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Suggestions for a Home VOIP Provider? 250

Posted by Cliff
from the it-beats-two-cans-and-a-string-right dept.
nate1138 asks: "My wife and I recently relocated so that I could take a promising position with a better company. Her job, being the fairly progressive folks that they are, graciously agreed to let her telecommute. Most of the services she needs we already have set up, such as the VPN, and VNC for remote control, etc. Now we only have one thing left to do. Get a phone line. Her office is a long distance call from our new location, and she needs to be able to call customers throughout the southeast as well. Since we need a number with a different area code from our home, it looks like voice over IP is the only solution. I want to know what you folks think about the various VOIP providers, like Packet8, Vonage, and Broadvoice. Or any other that I haven't thought of. Or another way to solve the same problem without shelling out a boatload o' cash. Features are the last priority, while reliability is tops."
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Suggestions for a Home VOIP Provider?

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  • Are you sure your phone company doesn't have a package with unlimited in-country or in-state long distance calling?

    • by awehttam (779031) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:19PM (#9282816)
      Asterisk, X100P "voice modem", NuFone [nufone.net] for dirty-cheap calling and Vonage [vonage.net] for North America wide calling.

      NuFone is good for outgoing long distance calls. They charge in 15 second increments to many numbers (others are 30 or 60 seconds) and are pretty darned cheap compared to other providers.

      I have great luck with Vonage for my local calling (North America, flat rate is like, $45 p/m and gets you all the dandy doodads). I also have Asterisk setup to receive faxes and Email them to me, so far no corrupted pages at all and the bandwidth usage is pretty reasonable.

      I have this setup on my Asterisk box (Vonage attaches using an X100P card ($100 from Digium [digium.com] for the real-thing, clones have been spotted for cheap including $0.99 but YMMV), NuFone is native IAX).

      Cordless phone is attached using a Grandstream [grandstream.com] Ata-286, so I can wonder around the house with a cordless headset whilst talking to who-ever using VoIP.

      and don't forget to register your number on e164.org [e164.org], for native voip ;)

      This is an incumbment free zone

    • Road Runner (Score:5, Informative)

      by Davak (526912) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:41PM (#9282906) Homepage
      Are you sure your cable company doesn't have a local and LD phone package? http://www.twcdigitalphone.com/ [twcdigitalphone.com] The majority of my friends and neighbors have switched to road runner's VoIP... and we are all impressed. 911-service, call waiting, caller-id, works through your existing phone lines -- the service is packed with bells and whistles. Give it a shot if you have RR in your area. Davak
    • SBC does have unlimited long distance for $30/month, but that's for residential use only. Since it's at home it's a residence line, but it's clearly being used for business. I don't know how they'd police that. Maybe they look at usage patterns, but you definitely don't want to fight them on this.

      I'd say for calling into the office, the best bet would be to set up a toll free number that goes to the receptionist or (if you don't have one) to a voice response menu that lets you dial an extension.

      For callin
  • Depending on how much time she needs to spend on the phone, cellular might be your best bet. If you have coverage in your current area from someone who sells service in the area whose area code you're looking for, that would probably be the easiest way to get what you need. I'm sure you can still get phones which have good broadcasting power, and you can pick an appropriate antenna, so perhaps you can get coverage already. This will have the added advantage of coming with its own battery backup (unless you need to use an amplifier) and thus being even more reliable than a wired POTS->PSTN phone.
  • by Lokni (531043) <reali100@chapman . e du> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:07PM (#9282775)
    I have been with Vonage for 6 months now and have had no problems. I have 4 lines through them with no problems at all, including fax. It also cut my phone bill by about 1/2 because all of the long distance calls I made are all now included.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:21PM (#9282829)
      Just adding my support for Vonage. If reliability and sound quality are important to you there really isn't any other option. Installation was easy: plug the modem in and connect it to my router and I had service in about 5 minutes. I don't know if their tech support is any good though because in about 6 months of usage I've never had to call them. They also have 911 service.

      The only bad thing I've heard about Vonage is that it can take a long time if you want to transfer your current phone number to vonage. Check broadbandreports.com [broadbandreports.com] for more Vonage reviews

      • My experience with vonage is that they have really pretty good customer service.

        There is one exchange, a rural phone company, that I call and sometime have problems getting through.

        Vonage voice quality is good for me, if I put their modem directly on my isp modem. The trick seems to be that they give priority to their traffic over your computer traffic. You could probably get the same effect behind a firewall, if the firewall was sophisticated and you could arrange to prioritize packets. Try openbsd.

        I certainally like all the bells and whistles. But I keep a POTS too.

        Notice though that their recommended setup puts your firewall in as a dchp client. If you are lucky enough to have static ips, then this might make you think a bit. The parent poster just hung it off the router so the modem quality of service attributes do not come into play. This in my experience reduces call quality sometimes, depending on the computer traffic.
        • Vonage here for the past couple of weeks. I like that you can pick your area code, but a caveat...

