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Switching from Phone to Voice-Over-IP? 103

Posted by Cliff
from the searching-for-the-pitfalls dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "I am fed up with the telcos. My last phone bill for one line was over $100 _without_ the $45 for ADSL, so i'm looking to cut as many costs as I can. I've compared my current Voice + Internet solution to one consisting of Voice-over-IP and Cable Internet and it looks like I would save over $50 a month by throwing away my land-line phone and switching to Cable/VoIP. I'm new to the whole changing-from-POTS-to-VoIP process though, so what are some of the 'gotchas' involved with switching? Can I keep my existing number? Will calls suck my bandwidth dry? And most importantly, do any of these VoIP providers work with or support Linux?"
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Switching from Phone to Voice-Over-IP?

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  • by Futurepower(R) (558542) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:17PM (#8185653) Homepage
    Skype has better sound quality than a regular telephone, and it is free, for now.
    • by notsoclever (748131) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:22PM (#8185688) Journal
      and doesn't support incoming landline phonecalls

      and doesn't let him keep his phone number

      but other than that, yes, it totally fits the bill!

    • by Futurepower(R) (558542) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:25PM (#8185721) Homepage

      Link: Skype [skype.com]

      I've been using Skype to talk with a friend in France, from Oregon. The sound quality is excellent, much better than crackly old telephones. The link is computer to computer, and we both have high-speed internet connections.

      Also, try OneSuite [onesuite.com]. 2.5 cents per minute to use a regular, scratchy traditional phone.

      Both of these make me realize that the telephone companies are charging too much. When you talk, you are only transferring a few bits of digital information. Everyone's conversations are aggregated into a huge data stream that is very cheap to send by optical fiber.

      • Another thing. Skype operates with a totally firewalled computer. When it finds that its ports are closed, it uses the browser port, port 80. This raises interesting questions of security. Anything can be transmitted over port 80.

        It also raises interesting questions of writing an open source version of Skype that would hook to regular phone lines.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Both of these make me realize that the telephone companies are charging too much. When you talk, you are only transferring a few bits of digital information. Everyone's conversations are aggregated into a huge data stream that is very cheap to send by optical fiber.

        Please dig up all of north america and bury fiber. Then get back to us about how cheap it really is.

        • There is already too much fiber. More than 50% is not being used.
          • That would probably because it's been laid in the wrong places and doesn't connect to enough profitable endpoints. Which makes it about as useful as the proverbial solar-powered flashlight.
          • There is already too much fiber. More than 50% is not being used.
            There is never too much fiber. It will be used. When you say "50% is not being used" are you talking about average load or peak load? Peak usage can be orders of magnitude larger than average usage. Think of Christmas (or Thanksgiving for you American types).
            What about virus outbreaks? They tend to double or triple the amount of email traffic on the wire at any one time.
            If your 2GHz CPU had an average load of 1%, would you replace it with a
            • He means "not used" period.
              Do a google search on "dark fibre" (avoid the textiles links)

              Lessig in is "The Future of Ideas" refers to this, the fiscal value of the communication commons depends on managing the scarcity.

              Try this story [theregister.co.uk] where we learn about the lack of scarcity on London.
  • In theory, yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by notsoclever (748131) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:19PM (#8185672) Journal
    Supposedly the FCC number portability rules apply to landlines as well as cellphones, though it's still a bit hazy whether it applies to VoIP or not (I think it's supposed to though).

    Linux support-wise, Vonage supposedly supports Linux, though honestly I'd go with one of the hardware VoIP phones anyway, just for matters of simplicity (like when it comes to devices grabbing your hardware and fighting between mp3 playback and phonecalls, and just simple matters of Linux audio sometimes being a pain to deal with).

    Personally I just use a cellphone for my primary phone line, but it sounds like you make way more calls than I do.

    • I havent seen any information anywhere about number portability of local landline numbers. Do you have more information on this?
      • Re:In theory, yes (Score:2, Informative)

        by jaredmauch (633928)
        Vonage [vonage.com] will let you port your number to their service. You can even port your Cell number to vonage as well. Check here [vonage.com] for their LNP information.
        • I've done just this. My cable company supplies the broadband connection and my "landline" is through vonage. I ported my old land line over and it works fine, but sometimes I get calls that don't forward to my cellphone like its supposed to.
        • Just a sidenote, Vonage may or may not have a POP in your area code. The area I live in has 2 area codes, and when I moved to Vonage I had to take a number in the newer of the two area codes. Not a big deal, but worth mentioning.

