Monday, December 12, 2005

Call Santa Free on VoIP

Vonage is offering a nice service for children of their service... a free call to Santa. Kids of all ages can call and listen to Santa and leave a message with the Christmas wishes.

If you have Vonage, just dial *101.

Best wishes for a happy VoIP holiday!


Sunday, November 13, 2005

5 Benefits To Choosing VoIP

There are many benefits and advantages to switching from a standard phone line (Public Switched Telephone Network). VoIP technology is growing and changing every day. Major corporations are transferring their business needs over to VoIP and households worldwide are making the switch. VoIP is produced by transferring voice into digital data over the Internet. Because the data is smaller compared to a standard electric unit, VoIP users save on valuable bandwidth as well. If you have a high-speed connection in your home, then you can utilize VoIP. You may need to purchase some equipment, such as a VoIP phone adapter. The phone adapter will allow you to use all of your telephones with the VoIP technology. You may also need to purchase a router. Most of your VoIP service providers will supply you with the hardware that you need. You even have the option of purchasing phones designed for VoIP as well as Videophones that will display images while you speak.

VoIP is certainly the wave of the future. Many major computer companies have already begun to incorporate VoIP with their Instant Messaging programs. Yahoo has also recently purchased the VoIP Company, Dial Pad. Now, Instant Messaging programs such as Yahoo, MSN, Google and AOL allow pc-pc phone calls. The world is making the switch to VoIP, but in case you are still unsure if VoIP is right for you, here are five benefits to adding VoIP to your home and business.

VoIP is Cost Efficient

Whether for your home or business, VoIP is just plain cheaper then other telephone options. You can reduce the cost in your home by saving on long distance and local telephone calls. Many VoIP service providers have plans that allow unlimited local and long distance calling. You will have to check with several companies to see how their unlimited local and long distance calling areas compare. You also save money by using VoIP throughout your house. You won’t need to install additional phone jacks and wires, you just add on to your VoIP system through your cable or dsl internet connection.

VoIP Integrates your Audio, Data, and Video Applications.

VoIP systems can integrate your telephone with your computer applications such as E-mail, Fax, Web conferencing, and Video Phone needs. This saves money and energy by combining all of these services into one basic application. You can use your phone and access all of your other programs at the same time, allowing greater freedom and is a simpler way for the home owner to utilize all of these different products.

VoIP Provides Flexibility

VoIP allows users tremendous flexibility. For instance, many VoIP users can take their phone adapter with them, and use their telephone number anywhere they have access to an Internet connection. This includes traveling overseas, while staying in hotels, or even camping. If you have high speed Internet, you will be able to take phone calls on your regular number anywhere you travel. This is a much better solution for those with active lifestyles compared to the expense of cell phones as well as being the perfect solution for mobile employees and those whose jobs require a good deal of travel.

VoIP Users Can Choose their Own Area Codes

VoIP providers allow users to choose their own area codes. This is a fantastic option for those whose friends and family all live in one particular location, and they are out of state. By choosing your family and friend’s area code, you are allowing them to call you by making a local call, whenever they choose, and they will not have to pay long distance charges. Some providers extend the area codes to other countries. This would be extremely beneficial to someone whose friends and family are halfway across the world where you can get a local number and save your family the international long distance rates.

VoIP offers Free Features

Features that typically cost extra with standar phone services are usually bundled with VoIP unlimited calling plans. These features include Voice Mail, Call Forwarding, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Block, Call Return, and Do Not Disturb. Because of the integration between VoIP and the Internet, many service providers will allow you to access and control all of your VoIP phone features through the Internet. With VoIP, users have greater access to control all of their phone features as well as save on charges.

Choose VoIP and enjoy!


Saturday, October 01, 2005

What's a Gizmo?

In the burgeoning VoIP market, a new breed of network has gained popularity. It's called Gizmo Project and according to their website, it's a free phone for your computer.

You may say, new? But what about Skype, Google and other free VoIP services?

Well you'd be right except for two important reasons:
  • features
  • open network
You see, Skype, the current leader in the "free" VoIP market (and recently purchased by auction giant, eBay) operates in a closed network. You can't connect to other VoIP networks through Skype, or vice versa.

On the other had, Gizmo Project is an SIP network, and can connect to other open networks using a unique SIP number assigned to you. You can use Gizmo Project as a "soft phone" application (like Skype) or add one of many SIP routers to be able to plug in any standard phone to your network. You can also find SIP phones that plug directly into an ethernet port on a standard router.