          FAXING IS HORRIBLE

          This has to do with the fact that faxing over current VOIP protocols isn't really useful but if you check http://www.vonage-forum.com and http://www.dslreports.com you will see plenty of people who just can't fax with Vonage. I've had mixed results.

          Voice is great, however.
    • 8 months here with Vonage. I have one line, and set it up to dual ring to my cell plus the home line so even if someone calls the house I can still answer it if I'm out.

      My phone bill was cut by about 2/3. My wife's family is in LA, and she calls several times a day. $100+ per month down to $37
      • > dual ring to my cell plus the home line

        > phone bill was cut...to $37

        That's certainly an improvement. I've had pretty good results with Packet8, and they're only $19.95...I have had reliability issues, but none that were really attributable to 8x8's service. My troubles were all blatantly Comcast's fault (my former ISP). I knew this because whenever I was having trouble with the phone I'd hang up and go check my pings. mail.comcast.net...average ping 1000ms. Thanks Comcast. My advice would be not
        • My advice would be not to bother if you live in an area where Comcast and SBC "Yahoo" ... are your only choices.

          Off topic, but when it comes to Cable/DSL providers, I've always read mixed results from every provider. I suspect it comes down to who, specifically, is running the local equipment...

          I'm with Comcast currently and the service has yet to have an issue (about 6 months now). I had Sprint/Earthlink DSL back in Florida, Road Runner cable (Time Warner) also in FL, and Bell South DSL in Georgia. Road
    • I also have had Vonage for the past six months. I am pleased with the service and would recommend it with some caveats.

      First, the voice quality and connectivity drop off with any major IO traffic. If I'm downloading a large file, the voice sounds choppy. Useable but choppy. Consider what bandwidth usage the system will have while she is at work.

      All my local calls are now long distance calls. Just a hassle remembering to dial long distance to talk to my neighbor.

      There is a very slight delay in the sy
      • Weird, I use Nuvio and haven't ever had any problems with delay. I think the box they use has some built in QoS features that prioritize the voice packets over the other data packets. My latency to them is about 50ms, so my connection is about average for cable modems, I'm guessing.

        I can certainly agree about the long distance savings. My Nuvio account only costs me about $40/month for their unlimited account and I probably use over 1000 minutes of long distance a month. Used to cost me an arm and a leg

  • Or.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TastyWords (640141) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:08PM (#9282779)
    a cell phone? I cancelled long-distance service for my landline because I had no use for it. Sure, if I use it it'll cost me an arm & a leg, but the only thing I use the landline for is to write a phone number down on receipts & whatnot as I've got a machine on it to collect messages. I have plenty of friends who don't even have a landline any more, preferring to select the best plan from the various cell vendors - especially now that you can keep the same number forever.
    • I don't see how people can really do that though. In my house I have 5 phones in various rooms and on various floors so if it rings I can pick it up fairly easily. Do you just carry your cell phone with you wherever you go in the house? That seems like a pain in the ass.
      • Re:Or.... (Score:3, Informative)

        by matth (22742)
        I carry my cell with me everywhere.

        As far as Vonage goes.. if you DO NOT I repeat DO NOT have POTS service you can backfeed the vonage analog signal into your home telephone network and get service to phones in any room.
        • Re:Or.... (Score:3, Informative)

          by mindstrm (20013)
          You can, yes.

          You can also go outside and disconnect the POTS line if possible, just to make sure.

          One word of caution.. don't hook up too many phones at once if you are doing this.... each phone you pick up (or that rings) (if the house is wired correctly) adds load to whatever is driving.. and if all that's driving is your little SIP box... you could fry it.

          • One word of caution.. don't hook up too many phones at once if you are doing this.... each phone you pick up (or that rings) (if the house is wired correctly) adds load to whatever is driving.. and if all that's driving is your little SIP box... you could fry it.

            That's an interesting point.
            1. How many is too many?
            2. Wouldn't the devices just fail to ring or have a faint ring?

            I wonder if you could rig some sort of dc injector as a work around?
            • I don't know, but I want to believe that any phone that plugs into AC uses AC power to make the phone actually ring. Of course if you have five rotary phones in your house this may not matter, but I kinda can't imagine all five phones needing the meager phone lines to ring.
      • Re:Or.... (Score:3, Informative)

        by JWSmythe (446288)
        You're one of those people that brings your cell phone to work with the ringer volume cranked all the way up, and then leaves your phone on your desk while you go to lunch, aren't you?

        I use Vonage at a colo where there's no cell service (underground, surrounded by metal, isn't good for reception), but I use my cell everywhere else.