          I've been fairly impressed with Vonage's service, but the quality is similar to a cellphone... It sounds good, but you can tell there is a fair amount of latency. Sure beats paying my local telco monopoly, though. =)
    • What Vonage actually sends you is a little box made by Cisco that uses DHCP to obtain an address and only communicates with two or three hosts.. (the DNS server, sip.vonage.com, and.. Drawing a blank)

      They're pretty dummy proof. Plug one jack into your switch, one jack into a patch cable to a jack on your existing phone wiring, or straight into a phone, and plug in power. They're sent with the info they need to get started already on 'em.

      No software required, deals with shitty DHCP and shitty NAT rather we
  • NAT nat nat.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jaredmauch (633928) <jared@puck.nether.net> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:23PM (#8185699) Homepage
    Your biggest concern with this will be what sort of device you're using for performing your NAT. (See here [sipphone.com] for some info about consumer routers that have NAT issues) Asking "do these services work with linux" is a very vague question, are you using linux as a router? desktop? You should also keep in mind the underlying issues involved with making this work. In order for your phone to be told to ring, your telecom provider needs to send you a message saying "hey, ring that phone". Depending on what kind of VoIP you're going to do you may also encounter problems if the other person is doing VoIP and is behind NAT as well.

    Most of the commercial providers will solve these issues for you. I'm currently using vonage [www.vonage] at home for my second line. I still keep a traditional landline for E911 and other functionality. The whole "where is your service located" issue is quite interesting on this front when you call emergency services. Since I could take my Vonage hardware with me to a friends house if I were traveling, it makes it quite tricky. Plus you don't need to have a phone number that is within your local calling area.

    I'm interested in hearing from vonage (and other) VoIP users that have called 911 and if there were any complications..

    • Phone companies are required by law to relay calls to 911 regardless of whether or not you have phone service. If you get a dial tone when you pick up (which you should, even when you don't pay for service), you can call 911.

      You are wasting your money.
      • I'm not exactly wasting my money, I do live in a somewhat rural location and happen to be in a lucky situation where I have a T1 into my home. I don't have any "broadband" choices (aside from satellite). It's quite likely that in the 10+ miles (of cabling) from my location to the closest fiber hut where my service goes on to a lightspan, if I turned off my service I would no longer have dialtone.

        I'm additionally insuring that if I do lose my internet connectivity (employer change, etc...) that I am not

      • Here they actually charge you for the dial tone on top of the normal phone service...
      • Have you ever moved? When you move into a new house there is no dialtone. When you cancel your phone service because you are moving out, there is no dialtone.
        • I've moved more than 6 times in the last 8 years. Everytime there was a dial-tone on the phone when I plugged it in. If I tried to dial a number before we ordered service, it would say something to the effect of "No service is currently provided on this line. Please contact blah blah blah." However, if you dialed 911 it would go through. This was all on Qwest (formerly US West).

          This is the law! A federal one at that. If you move to a new home and there is no dialtone, the phone company is breaking
      • I do not, and never have, gotten a dialtone without paying for service on a landline.
        • Next time you move and there is no dialtone, report them. It is a violation of federal law! They get away with it because most people don't know it's a law, and wouldn't report them if they did, as they usually order service anyways.
    • Your biggest concern with this will be what sort of device you're using for performing your NAT.

      Not to downplay what you're saying, but I think the biggest concern is that moving away from a telco means you can't get a dialtone during a power outage. It's one of the three remaining reasons I keep traditional phone service.

      DISCLAIMER: I work for a telco, but not the one the submitter linked to.

      • If your hardware is plugged into a UPS (including the VOIP adapter) I believe you can still make the 911 calls even in a power outage. The only problem being the possibility of your broadband connection going down due to the power outage. If this happens then yes, you'll need either a land line w/o a phone needing elctricity or a cell phone (depending of course how wide spread teh power outage is of course..) Still, depending where you live even a land line will not always work, for instance I live in Ve
  • Legislation will close up those loop-holes soon.

