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bOnline review: VoIP without the hassle

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £7.20
/mth/user, inc. VAT

A super-simple setup process, and a seven-day free trial, make this a VoIP option worth trying


  • Quick and easy setup
  • Dedicated mobile and desktop apps
  • Comprehensive, yet easy to navigate


  • No alternative to provisioning for hardware phones

bOnline bills itself as the UK’s number one VoIP service for growing businesses and, if that’s correct, it isn’t hard to see why. Sign-up is quick and easy: you can pick a local number from almost any area code and whichever plan you choose, you’ll get at least some free calls every month, which should help offset the cost. Not that it costs that much as prices start at less than £10 per user per month, which is a very fair deal indeed.

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bOnline review: What do you get for the money?

As is true of most providers, bOnline’s phone service is tiered, with one Starter plan and two Unlimited Calling options to choose from.

The cheapest Starter plan costs just £7.20 per user per month and includes: a line and phone number, 100 outgoing landline minutes, unlimited incoming calls, and 40 additional features. Additional features include: voicemail, call forwarding, out-of-hours management, and music-on-hold.

The cheaper of the two Unlimited Calling options costs £16.74 per user per month and gives you uncapped incoming and outgoing domestic calls – to mobiles as well as landlines – as well as all the other features of the Starter plan. However, it also includes several additional tools, such as: HD video conferencing, call recording, call queues, and interactive voice response. The more expensive Unlimited Calling option costs £18.60 per user per month and is the same as the tier below it, but bundles it with a desk phone.

Whichever plan you sign up for, your initial contract will run for 12 months. However, if you’re not yet sure which will suit you best – or even if bOnline is the right supplier for you – you can sign up for a seven-day free trial before committing.

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bOnline review: How much do calls cost?

As you might expect, on the Unlimited Calling plans all UK calls are free, whereas on the Starter plan you get 100 landline minutes per month, and beyond that, you’ll be paying by the minute for outgoing calls. Starter plan calls to local and national landline numbers within the UK cost 2p per minute, plus a 5p initial charge, while for mobiles you’re looking at per-minute charges between 3p and 9p, depending on the number, plus that same 5p connection fee. Mobile calls to the Channel Islands cost 17p per minute, plus 5p.

Calling abroad gets more complicated. For European landlines, you’d be looking at 2p per minute to call Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain; 3p for Austria (and Iceland); 4p to reach Belgium; and 8p to call Monaco.

Calls to Gibraltar landlines will cost you 4p a minute, while India and Canada are 2p a minute, and Australia splits the difference at 3p per minute.

As with UK calls, the international rates are subject to a 5p per call connection fee. bOnline publishes its full rate card on its website.

bOnline review: How do you make and receive calls?

Getting set up is quick and easy, and just involves choosing a number, setting a PIN, and agreeing to the terms and conditions. Then if you need extra numbers, you can add them for a fee. Prices start at £2 per month for local, non-geographic, and VIP memorable numbers.

I logged into both the bOnline mobile app and my account dashboard via a browser. There’s no browser-based dialler, but bOnline does have apps for Windows and macOS – to supplement the ones for Android and iOS – so you can either use your phone line at your desk or carry it with you in your pocket.

Logging in via the mobile and Windows apps is easy, but I was disappointed that setting up a hardware VoIP desk phone could only be done with a provisioning profile. Such profiles replace the handset’s existing software and reboot it, effectively preventing you from using it with another provider. Considering my desk phone currently hosts three lines from two different providers, that would mean choosing between keeping them or switching permanently to my bOnline number. Naturally, I opted to maintain the status quo and accessed bOnline through the apps.

If you find you’re in the same boat – or you don’t have a desk phone at all – bOnline can sell you compatible hardware, and these devices arrive pre-provisioned so you can plug and play. Currently its cheapest desk phone – the YeaLink T31P – is £56.40, including VAT, through their online store.

As outlined above, the more expensive of the two Unlimited Calling tiers includes a handset – the aforementioned T31P – so this may be an avenue worth exploring if you don’t already have the necessary hardware and prefer not to rely on apps.

Within an hour of setting up, I’d been assigned an account manager who had emailed to introduce himself and offer a call to walk me through the main features. This is always welcome, but, in truth, the system is so easy to navigate that I find it unlikely that many new users will have any problems.

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bOnline review: Are there any additional features?

The dashboard is feature-rich but easy to understand, and I was particularly impressed by the call flows feature, which is available on both of the Unlimited Calling tiers. This lets you set up a navigable system similar to the button-press menus you probably encounter when calling a doctor or an insurer.

You can either start with a template – there are two to choose from: one call queueing template and one dial menu template – or take the free-form option where you start from scratch. I tested the dial menu template, which launches with a simple dual branch flow that either plays callers a greeting and presents them with a menu, or sends them to voicemail. It’s up to you how you want to create the greeting, whether you record your own or upload a sound file in MP3, AIFF, WAV, or FLAC format. Or, if you don’t like the sound of your own voice, you can use text-to-speech instead, simply give your greeting a name, choose a male or a female voice, and type the content. Both of the stock voices are clear and have excellent intonation, and I seriously doubt I could have done better if I’d recorded the greeting myself.

You can use the same greeting generator to describe options on a dial menu and, when you save the options, the tree will grow new branches – one for each option in the menu. It’s up to you where they go, but they might divert to an extension or to voicemail, open a sub-menu, play another greeting, and so on. For a business that needs to push out recorded information, like a school that needs to issue updates on snow closures, this is an effective tool that’s easy to use, quick to set up, and takes next to no time to learn.

Your business hours are set to 24/7 by default, but you can tailor these through the dashboard and use them as variables within a call flow. So it’s possible to use it to automatically send callers to voicemail out of hours without needing to remember to switch on the system, or you could divert calls to a night answering service after everyone’s knocked off.

So long as you’re not on the Starter plan, you can record calls from the bOnline app or by typing a short code on your desk phone. You can also enable automatic recordings account-wide as a paid upgrade, though at that point it would be wise to implement the option to play a pre-pickup announcement, to warn callers that they may be recorded.

bOnline review: Should you sign up?

You’d be hard pushed to find a system that’s quicker or easier to set up. And the price of the starter plan is certainly tempting. My only reservation is that, if you have a compatible desk phone and you’re already using it with another supplier whose service you want to maintain, you may end up needing a second device. You could, of course, use one of the bOnline apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, but not everyone wants to work that way. The option to manually enter SIP credentials on a single line when using multi-line desk phones would be welcome.

Choosing a tier will likely come down to whether you need features like HD video calling, call recording, and call flows. If you don’t, Starter would likely suffice. Otherwise, you’re looking at one of the two Unlimited Calling plans. The most expensive tier bundles in a phone for the difference of just £1.86 per month, which is a fair deal if you prefer not to pay for a phone upfront, although the phone on offer is the cheapest in bOnline’s store. And it’s worth bearing in mind that after 31 months you’ll have paid more in additional fees than it would have cost to buy it outright, so if you can afford to pay for the phone upfront, or you have one already, the cheaper Unlimited Calling plan is more attractive in the long term.

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