        I'm reachable 24/7, which means it goes near my bed at night, and on my hip or on my desk the rest of the time. The only time it gets shut off is when I'm on airplanes,
  • Reliability (Score:5, Informative)

    by papasui (567265) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:08PM (#9282780) Homepage
    Since you say that reliability is your top priority I'd recommend a dedicated VOIP service provided by a cable company if available. They are required to offer the same level of service as a phone company, and also included life line support. While Vonage, Packet8, and the like are all excellent services, they are only as good and as reliable as your existing internet connection.
    • > they are only as good and as reliable as your
      > existing internet connection

      Good point. It does make it a bit harder to call for support on your Internet service, if your phone works over it too. :)


    • You must have a POTS (plain old telephone service) line. They are usually regulated by the state, and are mandated to provide service with minimal downtime. This usually means built-in redundancy in the entire system (including power). When the WTC towers went down, I was still able to call out on a POTS line. When the Northeast Blackout occurred the following year, I was able to call out on a POTS line.

      As critical as internet service is, I doubt it has "5 nines" in reliability. When it goes out for t
  • We bought a Vonage phone to put in one of our colo's, because we didn't want to wait for the local telco provider to hook us up.

    A friend of mine bought one for home, and now doesn't have a traditional wired phone at all.

    Another guy who has space in one of the colo's we're in also has a Vonage phone, and has the additional service to let him use his laptop as a phone, with a little headset plugged into his mic and headphone jacks. He's very satisfied also.

    So, out of 3 people I know that have it
  • Vonage (Score:5, Informative)

    by div_2n (525075) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:09PM (#9282784)
    Vonage seems to work well so long as your connection is good. Being able to listen to your voicemail either on a phone or online is really neat.

    My experience is that tech support takes FOREVER to get someone on the line if you have trouble. When I say forever, I am talking about 45 minutes plus.

    Other than that, it is great.
    • We've called them twice and have never been on hold longer than 5 minutes. We have had our Vonage service for almost 2 years now and have been completely satisfied with it. And even better, they lowered the price.. twice! :-D

    • And they charge long distace rates for tech support too!
  • Linspire (Score:3, Informative)

    by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:09PM (#9282786) Homepage
    The Linspire (Lindows) folks have quite a nice one called sipphone [sipphone.com]. I particularly like how you can plug your ordinary phone in. They're a fairly new player so currently low prices may not last.
    • SiPPhone's forums: packet loss and connection problems [sipphone.com]

      I have been using the Call-in-One adapter for two days, and I am still unable to get a good call quality - people are not able to hear me very clearly. The quality so far is worse than the PC to telephone services like 4ecalls. I hope that this will improve.

      Just one other question, while I am making a SIP call, the "activity" light is not steady. Is this normal?
  • My VoIP experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by TechGladiator (741686)
    I can tell you that I have used Vonage over the Optimun Online cable service and I was happy with it. My only problem (which is why I eventually canceled my service) was with my ISP, I would be in the middle of a phone call and the call would drop for no reason. I loved the quality of the service, easy to install and the price was right. Once Verizon (My local provider) came out with a flat rate phone service $49/month for unlimited local and long distance (within the US) I switched to them since a regu
    • I must admit I've never really looked into VOIP, I'm just following from the sidelines. I've never thought about that downloading issue you talked about. Interesting.

      That said, I would think it would be easy to handle with a simple Linux router (or any other that would allow you) to give VOIP traffic priority over everything else. Whatever is left of your bandwidth after the VOIP packets, goes to other stuff. This wouldn't be that hard to do, would it?

      • No, it isn't that hard. In fact, when I was investigating Vonage I noticed they already sell a device that does QoS and sits between your cable/dsl modem and your internal router so it can control traffic. VoIP really requires QoS for reliable connectivity.
  • Well, I was just spammed advertising Vonage not more than an hour ago, so they're definitely out.

    Voicepulse [voicepulse.com] or for the true geek Voicepulse Connect [voicepulse.com] are well worth a look.

    I've also heard good things about nufone

    But test carefully before relying on it. For business use voice quality is pretty important and VoIP is at the "about as good as POTS" level, which might be acceptable or might not, depending on how sensitive you are to the difference in sound distortion between consumer grade VoIP and consumer

  • Roll Your Own? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squidgyhead (613865) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:16PM (#9282810)
    I was thinking about this problem myself when I was living in S. Korea and wanted to call home to Canada.

    It seems like the best way to do it (and cheapest) would be to call from your computer over the internet to a computer in the city you wanted to call to, which would then hook up to the regular phone line via a modem. I was looking for something like this, but haven't found anything on freshmeat, etc. (Any links out there?)

    It seems quite possible. You tell the computer what local number you want, it dials it, and then just acts as a gateway between you (on the internet) and the person you're talking to (on a normal phone line). Nothing too complicated. If you get the reliability up, this might be your best bet.

    • It seems like the best way to do it (and cheapest) would be to call from your computer over the internet to a computer in the city you wanted to call to, which would then hook up to the regular phone line via a modem. I was looking for something like this, but haven't found anything on freshmeat, etc. (Any links out there?)