    The cost savings for a single user just are not going to be there. VoIP might be cheap for large companies that do $10K in long distance a month. But for Joe user it's not cost effective and the sound quality can suffer. It's cheaper to get a Cell phone with free nights/weekends and a good min/month plan.
  • Dude! A hundred dollars? I haven't tried VOIP but I switched to MCI's neighborhood and I only pay $60 with taxes. My wife has used 2000 minutes of long distance in a month and it cost the same (can't STFU imagine that). At least swap to a unlimited program even if you decide VOIP isn't for you.
  • by EvlG (24576) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:27PM (#8185740)
    It's too bad you can't get DSL service without paying for phone service from the phone company.

    Why haven't these 2 services been separated? What if I want DSL for Internet access and Vonage for phone (for example). Why should I have to pay the phone company tax to get that?
    • Why would they? That would allow people to get VoIP. They would be killing their own business. I realize most people wouldn't do that (they'd probably go cell) but still. This will NEVER change unless regulation says that they must seperate the two. It makes no sense (from the phone company's point of view).
      • There are some places like Miami where you can get the phone company (BellSouth) to give you a dead line (read regualar line with dial tone filtered out at the NID) with just DSL singal. From here you only pay for the DSL and not the phone line. The service is more complicated to get because its not openly advertised, but ive seen it done. I dont remember the name exactly, sorry. Though it may be worth inquiring about.
        • That's interesting. In the Atlanta area, Bellsouth won't sell DSL service without regular phone service, or at least they wouldn't do it last summer. I don't really understand why. The regular phone service costs another $30/month, driving the monthly phone/internet bill up to around $80. For single people who use only a cellphone, this make cable internet at $45/month a much better option. Bellsouth is losing customers because of this.
    • Do what I'm planning to do. Run an old BBS on the spare phone line. That it's DSLed means that you won't get 56k, but you should manage at least 9600 and since I'm intending to run it on old 8-bit hardware, I don't think the phone line will be the bottleneck.

      Or think up something else yourself. a truely spare phone line is a wonderful resource to play with.

    • Who says you can't? You need a phone number to get DSL initially installed, but once it's installed you can have the phone service disconnected while still keeping the DSL service.

      That's what I did.

      Don't believe me? Call your phone company.
  • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent DOT jan DOT goh AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:34PM (#8185789) Homepage
    I just got a flyer from Primus, a long distance and internet provider. They have something called 'Talking Broadband'. You order it, and they send you a little thing to plug into your network, and you connect the phone to that. Not only do they transfer your phone number over, but you can pick a new number, and you can pick the area code of any place that they service, no matter where you live. As well, you can attach up to two 'alternate' phone numbers with their own area codes. I live in Edmonton, and I'm thinking of signing up for the service and getting an alternate number with a Toronto area code. That way, phone calls that friends in Toronto make to that number are local calls. I get one-way unlimited long distance for $4 a month. I can't phone out on that line, but that's okay.

    Check it out. Primus also does business in the States, though it doesn't look like they have this service in particular. You should mail and ask.
  • by Landaras (159892) <neil@weh[ ]an.com ['nem' in gap]> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:34PM (#8185793) Homepage
    I used to be a Vonage customer. I will detail my reasons for leaving at the end of this post.

    As far as Vonage and Linux goes, Vonage will supply you with an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) that plugs into your existing network. Run a patch cable from your router / switch to the ATA, and a telephone cable from the ATA to a handset and you're good to go.

    There is no interaction between the ATA and your desktop systems. It doesn't matter if you're running Windows / Linux / MacOS / Amiga / Whatever.

    As for why I left Vonage, I was unimpressed with the call quality. I had Road Runner Business Class (I think 1.5M down, 768k up, although I might be mistaken) coming into my residence, and I would occasionally get static and dropped calls. Also, about 1 out of 10 calls the other party would not be able to hear me at all and hang up in frustration (assuming it was a crank caller or the like).

    Two other problems I ran into were getting my assigned number and a "cancellation fee." When I signed up over Vonage's site, I was told that Vonage would automatically cancel my existing land-line service. However, my area code (513 - Cincinnati) was not offered, so I went with 614 (Columbus).

    I found out later (when Cincinnati Bell kept billing me) that since I didn't transfer a number Vonage didn't cancel my existing service. The wording on Vonage's site did not lead me to believe that this was the case. To Vonage's credit, after I complained about this they credited my account for what I had to pay Cincinnati Bell.

    I was disappointed when I eventually cancelled my Vonage account (to move back to Columbus and just use my cell phone as my only number) that Vonage charged me $41.19 as a "cancellation fee." They refunded this upon me shipping their hardware back, but I was very put off by being hit with that. I told Vonage that they should reword that as a hardware deposit or something more palatable.

