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VoIP: Vonage Long Distance Service

May 2, 2004

By Ronny Ko

Ever since the early days of the Internet, many startups have tried to tackle the problem of making long distance telephone calls by using the Internet. Some may remember Net2Phone or Internet Phone software companies. Many have either failed or have dramatically changed their business plans. With increasing broadband connectivity and improved network connections, large established companies as well as startups like Vonage have been vying for a piece of this burgeoning market: Voice-over-IP (VoIP) calling with a regular telephone handset.

A standard telephone line may have brought us our first Internet connection but many pioneers may remember that while it was great for email and some Internet surfing, it was backward by today's standard. Now, there's Vonage: a service with a great idea and marketing. At a mere $14.99 per month, home users get up to 500 minutes of calling anywhere in North America including local calling. The package is higher for small business calling but all package rates come with the following extras at no addition charge:

  • Voicemail
  • CallerID
  • Call waiting
  • Call forwarding
  • Call hunt
  • Call transfer
  • Call return (*69)
  • CallerID block (*67)
  • Area code selection, and
  • Usage monitoring


Vonage offers a Small Business Unlimited plan at $49.99/month which includes unlimited local or long distance calling throughout North America as well as a fax line.

And, if you have to make long distance calls outside of North America, a call to London and Hong Kong costs a mere $0.02 per minute. Now, there's a reason to throw out your calling card.

How does it work?



The service is extremely simple to setup. Our testing unit arrived with a Motorola VT1005V VoIP-to-Analog network device. The device connects to your high speed Internet service between your broadband modem and your router. As a result, the modem will not interfere with your normal and existing internal network configuration.

In setting up, connecting the device took less than 7 minutes all together to unplug and reconnect the cables. Because the VoIP-to-Analog network device now takes the place router, you have to go into the device's Web-based configuration screen to change your MAC address to it matches what's been recorded at your ISPs. From there on, you have restored your network connection. Total setup time was 20 minutes and that's for someone who didn't read the manuals.

The Benefits

The Benefits of using Vonage includes the fact that you can continue to use your existing telephone handset because it now connects to the back of the VoIP-to-analog network device. And since it is a separate device, you don't have to have a PC running 24-hours a day. But the single biggest benefit to the business traveler is that you can now take your telephone number with you wherever you go. By taking your VoIP-to-analog modem with you, the telephone number travels with you. Therefore, as long as you have an Internet connection, you have access to your voicemail and your telephone number.

For those who are worried about security, Vonage recently added 911-emergency call service. Unfortunately, the service still won't make 1-900 calls. The other disadvantage is that you would become reliant on ISPs service outage. In addition, you IP stream is not encrypted so if you are a going to make a call to your lawyer, doctor or accountant, you're safer to use your land line.

Sound Quality

We started to test Vonage with a skeptical eye in regards to sound quality. We were proven wrong! The service quality was better than our wildest imagination. For everyone we called, no one was able to tell the difference.

Unfortunately, we were able to hear some garbled noise and cutout from the other end. We believe that this has to do with our ISPs download stream which is dependent on how many users there are on the network: the number the number of user, the lower the quality. Of course, the Canadian service relies on Group Telecom, a 360Networks company. We know that 360Networks offers one of the best quality fiber optics connections anywhere.

Nonetheless, while the service still does not match the reliability and quality, it is, in our opinion, a splendid service to say the least.

Online Services

Vonage offers customers the ability to view, monitor and update all telephone calls from Vonage's customer service site.

Conclusion

If you're a small business owner and is someone who is always on the road, the Vonage Voip service is a wonderful service. It offers fantastic value for such a small price. The promise of true telephone mobility without the roaming costs (at least in Canada) as well as ability to have your voice call be routed to your laptop or PC with the use of software like Xten Networks' X-PRO softphone software are invaluable to the road warrior. A cellular phone is still great but it doesn't let you interface with your PC or notebook.

VoIP: Vonage Long Distance Service
Developed by: Vonage Holdings Corp..
Published by: Vonage Holdings Corp..
Price: $19.99

Rating: 5 out of 5



 
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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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