      Look at Asterisk [asterisk.org] for the server side of things and at least one IP phone (the Grandstream BudgeTone [atacomm.com] series are around 70-80). Put a X100P FX0 [atacomm.com] to give the Asterisk server access to an o

  • you should definitely get this http://www.pulverinnovations.com/ this device allows you to used in pairs allows you to call each other through the internet and then use the ipp at you office to make local calls from that numbers area code
  • by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:19PM (#9282823)
    I use packet8 for my sole "landline." It cost me something like $20 or so which included a free DTA, with the first month free BUT you have to use a referral code to get this deal. (I think I used SAM, but I can't remember -- you can just Google for "referral code packet8" and I'm sure you'll find dozens.)

    The $20 a month gave me unlimited calls anywhere in quote-unquote North America (step back Mexico - you're not part of North America anymore, the phone companies have deleted you.) Of course you can use the phone anywhere in the world, but you can only call Canada and the US for free with the $20 plan. But even the long distance rates are very reasonable -- for me to phone Norway is only something like 2 cents a minute.

    The problem with the phone isn't the service, or which VOIP provider to choose -- it's the internet connection it's running on. If you're internet connection has a few hiccups here and there, or if you're just physically far away, your QOS will be shot. I recommend posting a follow up question of "Which ISP is best for VOIP?" Latency is a big issue, of course. Even some of the ISP's route occasionally via satellite, and that's just great for VOIP connections (great for VOIP connections... what? ...connections... bzzzzzzzzzt... what? Hello? Son of a ...!)

    My conclusion is: it's okay, and it's a cheap phone. There are some sacrifices. And Packet8 is loads cheaper than Vonage and includes free equipment, or at least used to. Plus you don't have to deal with the bastards at the phone company anymore, which makes any sacrifice worth it! Hurray! But for $20 a month and no long distance, go for it, just use the referral code to save being screwed on "installation." If you just want to try it for a while, try Free World Dialup until you're comfortable -- although that's a lot more complicated to set up versus a ready to run system like Packet8 or Vonage. Good luck.

    • Packet8 user for about 9 months now, everything has been awesome. I have cable one as my broadband provider (idaho), never had problems with phone quality due to lack of bandwidth or anything connection related. The only problems I have ever had have been caused by my router firewall setup because I was being stupid and blocking incoming packets.

      Packet8 has a bunch of the services that I don't use (callerID, call waiting...), because I don't get ANY telemarketing calls, that is the #1 advantage I see...
  • If you're in their service area, you might check
    out FeatureTel [featuretel.com]. AFAIK, they only service the Raleigh / RTP / Durham / Chapel Hill area of NC right now.

    Also, in at least some areas, Time Warner Cable is now offering home VOIP service. So if you're in the TWC area, you might give them a call.
  • by thogard (43403) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:23PM (#9282835) Homepage
    I make too many calls to the US from Australia and I've heard tht you need 200ms pings. I can get 150ms pings to some places in San Jose but typical ping times are 220 to 250 ms for random places in the US. What I'm looking for is where are the gateways located? What are their unoffical rules about getting connections that aren't from the US? How much does the adapter cost and how much does it cost me if I bail out of their serivce in the 1st month?
    • Don't put too much stake in what they say. What they mean is that if you expect it to sound like, and have the same unnoticeable latency as a normal landline, you have to have 200ms latency or better.

      VOIP will work just fine if they are higher.

      I've used it over much worse (600 to 1000ms, via satellite). What's more important is stable latency, not the latency itself.

      Obviously there is an audible delay if latency is high... but beyond that, it works just fine.

  • I am in the same situation. I moved from AZ to WA but I am still employed by a company in AZ. I am a software developer and I work from my home. My wife is a graphic designer who has lots of clients in AZ.

    We have a Sprint cell phone with an AZ number. Because we are Sprint wireless customers, we were offered a $15 a month, all-you-can-eat long distance plan for our home phone. That allows me to call my company's office to talk with coworkers.

    It works out pretty well.
    • why isn't your company routing your calls through their PBX using a VPN? I fail to understand all these comments about private phone solutions. If they're letting her work VO they need to support her and give her the ability to route calls through the company PBX
  • DSLReports (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cbs228 (596164) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:27PM (#9282852)
    DSLReports.com [dslreports.com] maintains a forum for VoIP providers as well as numerous reviews of Vonage [dslreports.com], Packet8 [dslreports.com], and lots of others [dslreports.com].
  • Vonage Is Cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by mirio (225059) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:33PM (#9282870)
    I've been a Vonage customer for about 5 months now. My wife and I ditched our POTS because we realized it was costing us $34/month for absolutely no services (this was with Bellsouth). We decided to transfer our POTS number over to Vonage. Unfortunately, the old telco's like to rape customers by holding on to phone numbers for as long as possible (basically, the longer they hold your number, the longer you have to pay them). Bellsouth finally transferred my number to Vonage after about 90 days (bastards).