    I'm not angry with Vonage for my experiences, but I'm not falling out of my chair to recommend them. I want to see VoIP continue to mature and eventually become ubiquitous. Whether it's ready now or not is up for discussion.

    Hope this was helpful!

    - Neil Wehneman
    • By ATA, I assume you mean a Cisco ATA 186 (which are no longer sold/made by Cisco anymore, and because of that, they are in fairly high demand now!).

      Vonage stopped giving out Cisco ATA 186's sometime after November 2003, and now give out Motorola vt1000's instead.

      Guess what? Quality is even worse with the newer Motorola hardware. :(

      At least you got out fairly cheap. We had a few dozen lines we had to kill, because quality kept getting worse... You don't want to know the cancellation fee we had to pay :\
      • I actually got one of each, as I learned with the Cisco ATA 186 not to plug a 12v power brick into a 5v device [I grabbed the wrong brick on accident]. The smell of frying components in the Cisco ATA was...enlightening.

        I shelled out $100 to get a Motorola vt1000 replacement, since this screwup was my own fault. I made arrangements to move back to Columbus to finish school (Go Bucks!) soon after, in mid-November.

        I assumed that ATA was a standard industry abbreviation. Was I wrong in that respect, and /
    • As for why I left Vonage, I was unimpressed with the call quality. I had Road Runner Business Class (I think 1.5M down, 768k up, although I might be mistaken) coming into my residence, and I would occasionally get static and dropped calls. Also, about 1 out of 10 calls the other party would not be able to hear me at all and hang up in frustration (assuming it was a crank caller or the like).

      I've had vonage since last April, and when I *first* got it it was great-- no problems at all. I have fiber to the
  • by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot@c ... m ['y.c' in gap]> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:36PM (#8185812)
    As a geek, it's a knee-jerk reaction to turn instantly to a new technology to solve the problem. But depending on why your phone bill is expensive, Voice over IP might be a difficult/costly solution to your problem.

    If your main costs come from calling someone long distance (particularly for long stretches of time), may I suggest one of the many 1 cent (or your denomination of choice)/minute phone cards? I used them in the past with someone with whom I would have long (2+ hours) conversations, and once the initial connection fee of 30 odd cents was paid, I could pretty much talk as long as I wanted. My phone bill went down from $60-80/month to one phone card ($20) per month or less (2000 minutes is a lot of minutes).

    There are also 3-4c/minute phone cards with *no connection fees* and just a weekly "mainenance" fee on the card of 35c or so.

    Many of these cards are now also rechargeable through the Internet or over the phone.

    My experience has been that the sound quality of these cards is pretty adequate for voice conversations. If you're using the phones to swap recordings of symphonies, then I wouldn't suggest it.

    Finally, my understanding is that there are many phone plans offering *unlimited* minutes for a reasonable rate. This may do the trick for you as well.

    My point is, there are a lot of solutions to your problem that don't involve tossing your phone.
    • aye, i'd hold off till the technology was a bit more advanced/user friendly... the advantage of phone cards is that you cant trace the calls. disadvantage, you cant have people just user caller-id to call you back..
    • I can't speak for the original poster, but I'll describe why this solution doesn't work for me.

      I live in Colorado. Not sure if it's the same in other places, but here basic home phone service is nearly $40 a month. That's even before you pay for long distance, call time, anything. That's just flat monthly fees and taxes for having a dial tone.

      No big deal, if you're amortizing that $40 over zillions of hours of calls. But, in my case I make very few calls. And I need a cell phone too. My call volume
  • Voip Gotchas (Score:5, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:43PM (#8185858)
    The problem with Cable + VOIP is QoS. When your cable goes out, no phone. This includes power outages - and even if YOU have UPS or whatever, the likelihood is that your cable headend doesn't have anything but a few minutes of battery. POTS is generally provisioned to run indefinitely independent of power outages etc.

    Other things to watch out for are 911 service, Caller ID.

    Operating system is generally not an issue - VOIP means installation of a Cisco or some other such box that sits on your LAN.

    Personally I chose AT&T One Rate USA instead. I didn't want to deal with the VOIP teething pains.

