As a small business owner you constantly strive for doing your job while keeping costs down. This means you quite likely don’t need a gigantic virtual phone system – but you don’t want to subscribe to a service that invoices you by the minute. You perhaps wonder whether it is even possible to combine a small-scale VoIP system with consumer- and SMB-friendly pricing. The answer is yes, and it is brought to you by Broadvoice, a small company founded in 2006 in California. No matter whether you choose their local or international pricing plan, you get virtually unlimited calls, a second line for free, and almost all of the features for businesses in their well-known or advanced forms. You can place and receive calls from any device you want whether you are at home or away, while Broadvoice also ensures the option to call international numbers for free and takes care of you even when its services are down.
Broadvoice Video Introduction
Even as a residential VoIP service Broadvoice has a lot of things up its sleeve. Aside from the regular features like call forwarding, blocking, holding, waiting, simultaneous ringing etc., you get the option to determine your caller ID, manage speed dials, view and listen to your voicemails, send and receive faxes (or attach them to voicemails) and even turn your computer or mobile into a softphone. Aside from that, there are some pretty intelligent features not present with the competition. You can make calls simultaneously, even by using the 3-way conference call feature or by taking advantage of a second line free of charge (meaning two calls can be made at the same time). Broadvoice automatically chooses the best bandwidth for you (which you can change if it’s too much), it allows you to place calls from your computer and continue on a desk phone (whether you are at home or not), and it even forwards your calls to a completely different number should the service be temporarily down.
Naturally you have the well-known features like making and receiving free calls within the network, holding a call, forwarding all calls to the voicemail with the do-not-disturb option, routing your calls to specific destinations, and the simultaneous ringing of several phones at the same time. You can make 3-way conference calls with Broadvoice, allowing you to talk to two people simultaneously. Furthermore, thanks to a free second line, you and another person can make two calls at the same time without disturbance. You can manage who can see your caller ID and who can’t, and every time someone calls you, you can see his/her caller ID, even when the caller is put on the waitlist. However, you have the option to completely block any numbers like anonymous callers, international calls, the operator (in case you are away for a longer time) and the directory assistance (the latter has a monthly fee, thus the option to block it).
You can also speed up the dialing process: you can dial numbers with our without area code, put frequently called people on speed dial rendering 1 or 2-digit numbers thereto, and return calls with a simple 3-digit code. Speaking of 3-digit numbers, you can simply call community or city services, the traffic info and utility companies. The best thing, however, is that you don’t even need a desk phone to make your calls: your computer or your mobile phone can work as a softphone.
Phone System Management
Like we mentioned before, Broadvoice turns your computer into a softphone, but it also serves as the place where you can manage your entire account, and check out your bills and payment info. The account contains your contact list where you can assign speed dial numbers to certain names and check out the call logs related thereto. Thanks to the online faxing option, you are able to send and receive faxes with the latter being able to send the faxes directly to your voicemail, where they can be opened and downloaded. Speaking of the voicemail; it lets you view and listen to your voicemails, plus you can set it up to receive email notifications whenever you receive a call or voicemail from a specific number. Broadvoice also thinks of those people who have internet connection issues: it already saves as many data traffic as possible, but if that’s not enough, all you have to do is go to the settings and lower the bandwidth.
These features are all amazing, but the most interesting of all is the Click2Call. Using this feature you can make calls by clicking on the phone number next to your contact’s name, after which the system rings your phone that immediately connects to the receiver once you pick the device up. The Remote Click2Call is basically the same; it allows you to place calls from a non-Broadvoice device for reduced prices (as they are charged extra).
As Broadvoice’s residential pricing plans are intended for smaller scale use, there is no need to talk about whether you can have toll-free, local, true 800 or vanity numbers. However, despite the above disadvantage that Broadvoice has, this company possesses a huge advantage compared to business VoIP providers: you don’t have to pay a nickel for porting your number from another phone company. Furthermore, not too many companies can tell that they provide the option to make conference calls, as well as a second line allowing customers to use the same phone number for free.
It is too good to be true, especially that we are still talking about a residential service. So is there any catch? Just a few: you have to pay a one-time $14.95 installation fee and if you are porting a phone number, it must be live and your phone bills must be paid.
