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mikebrown Posted:
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dconnor Posted:
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Trafford Posted:
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On Apr 27, 2017 at 10:42:50

diazou Posted:
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IP PBX for small business
On Mar 28, 2017 at 12:42:33

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On Feb 23, 2017 at 18:33:52

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The Internet Is Calling

Vonage In Print News

The Internet Is Calling

PR News --December 20, 2004

By David P. Willis

Debbie Thompson of Freehold Township wasn't sold on the idea of using the Internet to make telephone calls.

"I didn't trust it. I thought you had to talk on your computer," said Thompson, 28. But her husband, John, convinced her, and now they are customers of Vonage, an Edison-based company that provides Internet telephone service.

"We got it because the phone bills were just so high we just couldn't take it anymore," said Thompson. Their monthly telephone bill, once about $95, is now about $20.

The Thompsons were early pioneers in what is now a growing, albeit still small, trend: people turning away from traditional telephone service and toward technology called "Voice over Internet Protocol," or Voip for short.

Besides upstart broadband companies like Vonage, which was started by Brielle resident Jeffrey A. Citron, and Jamesburg-based VoicePulse, large established companies such as AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications and Cablevision Systems have jumped into the fray.

By the end of 2005, about 1 million households are expected to have switched to Voip service, a number that is expected to jump to more than 12 million by 2009, or 10 percent of all U.S. households, according to Joseph Laszlo, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Cablevision, which markets its service as Optimum Voice to its cable customers, said it is signing up 1,000 customers a day in its New York metropolitan area cable region, an area that includes Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Cablevision said it has signed up more than 250,000 customers so far. Vonage said it has signed up more than 350,000 customers. Other providers would not release numbers.

"We are definitely beginning to see some real growth in the industry and increasing interest from less technically savvy, more typical consumers," Laszlo said.

Here is how Voip works. First of all, you need high-speed Internet access via either a cable modem or digital subscriber line.

A small device with a telephone jack, which is either given to you by the service provider or sold at stores such as Best Buy, hooks up to your high-speed Internet connection and telephone. The technology converts your voice into packets of information and sends it out over the Internet, the same way an e-mail travels on the Web. At its destination, the call is switched over to the traditional telephone network.

"Today the technology has matured to the point where broadband phone service rivals traditional telephone calling in terms of voice" quality, AT&T spokesman Gary Morgenstern said. "It is ready for prime time with the masses."

Typically, you install the service yourself at home. Cablevision provides a free installation.

The technology gives companies the ability to offer different telephone features.

"It is interesting because there are things you can do with voice over IP phones that you are not normally able to do over a traditional telephone line," said Michelle Swittenberg, executive director for Verizon's consumer Voip services.

For instance, Voip allows you to have a telephone number in a different part of the country.

For example, you could live in Toms River and have a telephone number with a 310 area code for Los Angeles, where you have relatives. "When your family calls you, they call on the L.A. number and it is a local call for them," said Ravi Sakaria, president of VoicePulse. Some providers also allow you to have multiple phone numbers, sometimes for a fee.

Let's suppose you take a trip to Chicago. Depending on your provider, you might be able to take the small Voip box with you. Hook it up to a high-speed Internet connection and start dialing and receiving calls -- from your home telephone number.

Plus, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from each other, providers are offering some cool features, not just traditional telephone add-ons such as Caller ID and Call Waiting.

You might want to sign up for a service that will ring different phones in an effort to connect with you. After your home phone rings, the call will go to your cell phone or office phone. Or you can have all your phones ring at once with the call going to whichever one you answer first.

You can have different phone rings, depending on who is calling. And you can put a virtual "Do Not Disturb" sign on your line, blocking certain numbers or all calls.

Services also allow you to check and listen to your voice mail online or manage your calls on the Internet.

All that is fine, but consumers are attracted to Internet telephone service primarily because of the low prices, said Kate Griffin, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group. Prices for unlimited local and long distance calling are available from $20 to $35 or so, judging by some of the offers that are out there.

But service providers are touting their add-ons as a way to attract customers, the analyst said. "Players are looking to change that game and build demand for some of the unique IP related features."

And yet, ther are a lot of people who still don't know about VoIP. In a survey earlier this year, the Yankee Group found that only 13 percent of respondents had heard about it.

"While the growth has been great, it is not yet commonplace, and it won't be for years," Griffin said. "We are still in a phase of very low consumer awareness."

Not that companies aren't working to change that.

Cablevision is promoting its Optimum Voice as a bundle with high-speed Internet service and digital cable for about $90 a month. If purchased separately, these services could cost about $140 a month.

Nearly two-thirds of Cablevision's newly acquired Optimum Voice subscribers have signed up for packaged offers, said Patricia Gottesman, Cablevision's executive vice president, product management and marketing.

Ads for Vonage can be seen on the Internet, as well as on radio and television, said Lou Holder, Vonage's executive vice president of product development.

"The available market is huge," Holder said. "It is a huge market to attack for all of us."

If you're thinking about signing up for VoIP, there are some things to keep in mind, consumers experts say. First of all, don't forget that you need a high-speed Internet connection, which can cost an extra $35 to $45 a month if all you have now is a traditional dial-up Internet connection.

"Do your homework," said John Breyault, research associate at the Telecommunications Research and Action Center in Washington D.C. Different services have different quirks:

  • How much long-distance calling do you make? Those who already make at least $30 to $40 in long distance calls are the ones who will see savings, Breyault said.

    "VoIP continues to be something from a cost savings point of view that will be most applicable toward your power users."

    Matawan resident Jessica DiGiovanni, 28, has gotten her telephone service from Vonage for almost two years. Her phone bill used to be more than $150 a month, a cost that has dropped to $30. "Quite honestly, I do make a lot of long distance calls," she said.

  • Check to see if you can keep your current telephone number, a service known as number portability. Many providers these days allow you to move your old phone number to your new service, but some don't, Breyault said.

  • Does the company offer enhanced 911 service? Callers dialing 911 might need to tell the emergency operator where they are located since their address typically will not appear automatically, according to TRAC.

    With enhanced 911, which provides an operator with your actual location, is not yet supported by all providers, the group said.

  • Be wary of offers that promise a year of service or a lifetime of Voip phone service at a fixed price, deals that are often made by smaller companies.

    "As start-ups, you really need to worry about whether they are going to be around for the long haul," Breyault said. "Look for companies that are out there for a while or have a reputable company backing them up."

  • If you want telephone service at more than one telephone in the house, you may need a device called a broadband port to hook up other phones. Some providers have technology to connect all of the telephones in the home easily.

  • Do you have a back-up telephone? When the power, or your Internet connection goes out, your phone will go dead. Keep your wireless telephone and a car charger handy, Breyault said.

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