    • The problem with Cable + VOIP is QoS. When your cable goes out, no phone. This includes power outages - and even if YOU have UPS or whatever, the likelihood is that your cable headend doesn't have anything but a few minutes of battery. The Headend/Hub will have power to last for days, using very large diesel generators. The network (amps etc) will have a much smaller power supply. Many (well at least where I used to work) have power supplies that last between 3-6 hours, and if those start to go we woul
    • And don't forget to count in the power consumption of any additional devices you need. My own (rather old) cable modem draws 30W, thats 250 kWh a year, or (depending on the cost of electricity) up to 80$.

      Cheers
      Edgar
  • by Tyrdium (670229) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:45PM (#8185879) Homepage
    One of the reasons phone service is expensive is because of the 911 access. With POTS, you're able to call 911 easily and reliably, even in severe conditions (e.g. blackout). With VoIP, you don't get the ability to do that well. Any time your internet service goes out (admit it; it's more often than your POTS goes out), you'll lose the ability to call 911. What if there's a blackout? Will your DSL/cable modem and computer be hooked up to a good UPS? And what if you're under attack or something? Will you have the time to wait for your computer to boot up before calling 911?
    • My cell phone dials 911, and as a bonus, I can carry it with me. If I walk outside and am promptly crushed by a falling tree, I can still call 911 while the tree rests on my lower body.

      One other neat thing about cell phones: you don't even have to have a cellular plan to get emergency service. So, go ahead and throw away your POTS, get a cable modem and Vonage or whatever. And bum an old unused cell phone off someone, or pick one up really cheap from eBay. You can keep it in your car, or easily accessible
    • With POTS, you're able to call 911 easily and reliably, even in severe conditions (e.g. blackout).

      Most people who have high-speed Internet access probably also have cell phones. And whether you want it or not, you even have E911 with your cell phone.

      The 911 issue is a marketing gimmick by the phone companies.
      • The 911 is reasonable - I ditched my landline for Vonage anyway, though. My reasoning was that if it's important enough to call 911, someone can run to the bar next door. Or kick in the neighbors door, or something.

        The only issue I've had with Vonage has been people refusing to believe where I live because I had a non-local area code, and one issue with a snarky Dominos who wouldn't deliver for the same reason.

    • Of course, there's another way to look at it... if some disaster renders my VoIP *and* my cell phone unable to reach 911, I'd say there's a pretty good chance that the fine folks at 911 wouldn't exactly be in much of a position to help anyway.

      "BellSouth 911. May I help you?"

      "Yeah, my house is on fire."

      "I'm sorry, sir. We're in the middle of a category 5 hurricane. There's nothing we can do for you. "

      For that matter, does ANYBODY think you'll REALLY achieve anything useful by calling 911 after a jet cras
  • Lots of VoIP info... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gravatite (21346) * on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:48PM (#8185894)
    Playing with the various VoIP solutions is a bit of a hobby of mine, so allow me to share some of what I have learned:

    Vonage is a great company, they have area codes in a lot of places, and they also support number portability. The downside is you're stuck using their equipment (cisco ata-186). It's a nice box, doesn't require a computer, provides a plug for normal phones, and works quite well behind a Linux firewall. If that's what you're looking for, then by all means, go with Vonage. I currently have a personal line, and a business line w/ fax line through them.

    Packet8 is another company where you're stuck with their equipment. I've heard of problems with their service, but I have yet to experiance anything. The price is right, and the quality is good enough, and they also support lots of area codes. I currently have a personal line through them, but I've only had it for about 4 months.

    iConnectHere is another one that supports lots of area codes. The quality is ok, but I had lots of lag issues with them. The price is pretty good, but you have to supply your own equipment. The good news is it works well with most sip devices (I've used an ata-186 with it, as well as a few soft phones). You'll hav problems using softphones behind a firewall though, but the good news is, it integrates pretty well with Asterisk, the open source pbx software. I used their service for a few months, but I no longer have it, the lag issues were too much for me.

    VoicePulse is my current favorite solution. Aside from SIP, they also support IAX (via their VoicePulse Connect! service). With IAX, it integrates extremely well with Asterisk even behind firewalls. They have a pretty good pricing plan, and you get all your incoming minutes for free. You can add as many phone numbers as you would like, but the only problem with their service is their limited area code availability, which will hopefully get better over time. They support multiple inbound and outbound calls simultaniously, and several codecs, so you can balance your requirments of bandwidth vs. voice quality. VoicePulse also has a service that's more like what Vonage offers, but I haven't tried that. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, I'm currently using the VoicePulse Connect! service as my PSTN gateway for my Asterisk PBX, and so far it's been working remarkably well.