Even though Broadvoice can be accessed from a mobile browser too, we wouldn’t recommend that option. Don’t get us wrong, the site is theoretically mobile friendly, but you have a better option: choosing the iPhone/Android app.
The apps are perfectly capable of substituting your desktop account with some new twists. For instance, if you make or receive calls using the app, you can record the conversations and send them to any email address you like. You can even choose from over 20 ringtones thus differentiating your Broadvoice calls from the regular ones. The app is capable of unique feats like echo cancellation, while it also has regular functions like contact info sync, voicemail management, call forwarding and so on.
If there is a downside to the apps, it is the data connection option: despite recent trends, Broadvoice is only capable of 3G/Wi-Fi call handling.
You would think that being a Broadvoice residential user means integration with third-party software is completely out of question. You couldn’t be more far from the truth; all you need to do is just set the SIP credentials in your Broadvoice account, follow the instructions on the company’s wiki page, and you can already make calls from your mobile phone using 4 different apps: Bria by CounterPath, Zoiper and CSipSimple/SIPdroid.
The Bria Softphone
This SIP based softphone client is available on almost all platforms (computers included) to act as a replacement or complementary of a desk phone. With Bria you can make voice and video calls, check the availability of your contacts, send messages and so on.
The Zoiper softphone, which is available for all platforms, is capable of gathering your contacts in one interface and encrypting your communication with TLS/SRTP and ZRTP, while working almost seamlessly and without the need to install extra devices.
SIPDroid and CSipSimple Open Source Softphones
If you are a risk taker and you prefer free, open source software, then SIPDroid or CSipSimple, apps released under the GNU General Public License, make a good choice for you. Attention: both solutions work on Android platforms only.
Broadvoice Domestic, which includes a free second line, 5,000 (“unlimited”) minutes to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and 60 minutes of free international calling, can be paid in one lump sum for 1 year ($8.33 per month), monthly for a whole year ($9.95 per month), or without a contract ($19.95 per month). The 3 Broadvoice International plans with “unlimited” international calls are as follows: World is $19.95 per month including 28 countries, World Plus is $24.95 per month with 75 countries, while World Premium is $49.95 per month with 87 countries.
Keep in mind, however, that there are some nasty surprises. First of all, there is no free trial, just a 30-day money back guarantee. Second, installation of the Broadvoice router is $14.95 (one-time fee), while you have to pay a federal/state/local services fee (depends on subscription), and emergency 911 cost recovery and regulatory recovery fees ($0.99 and $1.98 respectively) each month. Calling directory assistance and the operator is $0.99 and $3 respectively, while exceeding 4,000 minutes (the limit of excessive use) increases the phone bill by $0.02 per each minute. Changing your phone number is $15, while terminating your subscription before the end of your payment period is $99.
Although we have no problem with the quality of Broadvoice’s customer support, it is a bit messy. If you want to ask help the regular way, you can call the staff every day within business hours, submit a support ticket via the support page, or read a rather short FAQ. Furthermore, Broadvoice is also very active on Twitter, especially when the service is down; therefore, if you have problems with your service, this is the place where you can tell it to the personnel.
However, if you want to find other ways to get answers to your questions, you have to use a little trick: go to the business page of Broadvoice. By doing so and clicking on support, you are directed to the Broadvoice wiki. This page is the true support: you can start a live chat therefrom, open quick links with useful information regarding the service, the third-party software, the apps etc. and you can find a very detailed secondary FAQ.
Let’s be honest, if you have a large business, you’re better off with another company. However, as a residential VoIP provider, Broadvoice is one of the best choices on the market. Even though it lacks some features – like true conference calling, answering rules, call transfer etc. – Broadvoice can still outshine its competition with unique features like a free second line, the Click2Call option, its failsafe function, advanced softphone, third-party integration, the bandwidth lowering feature and many more. Its pricing policy is a bit problematic due to some hidden elements, calls aren’t truly unlimited, the customer support is a bit messy and the mobile app is only capable of making/taking 3G calls – but these are some minor problems.
Overall, Broadvoice is definitely a hit if you want to have a reliable VoIP service with many of the features of professional virtual phone systems for good prices.