destination. Finally, create an Outbound Route using obivoice as the Trunk Sequence, and you’re all set. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

We don’t think you will but, if you need assistance setting this up, head over to the PIAF Forum where there’s a lively discussion about Obivoice already.

The OBi110 setup is just as easy. Plug in sms.intelafone.com as the ProxyServer and OutboundProxy in your ITSP Profile, add your SIP credentials in the SP1 Voice Services dialog, and forward (or transfer) your existing Google Voice number to Obivoice. Done! Obivoice’s complete tutorial is available here.

Let us close with our own customer service story. We were so excited about this new service when it was announced yesterday that we actually clicked the wrong button and signed up for the wrong plan. Of course, it only takes a minute to get that sinking feeling in your stomach when you know you’ve screwed up. So late yesterday (Sunday night!) I opened a support ticket and asked to either cancel the wrong plan so that I could reenlist or to transfer to the $60 two-year plan. At 1:30 a.m. this morning, I got an email back from customer service indicating that the plan had been adjusted and that I had been billed for the price difference. WOW!

Run, don’t walk, to sign up for Obivoice. It’s that great!

p.s. The Obivoice jingle in their YouTube video is as good as their calls. We want it for our Music on Hold!

Originally published: Monday, January 13, 2014

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  1. FULL DISCLOSURE: Following release of our article, we were notified by the CEO of Obivoice that the company was applying a $9.95 credit to our account "to recognize the effort you’ve put in to starting off great conversation about VoIP services on the web and the [Nerd Vittles] articles." This contribution in no way affected our evaluation of the Obivoice service, nor did we solicit the contribution. Also following release of the article, Obivoice implemented a referral commission program in which we now participate to support the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects. Just sign up through the Nerd Vittles Referral Link and the rest of automagic. After release of the article, the price of the service plans changed as well. You can take advantage of a $15 off coupon by entering promo code: NERDVITTLES.

  2. Pretty impressed with OBivoice. I was having a problem getting my number ported via the website. Initiated a support chat and Ryan, the CEO, answered. After asking some questions to make sure I was attempting it right, he went ahead and initiated the port manually. He wasn’t sure why it wasn’t working via the web but took care of it for me. Very good customer service.

  3. Signed up for 2 years and started my port from aXvoice. i hope these guys can stay afloat with these prices or hopefully they raise them if they need to.

  4. And how long will it be before Obivoice realizes how much more money they could be making and start charging more per year or start charging per month instead?

    [WM: They already have. 🙂 ]

    I’m sorry. Voice of IP is a nice gimmick, but until everyone has good internet and until things calm down and stop changing in the voip community, there are just too many changes and too many problems.

    Let me put it this way: say I go with voip service for my house .. I still have a cell phone because there is not a decent wifi alternative *everywhere* to allow me to carry a wireless SIP phone around with me. So, why double up on what I am paying for when I already have the "presense" that I need with a cell phone number – anyone who has that number can get me just about anywhere. And, guess what? There is no goofy setup required involving blue-tooth and a wired (or wireless) ethernet connection.

  5. The $60/2 year plan is now for 2000 minutes/month; unlimited minutes are now $75/2 years. There’s also a 500 minute/month plan for $40/2 years. Still a good deal if you’re going to be using the phone, and they make setup simple (clever to use a QR code to configure their softphone app).

  6. I have been testing ObiVoice since I seeing this article. Everything worked fine. I can connect to them though softphone, asterisk and Android apps. It is essentially a standard voip service with a good monthly rate. I hope they will be successful.
    The only question is that if they will be profitable with this rate. It will be interesting to see their business model.

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