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Vonage In The News
Vonage Holdings Corp. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results

Carolyn Katz Elected to Board of Directors of Vonage Holdings Corp.


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Vonage vs. Time Warner Cable SoCal

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Vonage, a VT2142 and a RTP300, My Experiences - A Detailed Review

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The Next Big Telecom Buildout isn't Just Talk: Massachusetts Tech Firms Position

Vonage In Print News

Voice Everywhere:

October 24, 2003
By Tom Iglehart and Maureen Condon

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell rented out the first telephone line in Boston in 1877, the way we communicate by voice hasn't changed much. Now, a handful of Massachusetts entrepreneurs, and their global colleagues, want to change all that.

Theirs is a simple and yet explosive idea: Convert the phone system from an old-fashioned appliance that does just one thing into a massive computer that can do lots of things. Surprising to some, this conversion is well on its way.

The technology that will underpin the planned new services is called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The name pretty well describes how it works.

Instead of using the traditional telephone circuits that the major carriers have been using and developing since Bell's time, Voip is based on how computers connect throughout the Internet. The openness and flexibility of this collection of connectivity languages, called Internet Protocol, offers many new ways to manage and integrate voice and other media. It also offers big opportunities to consumers and new companies, and creates big threats to large, established telcos.

Some of the futuristic services that Voip promises are beginning to appear in high-end Voip systems for businesses, such as offered by Cisco and Avaya. But the objective of the really aggressive Voip entrepreneurs is to have all these services available to consumers at very low cost in the near future.

Vonage, based in Edison, N.J., is one such company, offering a low-cost calling program with features such as area codes chosen by the customer, multiple numbers with multiple area codes that ring in one location, and an integrated fax service.

Net2Phone, based in Newark, N.J., is another providing retail Voip services to consumers and small-to-medium-sized businesses. Recognized as the first company to bridge the Internet with the public switched telephone network, Net2Phone routes millions of minutes daily over data networks.

But, beyond simple cost cutting, the features that will permanently change how we think about voice communication and telephones are largely still waiting in the wings in the U.S.

Local cable companies, including Comcast, and telecom providers like Verizon have taken notice.

"VoIP will provide us the opportunity to provide 'phone of the future' services," said Sarah Eder, Comcast spokesperson for cable high-speed and telephony.

Comcast provides digital cable services to more than 90,000 Cape Cod customers, and also offers HDTV; Comcast ON DEMAND movies and programming will be available to Cape Cod customers by the end of the year, according to Marc Goodman, PR specialist from Comcast's Boston office.

While unable to specify exactly when or what Voip services might be available to Cape Cod customers in the future, Eder did say that "Comcast is currently engaged in technical testing of a Voip system in the Philadelphia area, and plans to do a marketing trial in a yet undesignated location in 2004, and is looking to roll out Voip in some locales in 2005."

Verizon spokesperson John Vincenzo said that, "While Verizon has no definitive time frame for offering Voip services to consumers, we currently offer Voip services to businesses in Massachusetts and will continue to evolve these services as the technology advances. We've found that businesses and niche educational institutions are more likely to be the early adopters of this technology."

Baystate Companies Leading the Revolution

Massachusetts is not only home to these early adopters, but some 15 Massachusetts companies are among the leaders worldwide who are spearheading the development of this new Voip technology and the migration of current telecom systems to it:

Excel Switching Corp., Hyannis; Acme Packet, Woburn; Brooktrout Technology, Needham; Common Voices, Cambridge; Empirix, Wilmington; Iperia, Inc., Burlington; Pactolus Communications Software, Westborough; SnowShore Networks, Chelmsford; SOLINET, Inc., Woburn; Sonus Networks, Westford; Spectel, Andover; StarGen, Marlborough; Surf Communication Solutions, Framingham; TeleGea, Waltham; and Telica, Marlborough.

Locally, Excel Switching Corporation in Hyannis produces a Converged Services Platform (CSP) that seamlessly bridges the gap between traditional telephone networks and the new IP networks.

Spun off from Lucent Technologies, Excel formed as a corporate entity in June 2003. "We are debt free and profitable, and business is looking very good moving into 2004," said Bill Kelly, director of marketing programs for the privately held company.

"Fifty percent of the company's business is domestic and 50 percent is overseas," he noted.

"The Asian/Pacific companies and European companies are way ahead of the U.S. in implementing VoIP," said Kelly, who's just returned from the International Telecommunications Union trade show in Geneva. "In Japan and Korea, companies are even providing advanced services like video-on-demand to wireless devices. Right now, you can see a short movie clip on your cell phone in certain metropolitan areas there.
"Eventually, everything will move to VoIP," Kelly predicted. "It could take 20 years, because there is so much telecom infrastructure, or it could happen much sooner."

Coming down the wire

There are so many possibilities for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology that no one claims to see the future clearly, but some of the features coming could include:

  • TVs that display a picture of calling parties in the corner of the screen, so viewers can decide whether to interrupt a favorite show.

  • Phones that can be instructed to call only plumbers who are not tied up with other jobs when your basement is flooding, so you don't waste time.

  • Household or other bills that arrive by voicemail, allowing a passcode to be keyed in to approve a secure payment.

  • Cell phones that search for nearby restaurants by menu type or reviewer rating in any city.

  • "Smart dialing" that eliminates the need to dial your own area code when calling a neighbor.

  • Phone numbers that can be set to ring at several locations simultaneously when a call comes in so calls are never missed.

  • Voicemail delivered with your e-mail.

  • Caller priority that always puts certain callers through, while others always go to voicemail.

  • Mobile phones for kids that call only pre-programmed phone numbers, and built-in global positioning (GPS) that can pinpoint the child's location at all times.

  • Beaming live visits to newborn babies to pocket videophones around the world.

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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 for details.

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