    I hope that helps!

    • VoicePulse [voicepulse.com]
    • by kriston (7886)
      Vonage now exclusively uses the Motorola vt1000 device which is very nice for three important reasons:

      1) Has built-in firewall and NAT so you can get QoS on the cable-modem side.

      2) Directly supports two telephone lines.

      3) Reboots and gets on the network quickly.

      The only two real drawbacks of the Motorola is that you can't run all your house phones off it without encountering ring-volume problems, and if the box is offline it only gives you silence (an error tone would have been a nice plus).
      • he only two real drawbacks of the Motorola is that you can't run all your house phones off it without encountering ring-volume problems, and if the box is offline it only gives you silence (an error tone would have been a nice plus).

        The silence is the typical behaviour of a phone that is not connected to the "co" or gatekeeper/sip redirect server. It behavaes as if it's "unplugged" from the wall socket.

        j2c.
  • Blah blah blah obligatory product plug, even though I'm just a consumer and get nothing out of it... sooooo,

    I purchased a 900 mhz logitech headset for use with teamspeak [slashdot.org] cause I'm geeky like that. Later I purchased a monthly plan with Dialpad [dialpad.com] (yeah yeah, they need a linux client...) The custom viop app you install is tiny, and doesn't require a reboot so I've been able to use it pretty much everywhere with a cheapy mic/headphone combo. It won't work when I'm booted to linux on the lappy but oh well.

    How
  • Although I also have a mobile, which removes the problem for accessing emergency numbers (sure, I need to keep it charged, but I don't need to crawl to the land line everytime I cut off one of my legs).

    The main reason why? Well, my land line calls were so few and far between (about 2-3 bucks a month) my line rental ($AUS 20/month) far outweighed it.

    The funny thing is, I hardly use VOIP at all. Email and chat usage went up (but that costs me nothing) while mobile remained steady.
  • Why bother with the trouble of VoIP?

    Verizon offers DSL + Unlimited Local/Long distance for $85/month.

    While it't not cheap, it's also not that much more than a cable connection, and you get to keep your normal phone!

    I'm in no way affiliated with verizon. I just find it amazing that people pay such high bills for no clear reason.
    • Re:why bother (Score:3, Interesting)

      You can get basic cable, cable internet (2x speed of DSL), and the unlimited Vonage plan for the same amount.

      Although, I guess the real issue is if Vonage works as advertised.

    • Verizon can give you: DSL, unlimited local, toll and long distance (including calls to Canada) and coming very soon, Directv for one price (don't know what that'll be). Watch out for all the additional taxes and FCC charges, but any regualr phone company will have to add those too. I wonder if the trick is to keep your technologies diverse. Very basic wireline service is cheap (for you emergency calls), you can get all kinds of great deals on wireless, and voice-over IP seems to be coming on in leaps and
  • Vonage (Score:2, Informative)

    by mpechner (637217) *

    four of my friends have it and it works great. they now have 911 service in most areas. This is important to check on. Some services do not let you connect to 911 or 411.

    If you get a business accounts, you even get a fax line as part of the service.

    You can transfer your current pstn phone number.

    Voice quality is at least a good as PSTN. See QOS notes below.

    They used to send cisco-186 adapters for analog phone. I believe they not send you a motorola box that acts as a DSL/cable router and have a port

  • One of the interesting things about VoIP from the start was the idea that, as a programmer, I could write a program that would connect to a telephone and "talk" to whoever or whatever was there. And now that the lower levels of the phone system is widely converted to VoIP (RTP actually), it seems like this should be possible.

    I've been working on a medical project that would really like to use this capability. Things like alerting medical personnel via their cellphones, and sending them voice and/or SMS mes
    • I've been working on a medical project that would really like to use this capability. Things like alerting medical personnel via their cellphones, and sending them voice and/or SMS messages. We've been doing lots of Net research to discover what the code looks like.

      There was an article referenced on /. a year or so ago about how grossly unreliable [cnn.com] SMS is. I would suggest you stick with radio paging; the paging companies seem to know how to deliver the messages, and reading a page is faster and more conven
      • Yeah; I've seen 5-hour delays in delivering SMS messages (and then all my accumulated test messages get delivered together ;-). We're using paging systems, too, and I'd agree that they're more reliable.

