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Vonage Broadband Phone Service

August 19, 2003

By Benjamin A. Hunter

We've all seen the Vonage broadband phone service ads on TV. People bragging about how much money they save using vonage, how clear the calls are, etc. So what's the deal? Is it legit? Two months ago I signed up for Vonage, and the following reflect my experiences with the company.

What is Vonage?
Simply put, Vonage is calls over the internet. $39.99 a month gets you unlimited "local" (local being the home area code you choose for your number) and long distance calling. In other words, you pay $40 a month and pay nothing more for phone calls. $25.99 a month gets you the scaled down plan, which includes unlimited local calls, and 500 minutes of long distance calling.

Setup:
Setup was painless. You plug the ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) into your router (if you don't have a router, you can buy one yourself, or Vonage will provide you one for an extra fee) and then you plug your phone into the router. Assuming everything is okay between the network and the internet, you should have phone service.

Call Quality:
Call quality is amazing, provided you have enough bandwidth. There is a "bandwidth saver" option, however this does create a lower quality call. It is not generally a good idea to be doing a lot of uploading or downloading when trying to take or place a call. If you have a big enough pipe, you may be able to get away with placing a call and doing whatever else you please, but sadly this is not my situation. That being said, in most situations, I cannot tell the difference between a regular call and a Vonage call.

Extras:
You want extras? You got em? About the only service Vonage doesn't throw in for no additional charge is "Information" (555-1212 or 411) - which costs extra. They do, however, throw in a slew of extras. This includes caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, voicemail, conference calling, caller ID block, repeat dialing. In addition they have recently added all of Canada to their call plan, which means if you have the unlimited plan, Canada, like the USA, is free to call -- anywhere.

You can also add low cost fax lines, extra phone numbers (in other cities no less), 800 numbers, and other services.

Customer Support:
While I didn't have many problems with Vonage service, I was surprised to discover that Vonage is QUICK to respond to problems, be it via email or over their toll-free 800 number. The staff is knowledgeable and very courteous.

The Good Stuff
Call quality was incredible, and suffered but was still usable even in "Bandwidth Saver" mode. You can choose any area code you want, however it is not available in all areas. 911 Service is available, but is tied to your "local" area code. You can disable 911 service (and international calls) to prevent the number from being dialed. As I said, setup is easy, you can use your own phone, and problems are few and far between. If you make a lot of long distance calls, you really can't beat this deal.

The Bad Stuff
There wasn't much to scoff at. I suffered one or two outages related to my local broadband service or my own network, but this was always quickly resolved. I do find the price to be a little higher than I liked, but with the amount of long distance calling I do, plus that of my wife, I find it a good value nonetheless. Also, Vonage is not available in my home area code. If I could drop my local phone service and go strictly to Vonage, the value would be well worth it. Since I live in the boon-docks, it may be some time before this occurs. Still, it's kind of neat having a New York phone number. Yes, you can call me locally if you live in the 516 area code. I wonder if I show up in the local phone book?

The Verdict:
For those making a ton of long distance calls, or those able to use Vonage and dump the local phone company, this service is the way to go. Others may want to weigh the need for this service long and hard before going to Vonage. I'll probably stick with Vonage with the savings it gives me on LD, but I'll praise the day they open up my area code.

Score: GeekExtreme.com 4-Star Review.



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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