Technology Review: Comparing Primus VoIP vs. Telus Analog line (UPDATED)

(This post is like bad seafood – it just keeps coming back again and again and again….. But I thought it was best to continue to update the previous post rather than add new ones. I have done some of this cross-out stuff, added a bit, and removed one whole section at the bottom and also dated the updates. Judging from the hits on this article, this seems to be a timely topic.)

Two weeks months years ago, I cancelled my Telus land-line and transferred my number over to a residential Primus Talk Broadband VoIP line. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons so far:


My long-distance is included in the $45.95Cdn/month package as are all of my features. So I will save approximately $600 this year, or $900 if I include the fact that I got rid of a second land line and just made it a smart ring on my Primus line.

UPDATE: August 10, 2004. I downgraded my package to from the Super-Duper-Shmuper package (they have some other name for it) to the Almost-Super-Duper package (ditto). It was cheaper and then I added a long-distance package on top of that. We’ll see how it works out on the billing.

I have 5-way conference calling that allows me to dial and connect up to 5 lines and then have a phone conference without an operator. I tried it and it works reasonably well, however it was pretty low voice quality sometimes.

UPDATE: August 10, 2004. I still use this function but not as often as I thought that I would. I also asked about downgrading it to three way calling but they don’t offer it. It’s all or nothing.

You get to keep your old land-line phone. This seems like a quick way for VoIP to be pushed out to the consumer-space. We don’t have to trade our phones. And until they have more functionality on the back-end, there is no point anyway.

UPDATE August 10, 2004: See notes about using your beloved cordless below. It may be too echo-ey to use.

In theory, I can take my D-Link and phone with me somewhere and still receive calls when plugged into some other high-speed connection, as long as the local firewall will allow it. That is not going to happen because I’m not going to unplug those devices and carry them with me. Perhaps if I was using a soft-phone I might consider it but that’s it.

UPDATE: August 5, 2004: Well, I just moved to North Vancouver (hooray!) and the good news is that I plugged in my phone and kept receiving my calls. My friends didn’t even notice I moved. The bad news is that the audio quality is still REALLY lame and choppy.


The audio quality is DEFINITELY and noticeably worse than Telus. This includes poor-duplexing (it gets choppy if both parties try to talk), and sometimes echoes on either end of the phone. I even went so far as to get Primus to send me another D-Link but the audio quality was identical so I think it is the box. So far, this is the most annoying aspect of it.

UPDATE August 5, 2004: I have found that using my cordless Siemens 2.4GHz phone is what causes 80% of the echo problem. So, now rather than being able to wander all over my house (my phone has a 150′ range easily), I am anchored to my desk. ARGH.

UPDATE: August 10, 2004. Well, I swapped my old Terayon modem for a new Motorola DOCSIS compliant modem today (thanks to Jamie for the recommendation) and I admit that the full-duplexing on the phone line is quite a bit better than it has been. For the past two months, it was like talking on single-duplex walkie talkies – one person talking would cut the other person off entirely. Now both parties can speak and hear in full-duplex…mostly.

It doesn’t play nice with other applications. I ran a VNC remote control session to a client’s computer and whenever I pressed my mouse button and moved items around on her screen, causing the VNC client/server to aggressively scan for updates, that software flooded my cable connection and wiped out the audio completely until I let go of the mouse. (“I can’t hear you – let go of your mouse!!!”  – I never thought I’d hear that.) Apparently Motorola’s router has a way of protecting the dual 128Kbps channels that are required for the voice data and then only allows the remaining bandwidth to be passed through to your network in behind. So it attempts to provide some sort of quality of service that way. This D-Link definitely doesn’t.

CORRECTION: I have managed to get this to work reasonably well by using Timbuktu and running my computer through the D-Link instead of in parallel, but it still isn’t fantastic. The only way to really protect the data channels is to have two cable boxes, one for voice, one for data.

UPDATE: August 10, 2004. I ran a Timbuktu session to California the other night and the audio quality was completely fine (or rather, was as poor as it usually is) and did not have any dead spots while I was dragging things around the screen. I know that some firmware updates have been pushed out in the past few months so perhaps this is one of the areas that has been addressed. I would give it a 9/10 now given that you run the computer through the D-Link and let it do the bandwidth protection (vs. putting the D-Link and your computer in a hub in parallel both accessing your ISP connection where your remote control session could flood the line and kill the voice channel.)

My message waiting indicator does not work anymore on my phone. Primus knows about this and will have to update the firmware in the D-Link VoIP gateway/router.

I lost my Telus voicemail which had call-screening where you could pick up the phone and hear or interrupt people leaving you messages just like it was an answering machine.


So my phone quality is mediocre to crappy better than it was, the visual message waiting light on my phone doesn’t work, I no longer have call screening of my voicemail and I can no longer use my cordless phone. On the upside, my bills are lower and I was able to move to North Van and simply move my box from one house to the other and keep making and receiving calls. If you do the math, you’ll see that it was probably a net loss. I am hoping that they will really continue to work on the audio quality issues.

I have a lot of calling to do this next few weeks so I’ll see how it goes and then update this again.

Poor phone quality and I was never able to use my cordless after that. Definitely not worthwhile. I cancelled the service and never had a land line after that. It was easier to just have a cell phone with bad service that was more portable. And now of course, I use Skype to talk to anybody I want to talk to.