        But we basically have to use what's available for each individual. The medical system is full of Luddites, and when dealing with MDs and RNs, you don't give them orders. You figure out what they are willing and able to deal with, and use that. Most of them can't be persuaded to learn how to use a PDA. Cel
        • But we basically have to use what's available for each individual. The medical system is full of Luddites, and when dealing with MDs and RNs, you don't give them orders. You figure out what they are willing and able to deal with, and use that. Most of them can't be persuaded to learn how to use a PDA. Cell phones they can deal with. Most cell phones now come with SMS. Somewhat fewer have paging. All have voice capability.

          That's interesting; in my experience (limited to just 1 big university hospital) all
        • said the Crystal Reports flunkie to the chief of medicine "Oh sir - here's that report of everyone that the computer called last month who said they were in need of medical assistance. It's a close match to last month's obits in the newspaper...."
  • I had the same problem, I live in one state, my family and my wifes family all lived in another state. So my Veri$on bill was outrageous. Solutions, almost 2 years ago now, I switched to Vonage, using my local cable provider for broadband access. The end result is rock solid service that has only gone down in price and up in features, service and quality, not to say it was bad to begin with. I have no land line service and I enabled the 911 service that is part ov vonage, that is that it calls geographi
    • The problem with VOIP and phone service is usage in real emergency situations.
      In my area power goes out for a few days at least once a year. Once this happens
      • the VOIP service no longer works
      • cell phone battery dies after some time

        The only thing that really works is land line phones. These are backed by batteries and gensets at the CO.

        So I would still go with at least one land line.

        The other option would be to use my car to keep the cell phone charged. However I do not trust the cell phone compan

      • You are applying unrealistic expectations to the capability of a land line to stay operational during a wide scale blackout. Ask anyone in the NE USA or SE Canada about their experiences with phone service during the august blackout -- I'll give you a hint -- the wire aggregators such as DMS-Urban devices did not have sufficient power. My cell phone worked throughout the blackout, my landline did not.
  • by jago25_98 (566531)
    Anyone had any success googling for UK VoIP gateways and providers?

    It doesn't seem to be too well known here and I'm not sure why since we pay the most. It could be a legal thing not yet delt with by Ofcom.
    • Re:UK? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I use Telappliant (www.telappliant.com) in conjunction with SNOM sip phones (www.snom.de) and digium FXS cards (www.digium.com) behind a NAT enabled asterisk server (www.asteriskpbx.org). I bought the snoms from the UK distributor, provu (www.provu.co.uk). Telappliant offer inbound PSTN to SIP bridging based on 0870 (nat rates) or 0845 (local rate) number, and outbound calls at calling card rates. Apparently 0207 numbers are coming soon. Excellent service so far, once asterisk config was sorted (which was a
  • by DukeyToo (681226) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @01:02PM (#8191517) Homepage
    I am a current Vonage customer. Here are the pros and cons as they apply to me:

    Pros:
    * Cheap - especially international calls, I cannot get a better rate except with a phone card.
    * Features - lots of features that I normally would not take (because they usually cost extra) are free, such as call forwarding, caller id.
    * Easy, detailed online account access.
    * Its cool
    * Voice quality actually improved over my previous service

    Cons:
    * 56K dialup does not work. This can be a gotcha in unexpected ways, for example my DirectTV Tivo cannot dialup to DirectTv, which means that I could not have multiple recievers, or use their sport channels.
    * Reliability of Internet connection is not as good as phone lines.
    * If the power goes down, then so does my phone (have not tried using UPS yet)
    * 911 service is available according to Vonage, but how will I really know until I try?
    * The hardware is a bit iffy. I have the motorola unit, which I originally setup as they suggested, directly to my cable modem, with the rest of my network behind it. This was extremely unreliable, and I get much better results by putting it behind a NAT router (I had to forward some ports).
    * Broadband options are cut down - I cannot use DSL because I no longer have a land line, but I do not want to use cable (because I have satellite). So, I end up paying the cable company a "tax" of sorts because I am not interested in the cable, only the internet.
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:15PM (#8194986) Homepage
      I'm also a current Vonage customer (just started a week ago), and have a few things to add:

      Pros:
      * It allowed me to convince my wife we should finally get broadband, because by also switching to Vonage, it ended up almost completely paying for itself. (It would have more than paid for itself, but we don't want cable TV.)
      * The OP asked whether it creates problems with bandwidth competition between phone and modem. The answer is that the Vonage box prioritizes packets, so you don't suffer any loss of audio quality if you're using the internet while on the phone. (But of course it will slow down the internet access.)

