Level 3 Communications
VoIP: Vonage - An Experiment

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By MrDisruptive
June 20, 2003

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I've been using Vonage for local service for 2 months now (Over my cable modem), and I am very happy with it.

So happy, in fact, that I am now disconnecting the Qwest land line and transferring that number to Vonage (so both numbers ring on my Vonage phone - Local Number Portability!). Voice quality is pretty good - I usually have the bandwidth turned down, so I get Cellular quality. But I can change that any time I want by going to the online "dashboard", and clicking around, and then I get calls that are so clear that its almost like the person is nearby.

Its actually quite a good service - and I like the "virtual phone number" - for $4.99 a month I can have a number in any area code they serve that acts as a local line for inbound calls from that calling area. So my base number here is in Denver area, but I have a local number for my brother and mom in San Diego to call, and another local number in Florida for my other 2 brothers to call (and mother in-law also in Fla - you cant win them all I guess).

Plus, the online web based self-configuration for forwarding, voicemail, etc is quite good. If the cable goes out, the calls automagically and transparently forward to any number I designate (I use my cell phone) - and if I do not answer them within 25 seconds there, Vonage pulls the call back and puts it into my Vonage voicemail, not my cell VM (I configured it that way - the timing and target VM are adjustable too!). It even delivers the incoming caller ID on forwarded calls.

Plus I can do transfers too!

The voicemail is quite nice - sending my voicemail in Email as well as the web access, and the usual "over the phone" access. Getting an email from "888-555-1212" with a time and date stamp and a WAV file attached is a pretty neat way to be able to archive phone messages, plus its nice to know what number the VM is from, so I know whether to bother with it now or wait till later.

And one really cool thing I did, is when we went on vacation, we took the Cisco adapter along with us (and a cordless phone) - stayed only in hotels with "free broadband". In all but 1 hotel, our Vonage phone worked! People called my "home" number and it rang in the hotel, plus we could call locally in Denver from the hotel. It was kind of neat sitting in North Carolina and my family in Florida and San Diego could still call me on the local number I had in their area, and I'm calling a friend on speed dial in Denver as if I was home.

And all the forwarding, voicemail etc worked just fine too.

All of that, with 500 minutes of US long distance for $27 a month including taxes.

And its all SIP and VoIP. (And I tried it over my wireless LAN, and it worked just fine! Semi-Wireless VoIP!)

So now, I have VoIP for my main service and my cell phone as a fallback and for out-of-the-house.

If you do this, I suggest you get a UPS [Uninterruptible Power Supply] (an inexpensive computer one works fine) to run your cable modem, VoIP adapter, and cordless phone in case the power goes out.

All in all - it's a "futuristic" new world with phones that are simply data devices, and just work no matter where you plug them in. I took a jump into that pool, and I have to say the water is just fine!

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