First of all, I’d like to apologize to anyone whom I ever mentioned Packet 8 to in the past. Here’s why…
After being an ATT CallVantage subscriber for over 2 years and finding the service to be reliable, high quality and feature-rich I decided to switch to Packet 8 because the service appeared to be similarly featured and $10 per month less expensive. I had also told several people that I thought it was a good deal and that they should try it, so I was taking my own advice.
In all fairness to me, I also based this decision on the fact that call quality via services such as Skype, Yahoo IM and other VoIP offerings have improved so dramatically in the past few years. The logic was that any large VoIP carrier would probably offer similar call quality, so Packet 8 seemed like a relatively good deal ($20 per month vs. $30 with ATT).
I couldn’t have been more wrong…
After ordering and installing the Packet 8 service, everything worked. I wouldn’t say that it worked well, just that it worked. Over the next 60 days or so of using the service we came to learn much more about the difference between Packet 8 and ATT. Here are the things they DON’T tell you about their service before you sign up:
- It takes a long time to get a dial tone. You have to wait 5-10 seconds before you can even dial the phone. This meant that on our phone system, when we dial the number and then hit the talk button no call would ever go through. This is because the phone basically adds a pause for a reasonable time to wait for a dial tone and then dials the number. With Packet 8 you have to hit the talk button, wait an eternity and then dial. May sound like a small annoyance, but after you’ve done this 100 times it get’s really old, and this doesn’t occur on CallVantage.
- You must dial 1 before every number. That’s right, even local numbers within your area code. What’s up with that? With ATT and every cellular phone I’ve ever used you only need to dial the area code and number. Why can’t they get their system to do the same?
- Although calls were always completed (assuming you didn’t jump the gun and dial before the dial tone came on) at least 50% of the time we experienced intermittant issues where either we, or the people on the other end of the line, were not able to hear or distinguish what the other was saying. This type of thing is very hard to pin down and it took a while before we suspected that Packet 8 was the underlying cause; however, with ATT we had never had this issue, and since switching back the call quality issues have disappeared. Nothing else has been changed in the equation.
- Faxing will absolutely not work through a Packet 8 phone line. There are all sorts of threads on their community forum with tricks people claim to have employed, but it just doesn’t work. Works perfectly on the ATT line though…
- You can’t check your voice mails on-line with Packet 8. This is such a standard, basic feature of VoIP that I never considered it. But basically you have to call in to get voice mail.
- Their web site simply sucks. The usability and navigability of it is awful. You can tell that they only intend for people to use it to set up the service, but they don’t intend you to go to it on any sort of a regular basis. And why would you, I guess, when you can’t check voice mail there, and it’s nearly impossible to find features such as “find me/follow me”.
- Their Web site also doesn’t allow you to modify or remove your stored credit card information. So, I guess they intend to hold on to your credit card data no matter how you feel about that.
So, after these and other annoyances I decided that Packet8 was not for us. I went online looking for some way to put in a service disconnect, but to no avail. Remember, the web site sucks.
I then found a way to open a ticket and asked them to cancel the service, after which I immediately received the following letter:
In regards to your email, we are sorry you’re considering canceling your packet8 service.
If it is your desire to cancel, please contact a customer service representative the day you would like your packet8 service to terminate.
A 5.99 monthly fee gets you all the packet8 to packet8 phone calls for free but for those regular calls it will cost you 3.9 cents per minute. This is an attractive option for those who wish to finish out there 12 month agreement instead of receiving a $59 Deactivation fee.
Please note that if you choose to terminate your Packet8 service within twelve (12) months of the purchase of the service, a Disconnection Fee of fifty-nine dollars ($59.00) per account would be charged to your credit card as indicated in the Terms and Conditions.
To Contact Support
Monday – Saturday 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM P.D.T
Gee, you think they get a lot of cancellation requests? They are obviously well prepared, and they instantly want to point out to you that they are going to charge you $59 the second you try to cancel. Also, they make you call in to the 800 number to actually cancel.
So, I called in and told them I wanted to cancel because the call quality was very poor. I also explained that I didn’t think they should charge me a cancellation fee because I had an expectation of reasonable call quality when I signed up and they did not deliver.
The rep proceeded to tell me that since I didn’t call in and open trouble tickets and try to work with their tech support to solve the problems that they wouldn’t waive the fee. Had I done so, they would – but they had no reason to believe that I actually had problems. I asked for a supervisor, but that person took an even harder line.
They said that if I had wanted to cancel without penalty I should have done it in the first 30 days. It didn’t matter to them that I had paid for the hardware, the initial setup fee, and the monthly fees up to this point. They still wanted their $59 cancellation fee.
So, bottom line is, I would no longer recommend Packet8 to anyone, for any reason and I now appreciate ATT CallVantage far more. I’m not claiming that ATT is perfect, for example their tech support hold times are too long, but it’s still far superior and well worth the extra money.
For the techies out there I should state that the Packet 8 Terminal Adapter was connected directly to the cable modem in front of the router. The call quality issues were NOT because it didn’t have unfiltered access to the net.
Additionally, we pay for the highest level of cable modem service offered by our ISP. We get 12 mb down and 768kb up. We use a Uniden phone system with 10 handsets and it is in perfect working order.