      Cons:
      * You have to dial 1+area code before every number, even local ones, which is annoying.
      * If you want 911 service when the power is out, you have to keep a regular phone connected (911 still works even if you don't pay for telco service), and you have to train kids, babysitters, etc. to use it. It's probably not true that they're less able to find your address if the person who dials 911 can't tell them. This feature is said to be unreliable for regular 911 access anyway, and I believe (not clear after reading the Vonage docs) Vonage has the same feature. You do have to go through an extra step to activate 911 with Vonage -- so don't forget to do that!!!

    • I use Earthlink cable internet and don't have to pay the cable tv tax. It is only availible in certain places though (areas serviced by TimeWarner, plus some test markets)
  • Sorry, but I've found faxing to be difficult to impossible on both Vonage and Voicepulse.

    This is a major issue to me, and likely, to many.

    Jonathan
  • by kriston (7886) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:37PM (#8192865) Homepage Journal
    I can offer some insight on VoIP. I use Vonage with two lines and one line for Verizon. I also have a home network using a cable modem.

    To effectively use Vonage at all, you'll have to make a big investment in multiple-handset cordless phones or a small telephone system. I chose the telephone system from Lee Phones [leephones.com] which re-sells the BBS Telecom IPS system.

    The Vonage device will not properly work if you just run your entire house's loop to it. It may work for two extensions, but three is risking burning out the machine. The trendy thing today is multiple-handset cordless phones, so you plug the base-station into the device and you're all set. Since Vonage can have two lines on one device, try to get a multi-line multiple-handset system (they are EXPENSIVE) or a home telephone system.

    Always keep the land line from Verizon or whomever it is for emergencies. I have seen Vonage go out-of-service even when my cable modem network is still running. A multiple-line multiple-handset cordless system or phone system makes this really easy.

    There is nothing quite as annoyingas hearing the Vonage line ringing downstairs and not upstairs. This is where phone systems are key.

    Kris
  • My wife is on the phone right now, VoIP. I'm browsing, as is she.

    We're using Vonage, with a cablemodem (TWC RoadRunner).

    Our cost: RR:$45/month, Vonage:$27/month.

    FWIW, Vonage gives us free voicemail, 500 minutes LD anywhere in the Continental US, caller ID/CallWaiting/Call forwarding/3 way calling, and $.05 per minute to the UK. In comparison, our local Telco gives us local only with NONE of the features listed above, for $32/month.

    Check out Vonage here. [vonage.com]
  • FYI: (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just an FYI guys, if your phone is disconected you DO NOT have 911 service. I work for one of the big ones, and while people are pushing for this to happen, none of the major compaines do it.

    Just google it:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF -8&oe =UTF-8&q=911+%22disconnected+phone%22
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Okay, if you have the equipment from Vonage or Primus.ca or whomever, what about this situation:
    Bring your wireless notebook along to a coffee shop which has wireless Internet, connect the VoIP equipment and your phone. Will it work? Will you be able to dial home without paying long-distance charges?

    If this works, I'll get the VoIP equipment and a phone everywhere I go when I travel!

  • 911 works by resolving your home address through the POTS network, so when you go off POTS you lose 911 service. This is definately something to think about. You can always program emergency numbers into your phone, but it won't help you if you're incapacitated and can't give directions. Even a 3 year old can dial 911, and help will arrive automatically.
  • You can view my other notes on the topic through my posted messages. The biggest 'drawback' is the amount of time that it takes to switch. But otherwise I really have to recommend Vonage as being an excellent service provider. I didn't really shop around, but when my wife and I first got our phone service, we immediately switched to the Vonage service. At $37 (After taxes) for the phone, and asking Time Warner to keep my rate low, I save $20 a month in communications costs. I would be saving more if I
  • There is one really cool feature that caught me by surprise this last Christmas. It makes sense, if you have a vonage number, you can take the ATA anywhere in the world, plug it into a relatively speedy connection and then you are good to go! So, I took the ATA with me to Switzerland and I was able to call to the US as if I was there! Granted Switzerland already has really good long distance costs with swiss comm, but what was cool was that my friends at home could call me in Switzerland as if it was a l

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