VOIP

Postby syrus » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:45 am

First time I heard of this.

By now, if you're online, you've probably heard of VOIP – and probably have connected through it, perhaps without knowing it.

VOIP (voice over IP) is technology that lets you use the Internet to make phone calls. Once strictly a way to make cheap phone calls using your computer, VOIP is now popping up all over – instant messaging clients use VOIP to let users talk to each other, cable companies have added telephone service using VOIP, online gamers can shoot to kill and gloat about it via VOIP.

Even big phone companies now offer VOIP service in some places (and almost all long-distance telecommunications networks use IP technology at some point).

VOIP certainly hasn't reached verb status yet, a la Google (or, for that matter, the phone). But it is becoming more popular – 20 million people worldwide are registered users of Skype, primarily an Internet-only IP phone service.

Growing numbers of people use VOIP services like Vonage or 8x8 in the United States. Internet telephony recently made the cover of the Economist, even. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are all building VOIP into their software and Web applications, and eBay just bought Skype for $2.6 billion (more, if it reaches certain business objectives).

When last we visited the topic of VOIP, we sounded a cautionary note on the quality of calls – VOIP works by digitizing your voice, then breaking the subsequent strings of 0s and 1s into packets and shipping them off over the Internet, to be reassembled in your friend's ear.

But the Net wasn't designed for voice (or really any streaming media), so the technology can sometimes suffer quality problems. Long-time users will remember when it sounded like your voice was going through a very large tin can, or a weak and spotty cell phone connection. It mainly got used by people who wanted to make overseas phone calls, because it was essentially free, or very cheap – in effect, with VOIP, all calls are local.

In the last few years, VOIP voice quality has made great progress. My wife happily uses the cable company's VOIP-based telephone service for her home office; my friend Niall has had a VOIP line for several years, and swears by it. But I haven't felt comfortable committing all my landlines to VOIP since Niall disappeared on me once during a phone call – to me, it's bad enough to have to worry about my computer hanging.

And I recently was talking with entrepreneur Sean Ryan, who told me VOIP had been a huge mistake for his startup – it just wasn't ready for business prime time. [For more point and counterpoint, see ExtremeTech's face off VOIP's Here and It Works with PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff and his article, Consumer VOIP Reality Check].

So what gives? VOIP looks like the future: Yankee Group said that by 2008, more than 17 million of us will use a VOIP service, up from about 1 million last year. But while those numbers represent amazing growth, there will be plenty of room for more, since there are hundreds of millions of conventional phone lines. Should VOIP be part of your present?

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

As with all technology, the answer depends on you. VOIP is here, it works passably at worst (and it often works very well) and there are plenty of services available. Sound quality is improving and can be quite good, but price remains its main selling point.

VOIP is much cheaper than conventional phone service here in the United States – Vonage, the largest U.S. provider of VOIP telephony, with more than 1 million users, charges $14.99 a month for its basic service (though remember that this includes only 500 minutes. For unlimited calling, the plan is $24.99 a month). SunRocket just introduced a year of VOIP service for $199, which works out to $16.58 a month (though you must pre-pay, and it's only available in certain areas right now). For that matter, Skype is free – though to call someone who doesn't use Skype, you'll have to use SkypeOut, which charges by the minute.

So, if you're budget-conscious (but still have broadband), or you make a lot of overseas phone calls, you should probably have a VOIP service.

But even misers need to remember that VOIP is not the same as the regular telephone system. There are hassle costs. VOIP services aren't as simple as the current phone service. That's not a knock on VOIP – few technologies are as simple as the phone (and for things like transferring calls, VOIP can be simpler than conventional phone service).

You need specialized hardware for some things, and you need to manage software. The biggest hassle is that many VOIP services don't connect to the 911 emergency system, at least, not without paying extra (around $5 a month is the typical cost). Plus, you have to be careful about emergency calls if you forward your VOIP number to another phone —the 911 service will be geared to the address where the phone is registered.

Finally, VOIP phones run off the Internet, and so have the potential to fail in a power outage, though many providers now forward calls to another number during an outage (which means you have to have another number working). You can now transfer your existing phone number to most VOIP services, something that wasn't true a year ago. And there is that issue of needing the person you're calling to have VOIP, too.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Price, though, isn't the only reason to think about VOIP – because it's effectively a software telephone, there's a bounty of services that IP telephony gives users. The typical home package for a service like Vonage includes call waiting, speed dialing, phone books, teleconferencing, caller ID, call forwarding, voice mail and other services. Some services promote features like videoconferencing, a specialty of the sleek but pricey ($700!) Motorola OJO, or Packet8. Lingo is a great service for those who make a lot of international calls. Zoom makes a device that lets you switch between regular phone service and VOIP.

