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Primus TalkBroadband-First impressions

16363 Views 40 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  daffod
Well... I've recently decided I was brave enough to give up my land-line and join the VoIP crowd. After extensive research Primus Talkbroadband came out on top, at least insofar as price and "advertized features" are concerned.

This is a long posting so I'll provide a quick summary: Primus has sub-par customer and technical service and are not genuinely interested in providing a service that is usable. Depending who you end up talking to, you get one version of the truth or the other :). "Our way or the high-way" seems to be their motto. Fair enough... they should however give people consistent and correct information before they sign up so that their service can be evaluated for what it is, not what they would like you to believe it is. If you want to know the details, continue reading.

I signed up for the service and 3 days later, the delivery man was standing in my door looking for my autograph :). The box contained the Primus VoIP gateway along with a nicely worded welcome letter from the Higher ups at Primus.

I opened the manual, yes I am one of those who actually read the manual :), and read through, paying special attention to their configuration instructions. Nothing revolutionarry here, just follow the steps for the "dummies" and you are set, so the manual claimed.

For my "first" :) set-up I followed their instructions to the letter. I connected the cables, and powered the unit on... lights were blinking... hurray... it's allive!... but wait... can I actually make/receive calls?... nope... back to the beginning. I checked the wiring, etc. and found everything to be as instructed. I powered it up again performing a hardware reset... and waited ... the ominous blinking red light turned green within 30 seconds. I immediately picked up the phone and got a dial tone!... I am hard to impress but at this point I was getting quite excited as things were looking up. I then called my new number assigned by Primus... "The number you have called is not in service!" the voice was telling me... so there it is, there is always something that will go wrong... Murphy got it right :)

I called technical support and got through after an almost 20 minute wait. I described in detail what the problem was and the guy on the other end cermouniously asserted that I must have made a mistake while setting up the unit... OK I said somewhat uncertain ... tell me what to do. He walked me through the wiring and setup proceedure step by step, no news here as I have done exactly the same before I called in. After about 20 minutes, he concluded that the problem is not with me, gee thanks :), then he put me on hold for about 5 minutes... I guess it was time to check with the "real" techies about this problem ?!? He got back on the phone and instructed me to fire up the configuration utility again... to save my fingers I will not detail it all suffice it to say that we kept at it for a half an hour, try this try that, until we ran out of things to try. Finally, he asks me what the MAC address of the unit is, I turn it over and read back the number off the sticker... then I notice that the number as shown in the configuration utility is different. Well that's a problem, he says, "... we'll have to forward a request to provisioning, your account is not set up correctly as the hardware MAC is different from the MAC on the sticker and that will cause problems. Somebody will call you back as soon as it's done... So no working service yet...

Next day I waited paitently for someone to call... no call. 2 days later I made another call to the tech support, a 10 minute wait. The fellow is telling me that provisioning has not completed the work order yet, they are busy... busy with what I asked.. don't know the man replies... someone will call you back. This was sounding like deja vu so I asked at this point to talk to someone who can expedite the problem. You've got to call Customer Service as there is nothing more we can do for you in the Tech support department... so he transfer me to Customer Service, this time I was on hold for another 10 minutes before I got to speak to a lady who kept asking me, "Why did they tell you to call us, there is nothing we can do". You should call them back and talk to them. At this point I am still amused as at that time it seems more like a joke, but I digress. I did ask her for an escalation but she tells me that she can only escalate a customer complaint not the tech support issue, OK then, I'll make a complaint... she gives me a reference number, then tells me : "someone will call you back" ... but wait havn't I heard this before :). 36 hours after my support issue still no resolution, on the fourth day I called the tech support department again and was told that provisining still hasn't addressed my issue because they "... must be very busy", besides, it has only been 3 days the guy says. Yes.. three days for which I am being charged for a service that is not working yet I replied... so I asked to speak to a supervisor or manager. He puts me on hold while he is looking into it, then tells me that there is nobody available, "somebody will call me back...". I can't reprint exactly what I told him next :)... but the next thing I know I am talking to a supervisor. He makes the changes in their systems in less than 2 minutes... I reboot my box and voila everything works... I did ask him why the tech support people would not do the same, he tells me they are not authorized... OK... as I'm happy that my box works, I thank him and go back to testing my setup.

As mentioned Incomming/Outgoing calls are now working, but I am having problems with internet access!... what now I'm asking myself? It turns out that if the Primus router is sitting between my computers and the broadband modem the problem is there. I call tech support back, more waiting then and tell them about the new problem and ask whether I could put the Primus router in the DMZ connected to my original firewall router. The excellence in the Primus Tech Support is revealed to me again when the guy tells me that my alternative is not a supported configuration and as such he will not help me ... then he hangs up. As I have nothing to loose, I decided to experiment myself and rewired things... now the Primus box is in the DMZ... after a few hard resets/reboots, etc., I can make and receive calls again... it's time to test distinctive ring on the alternate number ...

