Right now, ViaTalk is offering one free year of its VT_Unlimited plan, which includes unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada when you pay for one year. This means you get two years of service for $189, or about $7.88/mo. The plan also includes 60 minutes of free international calling to landline numbers. If you need more international calling minutes, you can have 1200 minutes of calling to most international landlines for an additional $8.95/mo with the VT_World plan. The company charges $10.95 for shipping and handling (unless you bring your own VoIP adapter), and there is no activation fee.
ViaTalk will not win any awards for the presentation of its product. The little LinkSys VoIP adapter comes in a standard Priority Mail box, with just its cables, and an introductory letter. If there were any instructions we must have somehow lost them. It's ok, we located the help docs on their website and the directions were simple. We plugged in three cables, and we had phone service.
Our only real complaint about ViaTalk's hardware is that its VoIP adapter only allows for a downstream connection, meaning it cannot receive the connection directly from your cable modem and then split off to your router. Instead, it must receive its connection from the router. It just limits the ways in which you can configure your setup, but it won't affect many people.
In action, ViaTalk was quite nice. In fact, we felt it sounded crisper and warmer than Vonage did. It does take a little longer for calls to connect, between dialing and ringing. This may well have something to do with the fact that Vonage connects directly to the modem, whereas ViaTalk goes through your router first.
ViaTalk has the fairly standard set of features such as voicemail to email, do not disturb, and caller ID block. You also get two lines at the same number, a very convenient feature for busy households.
ViaTalk also provides users with a few advanced features, including the ability to record calls, free 411 directory service, wake-up calls, and free three-way calling. Check the ViaTalk website for a complete list of features and explanations about how they work.
ViaTalk's technical support was fast and helpful when we called. We left our callback number and received a call within five minutes. The non-outsourced support was very friendly. On subsequent tries we faced much longer waits when trying to contact someone in sales and billing; she was friendly, if slightly confused about their offerings. The site pops up a chat help window when you arrive, but it seemed to be mostly auto-responding and did not answer our billing question on our first visit. On a second try, a sales agent answered questions about their pricing relatively promptly.
In addition to the phone support system and the possibility of support via web chat, ViaTalk maintains a support ticket system and an online FAQ section and knowledgebase for quick questions.
There's a 14-day money back guarantee that begins the day you receive your equipment, though it does not cover your activation or shipping fees. If you cancel after that, ViaTalk does offer a pro-rated refund for unused months, but there's a $49.95 disconnect fee. This applies even if you pay monthly, since it's a year-long contract. It's important to note that in order to cancel, you must send back the equipment first, otherwise you'll be charged $50. ViaTalk did fail to cancel our account twice, meaning that we were still charged. Though since we weren't being charged the disconnect fee, it's a bit of a wash. Still, it was inconvenient.
ViaTalk's plans include 60 free minutes per month of international calling. All calls to landline numbers, with the exception of some non-geographic, special service, or premium numbers, are covered by the 60 free minutes. Depending on the country, some cell phone numbers may also be included. For calls to non-landline numbers, ViaTalk provides a searchable database of per-minute rates for international calls. These rates also apply to calls placed after a user has already used up the 60 free minutes for the month.
Though the per-minute international rates are in general a bit more expensive than those we've seen with other VoIP companies, ViaTalk's international policy is unusually generous in including all landline calls in the 60 free minutes each month.
Its main competitor in this price class is PhonePower. Potential customers will have to weigh the advantages of each. ViaTalk's call quality, support-call return time, pro-rated refund and 60-minutes of free world calling are great. The only real disappointment is the relatively short money-back period, the slight delay between dialing and ringing, and the one-time setup fee.
|Plans:||U.S. Unlimited: $7.87/mo for two years|
1200 international minutes: +$8.95/mo
|Setup Fees:||$10.95 S&H|
|$ Back Guarantee & Cancel Policy:||Free to cancel within 14 days or prorated refund minus $49.95 disconnection fee per line after 14 days; No refunds on activation or S&H|
|Promotions:||1 year free when you sign up for 2 years;|
60 free int'l min/mo
|Countries Included:||USA & Canada|
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