Many are calling Gizmo "the Skype-killer" with comments like "no comparison to Skype", "10 thumbs up" and "killer app for podcasting" among others.

Gizmo Project has many of the same features Skype uses (including low cost call in numbers and call out to any phone number service), but here's where Gizmo Project jumps ahead, in my opinion.
  • forward your calls to any other Gizmo user or any mobile or landline number (a feature just added to Skype's latest release)
  • add multiple accounts and numbers to Gizmo (Skype only allows one account, but multiple numbers)
  • Place callers on hold with on hold music of your choice
  • faster dialing and connecting calls
  • free conference calling with other Gizmo and mobile/landline users through
  • no need to add a "+" in front of phone numbers when dialing (Skype requires a "+")
  • built-in phone call recording, perfect for recording important conference calls, teleconferences or phone meetings. Recorded calls are saved in .wav format.
  • open network, call users in other open VoIP networks using their SIP numbers
OK, are there any downsides to Gizmo?

Well, not many, but there are a few:
  • voicemail is sent as a .wav file attachment to an email address of your choice. This may be a benefit to some, although I prefer the interface Skype provides that allows you to listen to all voicemail messages directly through the GUI without downloading. It's fast!
  • no automated contact import function
  • limited incoming call phone numbers. Currently only US and UK numbers are available. Skype offers a larger selection in up to 9 countries.
Gizmo Project uses the SIP Phone network, the company that provides the infrastructure and network.

The call clarity is excellent and if you don't have a comfortable headset, I recommend the mVox portable USB speaker. It's a USB device that connects to your PC and allows you to speak to callers using any VoIP application through it's built-in echo/noise cancelling microphone and speaker. It also has an earbud to allow you to keep conversations private as well.

If you want to test out your Gizmo, call me at my Gizmo account "markidzik".

Find out more about Gizmo Project and SIP Phone.

All the best!


Friday, September 30, 2005

Skype Releases New Version, Features

Skype has released version 1.4 with some useful and often requested features.

They include:
  • Call forwarding - forward calls while you're not signed on to another Skype user account, land line or mobile number. Note: Skype Out minute credits are used for forwarding calls.
  • Personalizing Features - chose from new avatars (images) to display on your calls and your profile.
  • Advanced Call Enhancements - better adjustements for sound devices and connections.
  • Enhanced Dailing and Audio
After installing the new version, I noticed much faster call connections, a more streamlined interface, the new call forwarding feature and faster startup.

Download the latest version from Skype.



Monday, September 12, 2005

Ebay To Aquire Skype

Ebay announced today that it plans to aquire the fast growing and market leading VoIP provider Skype. Ebay plans to integrate Skype's VoIP software into the auction process, allowing bidders to contact a seller via the Skype application, allowing last minute bidders to get questions answered and adding a more human touch to the currently "all email" Ebay.

Here's a Reuters story about the planned aquisition from

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON (Reuters) - EBay Inc. has agreed to buy Internet phone-calling phenomenon Skype for up to $4.1 billion, tapping a hot source of growth and putting it into rising competition with rivals from Google to local phone company.

EBay (EBAY) said on Monday it will pay $1.3 billion in cash and $1.3 billion in stock for explosively growing Skype , which will allow eBay to add free Web telephone calls to its online auctions. It will make a further payout of up to $1.5 billion if certain financial targets are met.

The deal will cut eBay's earnings by about a penny per share until the end of 2006 before beginning to boost eBay's profitability, Chief Financial Officer Rajiv Dutta said. Its shares rose 45 cents, or 1.17 percent, to $39.07 on Nasdaq.

EBay is renowned for its Internet marketplace linking more than 150 million buyers and sellers, who currently exchange about 5 million e-mails per day. It hopes that offering free Skype calls within eBay will smooth the way for more deals to go through, and let the company charge merchants for calls that lead to sales.

Skype already leads the booming voice-over-Internet (VOIP) market, which is seen as a threat to traditional phone companies and is being aggressively targeted by online powerhouses such as Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) AOL unit Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) and Google Inc. (GOOG).

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), for instance, last month moved to build its presence in the Internet telephony market with the purchase of Teleo, while Yahoo bought Dialpad earlier in 2005.

But eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman said that Skype had a considerable head start.

"We think Skype has an enormous lead -- 150,000 new users a day -- and technology that is generations ahead of where the new entrants are," she said. "And when people are using your brand name as a verb, that is incredibly powerful."

Skype expects revenue of $60 million this year and more than $200 million in 2006, but has yet to turn a profit. In two years, Skype has attracted 54 million members to its free and low-cost Internet-based voice service and is on track to roughly double in size within a year.