The default setting from Primus is such that depending whether calls are local or long distance, even the main line rings differently. Overseas calls have the same ring pattern as the distinctive ring on the alternate number, a feature that has a surcharge... great way to waste money. Even bell has this feature, but you can deactivate it by dialing a certain *## sequence. Not so with Primus, you have to call Tech Support... so I am making the call. On hold for 10 minutes again, just to be told that he can't make the change. Why not, "I don't have the authorization " the rep says. I told him about the track record with the provisioning department and that I don't have much confidence in receiving timely service. He puts me on hold and 10 minutes later, he tells me he asked a supervisor to do it and that it's done, my calls will ring the same and the distinctive ring is only on the alternate line now. He also tells me that if there is any other configuration issues with the distinctive ring, I should give them a call back! Nice, the first time I got the type of service that actually solves problems.

I'am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel... problem is it's a train :)... The distinctive ring is "Ring D". Seldom used by fax devices and fax software. Neither of my 3 fax machines, 4 fax software picks up the Ring D pattern! It took me while to try all the configurations so I put the call in the next day. I got to talk to a very categoric rep who told me that Primus does not make any changes to the ring patterns on its lines. I know better by know than to argue with him, so I ask to speak to a supervisor, ... "someone will call you back..." is the answer. I did receive a call the next day, but the supervisor gave me the same answer. I then described to him what configuration changes were made to the ring pattern by tech support already. He did not belive me... he said that is not possible... I politely asked him to talk to the people involved and get his facts straight. It took him another day to call me back. he now confirmed that they could change the ring pattern but they won't. It's ring pattern "Ring D" and that's the way it goes as there are too many technical problems with other ring patterns. I asked him to explain to me exactly what these "problems" are as I may be willing to make a tradeoff... he did not know the details but was quite sure they are horrible ... as I was trying to decide whether he is dishonest or incompetent, he asked me whether there is anything else... yes I said, escalate my request to the appropriate level as I am unable to use the alternate line as is and based on forum postings I am not the only one having these problems... so I reasoned there must be a solution... yes there is he said, buy another line from primus $14.99... Gee, nice, I wonder whether they plan for these or these brilliant ideas just happen.

To cut a long story short, after 5 days I am still waiting for a call back while thay are still "looking into" the Ring pattern change. I am continuing to experience sound quality issues regardless whether the Primus VoIP gateway is located behind or in front of my router. With each passing day, I become less certain that I made the right decision by using Primus.
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Just something that did not fit in the first posting....

Some callers complain that they hear a terrible echo during a conversation. A few times, even I can hear it... you just simply can't carry out a conversation like that. So I call Tech. Support again, on hold, yada, yada, yada... The fellow I get to describe the problem to, tells me that this is a common problem for people with problematic broadband connections. He tells he won't even attempt to help me unless I move the Primus box out from behind my router to the internect directly as my setup is not a supported configuration. Ok I say, give me 30 seconds... To proove to me that my broadband connection is at fault, he directs me to a web site that tests my upload/download bandwidth. He asks me to email him the results, then he goes on to explain that my upload speed is insufficient as it is only 83 Kbytes/sec. I ask him what should it be, he tells me typically he gets values between 400-800 bytes/second, it should be at least 100bytes/sec, obviously mine does not cut it... but wait a minute I tell him, 83 Kbytes/sec = 84992 bytes/sec... somethings funny with his argument I tell him besides, I ran the test while I am using TalkBroadband, so the 83 KBytes are excess capacity if any ... oops he says... he didn't notice the K in Kbytes... but I should make sure I call them back when the problem occurs again as at this point he is convinced that is not Primus's problem... alternatively, he can configure the service for "lower voice" quality, then likely the problem will not occur. Very helpful guy... but no thanks... I've tried that setting already and the sound has various artifacts that make the voice unrecognizable.

I give up!
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Thanks Styvas, that's a great FAQ. Maybe Primus should refer customers to your FAQ rather than theirs ;) .

My issue is really not the lack of appreciation for the technical challenges, but the approach of Primus to Tech/Customer support. Based on the information from some Primus reps themselves, it is possible to solve all my issue... Primus just doesn't care, end of story. Even if they get this setup working correctly, I still don't have the confidence that any future issues will be dealt with appropriately.

Then there is the WAF, the wife approval factor :p ... I may appreciate the "coolness factor" in VoIP and even make some compromizes but she just wants a working phone ... oh but wait, Primus has told me Talkbroadband is not intended as a phone service :eek:, then why are they comparing their service to Bell's right on their web site? :rolleyes:... a subterfuge at its best!

My practical question for the day is, are all VoIP providers the same, is there any VoIP provider providing services in Canada that one can use?
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