    We haven't regretted switching ONCE. We use the lowest call quality setting and can't even notice a difference. We have a cheapest plane they offer ($14.99 for 500 local/long distance minutes / *every* feature they offer including caller id, voicemail, etc).

    Perhaps our favorite feature is the web interface for doing everything. I mean, really...have you ever tried to set up your POTS line for forwarding? The web interface makes it very, very simple and there's no need to reference a manual.

    I would recommend Vonage in a heartbeat. Perhaps the poster's wife could just ditch her traditional land line, get Vonage, and use Vonage's "virtual phone number" feature to get a local number in her office's area code.
  • DSL? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wakkow (52585) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:35PM (#9282888) Homepage
    I have a related question... Can you keep DSL and sign up for one of these providers? Will *insert local bell or SBC* let you have a line without service?
    • Re:DSL? (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      Yes. I have had DSL without POTS in the past. Now I have Cable without Cable TV, and I don't have POTS any more, I have GSM1900 from T-Mobile which has turned out to be quite a decent provider since everyone has been putting up GSM1900 and I have no roaming charges. I still don't get the kind of coverage that, say, AT&T dual-mode customers get, but they pay twice as much as I do, and I'm guessing their phones cost more as well.

      In any case, you can definitely have DSL without POTS, at least from SBC/Pa

      • by k8to (9046)
        Really? I would like more information on this since I've had POTS with my DSL for no good reason for some time. Sonic.net, my ISP, originally informed me that I could not get DSL without POTS.

        If this is incorrect or has changed, please give me a hint how to change my provisioning.
    • Re:DSL? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes and no.

      You can keep your DSL, but you must continue to "pay" for a phone line. You can drop the phone service down to the minimum package. Some states/carriers allow you to have a "911 only" line that costs $10-$20 per month.

      There are two carriers that offer so-called "naked" DSL. Don't believe it. Qwest charges you the $10 for the phone line on top of their regular DSL price. Then, they sell it to you as "stand-alone" DSL. They turn off dial tone so you don't know you have phone service... but
      • I had DSL without POTS when living in Allan, TX.

        I was too far for "normal" DSL service piggybacked over a POTS line (something like 14 kft.), but there was one provider that was willing to provision DSL over a second dry pair from the CO and pass on the dry pair costs without markup. Worked great, though the $15/month for the dry pair made my DSL bill around $80 a month.

        Sadly, I can't remember with certainty the provider I had used.... Internet America, I think.

      • 911 works on any copper line connected to the network, at least in Pennsylvania. No need for an account to be established. I don't know if E-911 will work or not, haven't had to try it. Same is true for cell phones. I once had to use my old analog phone that came with the car (no account) and it worked like a champ.

  • by larsu (473425)
    I switched from MCI state unlimited to packet8 for a few months. I had some latency problems with packet8. I could deal with it, but my wife could not. So we ended up upgrading our cell phone plan, and ditching a separate home phone altogether.

    A router with QoS helped a lot. There was a noticable difference after a did prioritization with OpenBSD's pf.
  • by Alrescha (50745) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:43PM (#9282915)
    I have no wired phone line. I use VoIP as my primary phone and a cell phone as a backup. That said, I am not aware that any VoIP provider meets the same level of reliability as a POTS line.

    My own requirement was that my VoIP provider support my choice in SIP devices. That eliminated several of the vendors on your list as they require use of a Cisco-ATA and lock you out of it. I wanted a more 'open' service. I currently use IConnectHere. For $8.95/mo they provide unlimited incoming calls, Caller-ID, Voicemail, Call-Waiting, Call-Transfer, etc. Outgoing calls cost 3.5 cents/minute.

    Addaline (http://www.addaline.com) has recently started offering DID service and has a very economical outgoing rate.

    A.
  • by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:44PM (#9282922)
    I don't know if this is available to you or not. I live in Maryland and I have Verizon's $49/month plan that gives me:

    Local calling

    Unlimited Long Distance (US only)

    Caller ID

    Three-way Calling

    Voice Mail

    Call Forwarding

    other misc stuff

    I've had it for about five months and I can attest that my phone bill does not vary. No surprises.

    I hope this is of some value to you and I wish you luck with your move and your new ventures.

    Happy Trails!

    Erick

  • Twice so far incoming calls to my Vonage number mysteriously stopped working. E-mails were able to quickly restore service in both cases, but it was still annoying. Once my international calling stopped working. One phone call, a knowledgeable tech did something and had me reset my phone, and then it was working again.

    In short, it's similar to a cell phone - huge benefits vs. landlines, but the perfect reliability just isn't there yet. I would expect to lose a day or two of phone service each year. Th
  • VoIP Comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by curufin (697683) <sjbain@akamaiOPENBSDl.com minus bsd> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:48PM (#9282947)
    I found this [roffe.net] site to be very helpful in choosing a provider.