EBay is looking to create a new triad of e-commerce, joining buyers and sellers on eBay, with its PayPal online payment system, and the ability to complete transactions via Web phone calls using Skype software, analysts said.

But David Ricci, a portfolio manager with William Blair & Co., said the deal could prove to be a "stretch" for eBay since it appears to fall outside of its core business.

"The motivation for other players is more obvious than it is for eBay," he said, pointing to Internet media companies such as Yahoo, Google and AOL moving into the Internet phone market.


Luxembourg-based Skype offers a free service when users make computer-to-computer calls to other Skype users. Charges apply when Skype users make calls to, or receives calls from, regular phone numbers.

EBay said its merchants would be able to use Skype software to allow buyers with last-minute sales questions to "click to talk" to a merchant's customer service agent.

"Once we integrate communications into e-commerce, we think that Skype is going to remove considerable friction" from the buying and selling process, Dutta told Reuters by telephone.

Legg Mason telecommunications analyst Blair Levin, formerly the chief of staff to Clinton-era Federal Communications Chairman Reed Hundt, said Skype faces competitive challenges of its own as it moves closer to traditional phone services.

Skype could eventually fall under U.S. regulation governing emergency services that could drive up the costs of adding new subscribers. Also, phone companies are moving fast to add video, data and wireless services to their voice offerings. Skype will have to invest to keep pace, Levin noted.

"While Skye certainly has benefited from first-mover advantage, the competitive dynamic for the kind of service it offers is increasing," Levin said in a note to investors.

Nearly half of Skype's users live in Europe, a quarter are in Asia, and an eighth are in North America, providing eBay with a large audience as it seeks to expand outside of its core North American market.

The deal provides a major payout for Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who also created the controversial file-trading network Kazaa that allows music fans to share music for free. The co-founders plan to stay at Skype.

(Additional reporting by Santosh Menon, Kirstin Ridley and Siobhan Kennedy in London)

©2005 Reuters Limited.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Google Adds VoIP and IM

Google released a simple IM and VoIP application the other day, with additional features on the way in future releases.

The service is simple, but designed in typical Google "elegance". It allows users to IM with other subscribers as well as talk through a VoIP connection. Currently a Gmail user account is required to sign up, and if you don't have one, the service automatically sends you an invitation from the user who introduced you to the service (if they have available invitations). A neat feature automatically loads your Gmail contacts into the IM client.

The service is currently in beta. Read more about Google Talk.

All the best VoIP ing!


Friday, July 29, 2005

Skype Lowers Rates

Skype announced today that they've lowered their SkypeOut service rates to over 20 countries in conjunction with the 1 year birthday of the SkypeOut service.

The new rate is 0.17 Euros (about 2.3 cents) to the following countries: Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Cook Islands, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland (mobile), Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

They've also added six additional countries to the new lower global rate plan: China, Greece, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Poland and Switzerland.

Along with the reductions came a few increases. Rates to Saudia Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Oman, Lichtenstein and Haiti have gone up slightly.

The new rates take effect on September 1, 2005.

SkypOut is a unique long distance service that is available through the free Skype application to be able to call almost any number in the world at low prices through your computer and internet connection.

Overall great news for consumers looking to save more on outgoing calls. To find out more about Skype, or to download the software free, visit Skype. If I can help with your Skype questions, email me at (replace the AT) or Skype me at "coachmark".

All the best!


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Packet 8 Offers Incentives

Packet 8 (8x8), the leader in VoIP video phone service is offering incentives for new customers this summer.

The company is offering free activation on both standard and video phone plans through July, as well as a $19.95 discount. That's at least $49 off standard new account setup.

Packet 8's staff and customers have some interesting applications for their VoIP video phone service. Some staff use it to stay in touch with their children and older parents, and some use it just to check in on their pets and yell at them if they're misbehaving! (the video phone has a neat auto-answer mode) Since the video phones are reasonably priced at $99, the service is getting quite popular.

Using the Packet8 phone service also just got a whole lot cooler, cleaner and even more convenient with the introduction of the Uniden Whole House VoIP System. The slick new Packet8-enabled Uniden UIP1868P is a 5.8GHz digital expandable corded/cordless IP phone system with built-in full router functionality. The UIP1868P is a fully integrated, service-ready phone system available at the Packet8 online store for $159 (base unit and one cordless handset).

