Sipgate is a flexible, adaptable VoIP service that majors on voice, fax and text messaging, and doesn’t tie you into a long contract
Pros Easy sign-up and short minimum commitmentFree UK phone numberBolt-on options let the service grow as you doCons Per user fees higher than some alternative options
Sipgate previously had separate business and home offerings for its VoIP service. Now, things are much simpler, with only one product with a clear business focus, easy user management, and a comprehensive dashboard giving a single point of focus for both administration and configuration.
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Sipgate review: What do you get for the money?
The basic package – Sipgate business S – starts at £15.54 (inc VAT) per user per month for a minimum of two users. That buys you your first local number, visual- and time-based routing, user management, call groups and fax. You can add additional numbers for a fee, and can also port existing numbers to the service if you’re transferring from another provider.
It’s a little more expensive than some alternative services, such as Zoom Phone’s UK & Ireland Metered service at a monthly £9.60 (inc VAT) or RingCentral Essentials, which starts at £7.99 if you pay for a year up front. Neither of these includes fax handling, though.
Faxes cost 47p to send on the business S plan (they’re gratis with the business L and business XL plans), and are both sent and received as PDFs. SMS is a charged-for service on all plans, priced according to message length up to a maximum of 21.24p for 460 characters.
All plans include voicemail and three-way conferencing, but some advanced features are reserved for the business L (£21.54 per user per month) and business XL (£27.54 per user per month) tiers, including interactive voice response (button-press menus), call queueing (stacking calls until an assistant becomes available) and busy lamps. Busy lamps will be particularly useful in team environments, allowing colleagues to spot when calls are going unanswered and pick them up themselves.
More advanced users can also plug in to the Sipgate API, with one free and three paid tiers, variously allowing admins to gather analytics, program custom reactions and integrate with CRMs and other applications.
Sipgate offers local line rental in most UK area codes, as well as 35 other countries. Your first UK line is free, after which additional single lines cost £2.34 a month, and blocks of three or ten cost £5.94 and £11.94 per month respectively. If you buy ten, the numbers will be consecutive. For international numbers, you’re looking at £15.54 per line per month, plus an additional £15.54 setup free, and porting an existing number costs £24. The last of these is a one-off fee, after which there are no ongoing monthly charges, which means savings kick in from month ten when compared to the single-line rental charge.
Sipgate review: How much do calls cost?
Calls between handsets are free, so long as they don’t stray beyond Sipgate’s network. To regular UK landlines, you’ll be paying 1.2p a minute, and to mobiles it’s 11.88p a minute. 0800 calls are free, but special numbers such as 0845 and 0871 vary between 3.48p and 11.88p a minute. You can block calls to premium numbers through the dashboard on a user-by-user basis.
International call prices vary widely. To Australia, it’s 2.44p and 21.45p per minute for landlines and mobiles respectively; to Ireland you’re looking at 2.73p and 20.01p; and for India, 7.05p and 11.37p. Calls to the US cost 2.16p per minute across the board, whether you’re calling a landline, mobile or toll-free number. Note, though, that prices for Alaska are considerably higher at 15.48p, whether to a landline or mobile number. Sipgate maintains a full list of its current call rates on its website.
Sipgate review: How do you make and receive calls?
Sign-up is quick and doesn’t ask any difficult questions. You will, however, need to confirm your physical address by typing in a code that Sipgate sends through the post. This should arrive in around three days or sooner after you complete the sign-up process.
Once you’re using the service, the control panel is well organised and easy to navigate. Administrators can assign numbers to users, set their active hours and set up forwarding, with multiple options specifying what to do if they’re online, busy or offline. This is particularly well handled, with a graphical interface illustrating both multiple incoming numbers and multiple destinations – where appropriate – for each account.
The simplest option is to forward to voicemail when the user isn’t available but, if appropriate, you can instead specify an alternative contact or phone number. You can also blanket-reject anonymous calls with a single click.
Hardware setup is also well explained with a series of illustrated step-by-step guides for common handsets, including those from Grandstream, Yealink, Cisco and Linksys, as well as Sipgate’s own softphone apps for Windows, Mac and Linux. We tested the service with a Yealink T48S desk phone and had no problems assigning our Sipgate number to a line, so we were making and receiving calls within minutes.
Sipgate review: Are there any additional features?
Sipgate is a German company, based in Düsseldorf, and it hosts its servers in Germany, too, so the service is subject to strict German privacy laws. Despite this, all pricing for UK customers is in pounds sterling.
You can sign up for a month-long free trial before committing to the service without providing credit card or other payment details. In return, you get two test phone numbers, 50 free minutes of calls to UK landlines and 10 free minutes of calls to UK mobile phones.
The service can integrate with Zoho CRM and similar options for an additional fee (£11.94 per user per month on top of any ongoing service fees for Zoho CRM), and there’s a SIP trunking option if you want to connect your own VoIP PBX to the net. Prices for trunking start at £5.94 a month for a single incoming and 100 concurrent outgoing calls, rising to £10.74 and £23.94 for two or five concurrent incoming calls respectively, alongside the 100 outgoing. Additional enterprise plans allow for up to 50 simultaneous incoming calls.
Sipgate review: Should you sign up?
If you’re looking for a focused service that majors on voice, fax and SMS, rather than video, Sipgate is a very tempting proposition. It’s easy to set up, has a clear pricing structure and offers competitive call rates, both locally and internationally.
If you do sign up, there’s no lengthy contract: Sipgate bills on a month-to-month basis, which makes it suitable both for long-term use, and for setting up a short-term number for an upcoming event or short job. This reduces your minimum financial commitment to a little over £31, since you need to sign up for at least two users, which isn’t much to lose if you decide that the service isn’t for you.
All of this makes Sipgate easy to recommend, even for small businesses looking for just a handful of lines.