    I recently signed up for Packet8's VoIP service, and have been very happy with it.

    I would suggest that you read each provider's fine print, as some of them specifically telecommuters from their residential plans, and if they find out that you have been using a residential plan for telecommuting, will charge you the commercial rate for all previous months you've been subscribed.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:54PM (#9282958) Journal
    You MAY find that it's not necessary to go fancy (though the geek factor is great and the price may be lower). You can also get service from the tellcos. And it MAY no longer cost an arm and a leg, thanks to competition from the geek-factor technologies.

    First option is a "Foreign Exchange" line. Phone at your home office, connected to a switchboard in the city of interest (transparently, via the long-distance infrastructure).

    This USED to cost an arm and a leg (or have a large per-minute charge) because it potentially tied up a long distance trunk any time you were off-hook, and a business might be off-hook essentially all day. But now that bandwidth is cheaper than air it might be another story. (Worth a look.)

    Second option is to install a phone with call-forwarding and a dirt-cheap flat rate long-distance service, with the jack installed somewhere handy in the distant service area. (If you do business there but don't have an office, you can probably talk someone into letting the jack be at their site.) Set the call-forwarding to your home-office phone, and unplug the distant instrument. People call you, it transfers to your home-office phone. You pay the long distance charge for the call - which is prepaid or nearly free.

    Third: Some tellcos have a service (I don't recall what it's called) that is essentially equivalent to number two but without the line to the unplugged phone. (Check with the long-distance providers, too, not just the local tellcos.) Local tellcos might still price this one sky high, but I bet the long-distance companies have a deal on it.

    If you enquire about number three, it's too pricey, but number two would do the job in your price range, be SURE not to talk about them both in the same call to the tellco in question. B-)
  • I'm reviewing a bunch of VOIP services for a computer magazine. I've tested five so far, and as far as sound quality goes AT&T CallVantage has been noticeably better than the others. No noticeable latency, which is more than I can say for some of the other services. I suspect it's because voice traffic spends relatively little time on the Internet before getting punted to AT&T's long distance network. However AT&T's service was a bit more difficult to configure -- I needed to use their router in
  • Would they let her make calls on their lines under ordinary circumstances? If so, get a static IP, a pair of VOIP boxen and DIY. I have a pair of Multitech [multitech.com] boxen between my place and work, and I through my DSL I can do anything I could there--make local and LD calls on their lines, and make intercom calls and pages, etc... You'll need some helpful phone guys to wire it into their PBX, but it's worth a look, and not all that expensive.

    I am not a Multitech droid, I just use their boxen.

  • I have had Vonage for 6 months and just cancelled today.

    Very cool concept, and I'm a big fan of the company. Great product offering, great customer service, and super convenient in many respects.

    But, I discovered a few limitations, and eventually decided that I just didn't need the service anymore.

    The latency was a big problem for me. The latency for calls when using Vonage on my cable Internet connection (Cox in So. Cal.) was typically almost 1 second. I estimate that because I could hear the slight
    • Not true about having to locate the phone next to your internet connection. See Vonage's website for options on using multiple phones with a single ATA adapter -- http://www.vonage-promotion.com/learn_center.html (see question about multiple phones). I've been using the last option they mention -- plugging the ATA adapter into my home's phone wiring AFTER disconnecting the incoming PSTN line (voltages differ, and you'll fry your ATA if you didn't disconnect it first). I didn't have to move any of our 3 phon
  • > Features are the last priority, while reliability
    > is tops.

    That rules out anything involving the Net.
  • What sort of PBX does the company have? Using a VPN she could connect back to the company PBX and route all calls through there. For example, with a Definity PBX she could use IP Agent and everything from her end would be a local call. I do it all the time.
  • by philipsblows (180703) on Friday May 28, 2004 @11:32PM (#9283117) Homepage

    I first wrote about my Vonage experiences here on [slashdot.org] and at the time I had basically put them on probation. I fear I've given away the ending of my story in the subject line, but read on anyway.

    Since then, I found that I was experiencing really bad echo on certain incoming calls, even when those calls were forwarded from my Vonage phone to my cell phone. I was asked each time I tried to add more detail (by a new tech support person each time who never bothered to read through my issue history) whether my internet connection had enough bandwidth or my phone wiring had been tested... after the second time answer the same questions, I gave up. From then on, I would file additional customer care reports on the echo, from what phone numbers I was getting the most echo for incoming calls, how outgoing calls had no echo, etc. It became a major waste of time, and the fact that Vonage refused to acknowledge that they might have problems in their PSTN-to-VOIP bridges in certain exchanges, choosing instead to pass it off on my own house wiring or internet connection after both of those were eliminated as sources of trouble early on was quite telling.

    When my local phone company (Qwest) offered to switch me back for free with 2 months of free service on top of that, I took them up on it. Yes, I went back to Qwest, which is a major indicator. I had the virtual number feature, with a second line in an out-of-state area code, so I asked on the phone of a customer care rep at Vonage if my virtual number could become my primary number once the switch took place, and he assured me verbally that that was no problem.

