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Vonage VoIP Phones Are Talk Of Town

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Web Phones Are Talk Of Town

March 15, 2005

By Peggy Rogers

Voice over Internet Protocol is a growing technology that keeps customers in touch anywhere in the world.

Hollywood car dealer Jorge Chavez travels frequently to Latin America and still uses his local phone to make free phone calls to South Florida.

"I used to pay for international and long-distance calls overseas probably $1,300 to $1,500 a month," said Chavez, president of SAI Motors. "Now, the charges are reduced to about $100 or about $150 a month."

Chavez uses Voice over Internet Protocol, a Net-based telephone system that is growing faster in total new lines than traditional phone service, said senior analyst Arrian Shafqat of the telecommunications industry research firm The Eastern Management Group.

"The fact it took Voip lines a mere three years to increase from 673,000 . . . to 1.796 million depicts how fast the migration to IP is taking place," he said, describing the growth of business customers. `The transition is remarkable.'

Internet-based service allows customers to route calls to several phones in different locations. It can also shift missed calls into e-mail and may still work in an emergency when phone lines are down.

However, if Internet lines go down, the phones go down. A number of Voip services provide their own backup Internet lines and someone has to watch the system carefully.

"You have to prepare well. You have to monitor, monitor, monitor, and you have fix," said John Rooney, president of Viola Networks. A network is continually changing. You can't set it and forget it."

In many cases, he said, "networks are not ready for VoIP."


And while the home or business-end user can find it simple to use Voip -- configuring where to have a phone ring, for instance, with a few clicks on a Web page -- a complete business overhaul is often complex, JupiterResearch analyst Joe Laszlo said.

The tech bust in 2000 hurt early Voip technology when investor money dried up. But the technology revived late in 2003, and providers like Vonage have used advertising to spur competition and demand.

Voip routes calls over the Internet into a portable adapter, which will shuttle calls to or from traditional telephone lines.

The user needs a broadband connection, but that connection could be anywhere in the world. It also has clearer reception than the old Net2Phone technology, which used to add fuzz, echoes and periods of silence in calls.

Calling with VoIP, Chavez said, "is like calling next door."

Matrimonial attorney Herman H. Tarnow lives in Naples and practices law in New York City. He uses the telephone like a cellphone but avoids roaming charges by using VoIP.

Two other attorneys in his firm also telecommute across state lines, including a pregnant lawyer who is able to keep working while visiting New York once a week, Tarnow said.

Calls can ring simultaneously or sequentially from one location to another.

"You can have it call your office phone or your cellphone and transfer next to your home phone and transfer next to your vacation home," said industry expert Rich Tehrani, president of TMC, which three weeks ago held a packed Internet Telephony Convention & Expo in Miami.

During last summer's hurricane onslaught, the U.S. Iberia Airlines headquarters in Miami evacuated for several days, had local service provider DSLi set up Voip lines within a day, and rerouted thousands of U.S. customer calls to Madrid.

"I called the afternoon of the prior day and they had it ready the next morning," said Valentin Sanchez, Iberia regional communications manager.


Century Communications, a Boca Raton cable TV, broadband and alarm monitoring service, also had to close its office during the hurricanes.

"All my senior staff took their Voip phones home to plug them into their network, so we were able to utilize our office network at home," said Bill McKissock, vice president and general manager.

The U.S. military is also adopting some Voip technology, which gives some service people extra contact with their families.

McKissock's son Steven calls home often from Iraq on an Internet phone for 4 cents a minute (the Army pays for basic charges).


"You're just dying when you don't hear from your kids for weeks at a time, and you don't know what they're going through,'' McKissock said. ``I'm still worried, but at least I hear from him regularly."


Overall, Voip technology is changing so that some of the early transmission problems are no longer an issue, said Laszlo of JupiterResearch.

"It's starting to come down to how well the implementation is done, rather than the reliability of the Voice over IP equipment itself," he said.

"If the planning stage is done well, and you're hiring the right expertise, any potential problem should be foreseeable."

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