Vonage VOIP 

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Want an extra phone line? There are many ways of getting one apart from the more obvious BT or cable phone services. Broadband is one such candidate.

The promotion of VOIP has in no small part been promoted by Skype and others who allow Free calls computer to computer, but the quality is not always as good as that from a phone and there are problems, you both need to be at a computer and you could not call anyone on a normal phone line. This last problem was solved in the case of Skype by 'Skype Out' where for only a small charge you could ring a normal phone. That left the problem that you could not be rung on a normal phone when not on a PC. This in fact is now a service (only as yet in beta) that can be offered where you are given a separate number.


There are numerous solutions that allow voice over Broadband using a special router. So in my case my broadband enabled phone line going into the ZyXEL modem (reviewed 30/5/05) and connected to the special Linksys router (provided by Vonage) and then just attach any normal phone to the router. Now you can make Free phone calls to any 01 and 02 numbers in the UK or the Republic or Ireland.


Vonage will give you a number (this can be any major area of the UK or if you have a lot of family or friends in other countries it could be say in the USA) and the phone connected as described above will ring and you will receive calls as normal, and, in my tests I could not notice any lag or drop off of quality. You can pick up that phone and dial any number, assuming you choose a UK number for it any 01 or 02 number you dial in the UK or the Republic of Ireland is Free. Anyone dialling your number pays there normal rate. So if you have a lot of friends in Liverpool and you choose a Liverpool number even if you are actually in Bristol they pay only a local Liverpool call rate to ring you.


So what do you pay, a monthly fee of £9.99, a one off fee for the special Linksys router and you also pay for calls to International and mobile numbers as well as 0845 and 0870 numbers, however the amount you pay is a lot less than say BT would charge. A full list of charges can be found on the Vonage site. As an example I rang a mobile and left a short message the total call was 21 seconds and this cost 2p, no not a misprint 2p. Yes that was on a weekend, and of course weekday rates are higher, look on the site.


I knew the cost around five minutes after making the call as each account is online and all calls (both made and received) are listed. Should there be a charge that is shown alongside the call.


At this time Vonage only support Windows but I have used it on the Linspire (Linux) box with no problems. The only setup you need to do is for the Router and while this can be done - probably easiest - from a CD it can also be done from a web page and that is what I did within the Linux PC.


In fact you also get some extra services that are normally only available as extras. Should you be online you can see who is calling before you answer for no extra cost. You can have calls forwarded to another number for no extra cost. You can have another phone number ring simultaneously at no extra cost. If for any reason your Broadband is not functioning you can have calls transferred to another phone number and at no extra cost. It is also possible to have another extra line for say a fax at a small monthly extra fee. You can also have a soft phone. All this and more are controlled from your own page on the Vonage site.


When you first join you enter a username and password after that you can log in from any PC that has Internet connection to check on your account and change say the number that you want calls forwarded to.


As far as the forwarding service for when your Broadband is unavailable there is absolutely no delay as I tested it dialling from my fax line one exchange to my phone line on another exchange and noted the time between dialling the last digit and the phone ringing. I then did the same exercise ringing from my fax line to the unavailable Vonage line and the time was exactly the same. I understand that the Gateway redirects as it knows the number is unavailable.


So from my tests I noted no call quality problems and all the things shown above and more that BT and others charge extra for are all in your monthly fee. Best of all if you have lots of family and friends in say both the UK and USA get the second line and they can all dial that number for low cost. The only problem how to answer two phones at once, oh did I say that Call Waiting is Free as well.


Link   Actual figures are £33.97 and this includes the router, the first months subscription and post and packing for the router.

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