    I'll let you, reader, guess what happened. Hint: if it isn't in writing it isn't true. Especially at Vonage.

    I've cancelled my Vonage service. Aside from the nice voicemail features and the useful forwarding feature, and the reasonably-low price, I found the quality of service, the quality of their technical support personnel, the startup process, and the experience on the whole to be a major disappointment. I consider myself to be an early adopter (and I've been in the tech hardware and software business for a while myself), so I was willing to cut Vonage a lot of slack early on with the stumbles and the snafus, and they took all of that slack and then some.

    BTW, I would suggest a service provider that doesn't lock you out of your own ATA device. Vonage prevents you from doing much of anything that they don't approve of, which is a major minus on top of their low-grade service.

  • My dad got Vonage to use with his residential Cox cable modem in Phoenix. My experiences are exclusively those of the other end, a normal POTS phone. I expect to read many perspectives of owners, but probably few from my end.

    Normal quality was a bit better than a digital cell phone. Those don't bother most people. I happened to have been pretty sensitive to the digitization that happens with digital cell phones, so I wasn't terribly impressed. There were periods, however, when it seemed like the VOIP

  • by miggidy (649741) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @12:12AM (#9283227) Homepage
    A Canadian company called mobitus [mobitus.com] offers zero monthly fee, excellent software, and very competitve rates - it also has the advantage of being outside of the FCC's reach. I've used their system for quite a few months, and am quite happy with them. Plus, any support calls I've had to make (about 2 in 5 months) has been answered immediately. That's one things about those Canucks - friendly ;)
  • I brought this issue up with my wife last night and told her that I wanted to give Vonage a shot. The ONLY restriction she has is that we keep our existing phone number. As far as I can tell, Vonage is the only provider that allows you to do this. Is there any other company that will let me keep my existing number? I just ran a bandwidth test, and I'm getting 3.1 megabits per second (Comcast, Atlanta) so I'm not worried about that. Thanks.
  • We did a review of Vonage a while back on Techfocus - it was /.'ed at the time, but I'm not finding the link now. Anyhow, here's the link to the review. [techfocus.org] It's been a bit since it was posted, but the fundamentals remain!
  • "Features are the last priority, while reliability is tops."

    There you go. You just said it. Don't bother with VOIP, yet - it's just not worth it.

    I used Vonage for about 9 months before I finally decided it just wasn't worth it. After 2 weeks back on a landline, I won't be going back. I get unlimited long distance in the U.S. for $20/month. Ask around - it's not hard to find similar plans in most areas of the US.

    Dropped calls, weird echos, customers complaining about me talking "through a tunnel" were th
  • by Doc Ruby (173196)
    Why are we stuck calling this great tech "voyp" or V-O-I-P? Why is that damn "o" in there? If it were called "VIP" we'd get lots of brand-loving followers to help us get to critical mass faster, without all the confusion and jocks beating up geeks. Is it too late?
  • Here is something to consider, do you have DSL or Cable? If you have DSL, it may be cheaper to see if your phone company has a package that includes DSL & unlimited long distance. That's what I have from Verizon. A buddy of mine got Vonage and was telling me about it to get me to switch. But I don't like the cable company here (they charge waay too much), so I have DSL. Verizon has to sell you DSL without having a POTS line because of FCC regs, but I don't think those regs state a cap on the charge
  • I'm very surprised about the consistently positive things people have to say about Vonage, but I also noticed that the "reviews" are very glib, and don't go into any detail about service issues (good or bad).

    I'll try to break it down for readability:

    1. Call quality - Varies. With some calls, I hear an echo of myself on the line, while other calls are fine. This seems only to be a problem on my end of the line.

    Of course, call quality will suffer if you infringe on the amount of bandwidth the VoIP service
  • North of the border (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pkaminsk (177973)
    For those of you north of the border (the icy wastes known as Canada), Primus provides a decent service. For about 25 loonies per month, you get unlimited local service (in the area code of your choice, as long as they service it) and reasonable long distance. They send you the equipment and (supposedly) pick up the return postage as well when you cancel. No signup fees, which beats all the Bells and Telus right there. We've found sound quality to be reasonable, certainly no worse than a cell phone and
  • There is no doubt in my mind that other posters will yell vonage vonage vonage from the rooftops. But you should be careful- Heres why:

    Vonage (and all voip providers) is dependent on many infrastructures to work. You have to have power, internet, and the blessing of the pope to make calls. I found myself constantly searching for a more releable cable provider, and bought an expensive UPS to keep the router, modem, and voip boxes going. After all that, the power knocked out the cable company. And we ha

  • One neat thing with Vonage is you can get a phone # with a non-local area code. So if you're in CA and have relatives in NY, you can get a 212/718/914 number. This, of course, means their calls you you are local calls for them. It's $4.95/mo for you, tho.