Overall, we're partial to AT&T's Callvantage, which has great call quality and has a robust set of features. You can conference call with up to 10 people on a call, at no charge. For a mere 49 cents, you can record a message and send it to up to 20 people. It has call filtering, faxing and call forwarding, and the local plan starts at $19.99 a month (national calling is $29.99 a month). AT&T will even send someone to install the service, for a fee.

Another very good service is VoicePulse, which has excellent call filtering (including telemarketer blocking), multi-ring and follow features that will work with non-VoicePulse lines, and good sound quality. Its user interface is not as straightforward as AT&T's, but it's cheaper, at $14.99 for a local plan and $24.99 for its nationwide plan. Another plan of note is its Open Access plan, which works with any kind of VOIP equipment.

And you can see what we think about other services here: Talk Is Cheaper.

There is a lot to like about VOIP. And even if you're not ready to make the move yet, this is still a relatively young technology. It will just keep getting better.
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Postby Slorg » Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:52 pm

Sounds cool, but they're doing something cooler here in Aussie.

They've hooked up telephone service through people's electricity outlets. IE: No more phone jacks or cables.

The next step is they're going to hook internet up the same way.

What that means is far cheaper phone and internet services (no line charge for phones, for example) and much more convenience. It also means consolodating your electricity, phone, and internet bills into one. They are predicting no loss in internet speed by doing the switch.


Imagine simply plugging in your computer into the wall socket and it automatically linking up to the net.
Last edited by Slorg on Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Marko » Wed Oct 05, 2005 2:17 am

Slorg wrote:Sounds cool, but they're doing something cooler here in Aussie.

They've hooked up telephone service through people's electricity outlets. IE: No more phone jacks or cables.

The next step is they're going to hook internet up the same way.

What that means is far cheaper phone and internet services (no line charge for phones, for example) and much more convenience. It also means consolodating your electricity, phone, and internet bills into one. They are predicting no loss in internet speed by doing the switch.


Imagine simply plugging in your computer into the wall socket and it automatically linking up to the net.


WAAAHHHHHHHTTT :blink: :ph34r:
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Postby CRaZy)-(ØR§]® » Wed Oct 05, 2005 6:31 am

Slorg wrote:Sounds cool, but they're doing something cooler here in Aussie.

They've hooked up telephone service through people's electricity outlets. IE: No more phone jacks or cables.

The next step is they're going to hook internet up the same way.

What that means is far cheaper phone and internet services (no line charge for phones, for example) and much more convenience. It also means consolodating your electricity, phone, and internet bills into one. They are predicting no loss in internet speed by doing the switch.


Imagine simply plugging in your computer into the wall socket and it automatically linking up to the net.


i remember a couple years back someone posting about them doing this with the internet..i don't think it took off to well in america...
i myself don't think i would want it..
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Postby Whitey » Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:36 am

I know there trying the internet thing with gas or something.
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Postby Slorg » Wed Oct 05, 2005 5:57 pm

Well, American companies would likely try to suck as much money out of us as possible, so they probably overcharged it.

Here in Australia, Telstra is the only real internet and phone company. There are others, but they all rely on Telstra's lines.

This will put an end to Telstra's tyranny and high prices over here, so people are flocking to do it. It's much, much cheaper and far more convenient.
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Postby WhiteWolfette » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:32 am

My two cents...


Telstra blows donkey nuts.
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Postby ViXen » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:00 am

Marko wrote:
Slorg wrote:Sounds cool, but they're doing something cooler here in Aussie.

They've hooked up telephone service through people's electricity outlets. IE: No more phone jacks or cables.

The next step is they're going to hook internet up the same way.

What that means is far cheaper phone and internet services (no line charge for phones, for example) and much more convenience. It also means consolodating your electricity, phone, and internet bills into one. They are predicting no loss in internet speed by doing the switch.


Imagine simply plugging in your computer into the wall socket and it automatically linking up to the net.


WAAAHHHHHHHTTT :blink: :ph34r:



:huh:
sometimes..... maybe once or twice.
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Postby *Xx~T*)V(aC*xX* » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:48 am

ViXen wrote:
Marko wrote:
Slorg wrote:Sounds cool, but they're doing something cooler here in Aussie.

They've hooked up telephone service through people's electricity outlets. IE: No more phone jacks or cables.

The next step is they're going to hook internet up the same way.

What that means is far cheaper phone and internet services (no line charge for phones, for example) and much more convenience. It also means consolodating your electricity, phone, and internet bills into one. They are predicting no loss in internet speed by doing the switch.


Imagine simply plugging in your computer into the wall socket and it automatically linking up to the net.


WAAAHHHHHHHTTT :blink: :ph34r:




:huh:




There's a company that does that here in the states called Clearwire. Wireless broadband internet and they call them clearplugs. No Cat 5 anymore just plug every thing into an outlet and presto High speed internet. I have it at 4 of my remote locations right now works awesome and only $45 a month!
Last edited by *Xx~T*)V(aC*xX* on Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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