When will VoIP start batting 1.000?

You can instant video conference…
You can file your voicemail on your e-mail…
You can take calls while you lie on the beach in Bermuda sipping a pink umbrella drink…

There’s just no limit to the rosy picture promoted by VoIP boosters. But what seems to get overlooked in the VoIP conversation is what people really want to do with it — I mean, other people, people who aren’t industry boosters.

They just wanna make calls. Remember phone calls? Like “one ringy-dingy?”

I had a visceral reminder yesterday when my Packet8 phone stopped making outbound calls. Every number I “dialed” was busy.

My first recourse with all technical problems is to walk into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and hope the problem has gone when I get back. The second is to reboot everything and hope the problem goes away. After these tried and true remedies failed, I went to Packet8’s website and posted a “support case.”

(And while I’m griping, who wrote this and what language do they speak? How about “trouble ticket” or, even more straightforward, “help request?”)

However, they are quick over there at Packet8. I got a response within minutes.

  • We are currently having an issue with one of our 3rd party carriers that handles outbound calls.
  • Please be patient while we are working on resolving the issue, thank you.

An issue? I can’t make a call. I’d say it was more than an “issue.” I might go so far as to call it a “serious problem.”

Be patient? Do I have an alternative?

As it happens I do. I can go back to making phone calls the old way —through my AT&T wired line that doesn’t have any fancy bells and whistles and can’t switch my call to Bermuda with the click of a mouse. But it works. And it works 100 percent of the time. And that’s the point.

Making a phone call is like driving. Watching the road 98 percent of the time doesn’t cut the mustard. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the E911 system is if your call doesn’t get there in the first place.

I remember the first time I received a VoIP call many years ago from a friend who was an early player in the VoIP business. He thought it was swell to call me from India — over the Internet! Unfortunately, at my end, he was incomprehensible because of all the delays and dropped packets. As far as I was concerned, whatever we were doing, it wasn’t a “phone call.”

What people want — in fact, expect — when they pick up the phone is to make a phone call. Sure, we’ll take all the other goodies if someone is passing them out, but at the end of the day… a phone is a phone is a phone.

That’s the benchmark — 100 percent. And VoIP still has a way to go before it meets that bar.