    Coolness!

    I just got my service activated today, so I've been poking around and seeing what's what. So far, it seems pretty good.
  • by DiveX (322721) <slashdotcontact@oasisofficepark.com> on Saturday May 29, 2004 @02:06AM (#9283651) Homepage
    As a matter of fact, I plugged in today and did indeed have a few hiccups. I could not get the MAC address to register and it took two calls to tech support to find out why. the first call ended in disconnect when the CSR placed me on hold and the second tech had to research the problem. It seems that my MAC was never registered in their inventory, so the system had to understand that my hardware existed. After a few hours (at least when I tried again) the sign-up went well. Once signed up, did a reboot and had a signal.

    So far, I'm impressed with the features. Voicemail (you can set it so that new messages are emailed to you in .wav format), email notification of new messages, call forwarding, call ID, call waiting, call return (*69), caller Id block, busy redial, and 3-way calling.

    One feature I have enjoyed already is detailed billing. I like the features of cell phones where it will often show detail of the called numbers as well as sometimes even incoming calls. Since I have to sometimes file suit against telemarketers for violation of the TCPA, it is highly beneficial that I have a detailed listing of when calls were made.

    You can place the hardware either inside or outside the firewall (if inside open ports 50605061, 53, 69, and 10000-20000 on UDP protocol). If you plug the device into a wall outlet in the house (making *sure* to disconnect the house from the street connection) you can use any other phone in the house as you normally would. Ad of course another last advantage is being able to take the device with you so that you can plug it in and use the phone whenever on a broadband connection. If you make a lot of calls to someone in another country, you could even try purchasing another device and sending it to them so they can take calls as if they were local (to you). I wonder how ling it will be before scammers, spammers, and other scum use this to appear local or in the states, yet be running things from Nigeria or other safe harbor.

    Right now Best Buy has a pretty decent sale. I used a 10% off Memorial Day coupon to bring the price to 81 and then it comes with a mail-in rebate. If you use their rewards program ($10 a year) you get 50,000 bonus points for purchasing this item (which equates to 4 $5 Gift Cards). Circuit City has it for 79-50 MIR if you want to go that route.
  • ... and I love it. They give you a great amount of control over your account with their website. You can have their system email notify you when you get voicemail, attach the voicemail to an email to you, and notify you via SMS. You can sign up for "Virtual Numbers" in something like 1200 cities that ring to your normal line. My call quality has always been very good. I use their "Unlimited" plan for $39.95-ulimited US long distance and local calling.

    The only time I've noticed my service being out is

  • I tried Vonage, and the voice side of the product was great.

    Faxing, on the other hand, wasn't so good. I have an HP Officejet Scanner/Copier/Printer/Fax and it would not work with Vonage's service.

    Tech support tried and tried, but nothing could get my fax machine to work with the servce, so I had to drop it.

    -ted
  • Please let me know if you find any free or dirt cheap VoIP services.

    ZDNet has an article on VoIP and Internet phones [com.com], and they review the providers as well [com.com].

    If you just want another number with a different area code for receiving faxes and voicemail, consider EFax [efax.com] or J2/JFax [j2.com] you can get a free account not in your area code, and it will send all faxes and voicemails to your email address. If you pay extra, you can get the ability to send faxes over the Internet from that number, get a 1-800 number, chang

  • We recently opened up a new R&D office in NJ (or headquarters is in MD). We decided to get Vonage lines for everyone there (one POTS line came with the office space). The experience has been solidly positive all around. I'm now on extended assignment in GB-London, and i brought the Vonage box with me - and it just worked, first time i plugged it in. Yup, i now have my US-NJ number in GB-London. We sometimes get some very small artifacts crossing the Atlantic at peak times, but even that's rare.
  • I'm in the exact situation, as far as my wife's position. I did do my homework however and found that various Security systems have some issues with Vonage setups. Plus, what happens when the power goes off, an big ups system for both my cable modem AND vonage system would seems a little silly.

    I understand the argument that all a burgular need do is cut my landline.

    Does anybody else have Vonage working with ADT/Guardian?
  • First, in the world of full disclosure, I own stock in Packet8 (actually, in 8x8) which I bought a few weeks after I signed up for their service in March of this year.

    I have been very impressed with it so far. There was a period in late March where the service was offline more than it was on. No idea what the hell they were doing, but it was not just me. It would be down during peak evening hours for about 2 to 3 hours a night. Then it would magically start working again.

    Since that period of time, I have
  • If all you want is dialtone, go with Packet8. They offer a barebones phone service for about $20 a month that compares to your basic POTS line from Ma Bell. No bells or whistles except unlimited calling anywhere in the US. I have several coworkers that swear by it.

    I personally use Vonage, and have relied on it as my primary home phone for about a year and a half now. They recently dropped their price to about $30 a month, but you get a full featured service that compares to an advanced PBX system you'd

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