Incorporating 8x8’s patented Internet telephony software, the UIP1868P offers plug-and-play access to Packet8’s feature-rich broadband telephone service and can deploy Packet8 capability to as many as 10 Uniden feature rich cordless handsets using a single broadband Internet connection.

Learn more about Packet 8 and their July promotion.

Keep VoIPing!


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Cities Afraid of VoIP Tax Loses

Most cities around the country rely on telephone tax revenue. In the wake of increased VoIP subscribers, cities are afraid that the loses will affect critical services they provide for their residents.

Telephone service is one of the most taxed services, coming in at between 2 - 21% of your monthly phone bill depending on where you live. Ouch!

Since VoIP is an internet based service, is virtually tax free and unregulated at this time (and should stay that way in my opinoin). There are about 1 million VoIP subscribers today, and upwards of 30 million are projected by 2009.

Read more at the Detriot News.


Friday, June 17, 2005

Vonage Announces Big Trade-In Wireless-G for Free

Vonage announced a special promotion that allows any customer to upgrade their existing router to a Linksys Wireless-G router with 2 telephone ports configured for Vonage service at no cost. This offer is available for anyone wishing to upgrade their current router when signing up for the Vonage Broadband phone service.

The way the trade-in works is like this: the customer purchases the Linksys Wireless-G router (WRTP54G) and receives a $10 rebate from Linksys and a $20 rebate from the reseller. The customer activates their Vonage account and after 90 days of service, they get a $50 mail in activation rebate from Vonage. The customer sends in their old router and receives an additional trade-in rebate of $50 from from Vonage. Total rebates are $130 and based on estimated selling price of $130, the router is free.

The promotion runs from June 12, 2005 through July 23, 2005.

Looks like a great way to upgrade your current network to Wireless-G and save about 50% compared to traditional phone service.

Happy VoIP!


Review your VoIP service options at:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Skype Announces New Version, Added Features

Skype has released a new, upgraded version of it's application, as well as brought it's voicemail service out of beta.

In reviewing the new version, it's more intuitive and has an improved look and feel. The voicemail feature is still my favorite, it's just easy to use. They've also added a feature that allows you to leave voicemail messages for your Skype contacts that don't subscribe to voicemail.

Additionally, they've added more ways to import contact lists from other services like MSN and Microsoft Outlook, enhanced profile options and more instant message features.

The Skype software allows you to call other Skype users at no cost, call traditional telephone numbers for approximately 2 cents per minute worldwide, setup an incoming telephone number in 8 countries and throughout the US, setup conference calls, use voicemail, instant message and share files. Skype reports they have 42 million registered users, over 1.5 million SkypeOut subscribers and are registering approximately 150,00 new users daily.

I use Skype for both business and staying in touch with friends and family around the world. For those that work at their computer, it's a great way to communicate without picking up the phone.

It's a pleasure using the Skype software and service. I predict it will continue to grow and be a leading VoIP provider with innovative solutions for telecommunications.

You can download Skype for free.

Have fun and enjoy the new version!


Monday, June 13, 2005

DLink Partners with Lingo VoIP, Offers Free Trial

DLink, best known for it's networking equipment, has partnered with VoIP provider Lingo to offer a VoIP solution that includes hardware, service and a free trial.

The offer includes up to $150 in rebates, first month of service free, free VoIP router hardware, no contract and no activation fee. It's only available for online orders through June 30th.

Over 220 area codes in the US are available and you can keep your current phone number. Calling plans start at $7.95 for Lingo to Lingo calls. Lingo is a leading VoIP service provider for both residential and business customers.

To get more information, visit

Happy VoIPing!


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Vonage Adds Puerto Rico, E911

Vonage recently announced adding Puerto Rico to it's locations customers can call at no cost with their unlimited calling service plans. Calls to Puerto Rico are a toll call for Vonage basic plan subscribers.

E911 (Enhanced 911) service was also added for customers in areas covered by local telephone carriers SBC, Verizon and Bellsouth.

Happy VoIP!


Get a free month of Vonage phone service from Broadband Phone Spot.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

VoIP Poised For Growth: Statistics

VoIP is growing strong. Here are some statistics of where it's going:
  • By 2010 VoIP will account for $80 billion - or 40 percent - of the $200 billion US telecommunications business.
    Source: The Yankee Group
  • 1 million residential and small/home office subscribers in North America in 2004, a number expected to reach 17.4 million by 2008.
    Source: Infonetics
  • North American voice over IP service revenue topped $1.3 billion in 2004, and is expected to soar 1,431% to $19.9 billion in 2009
    Source: Infonetics
  • 20 percent of US businesses were using some form of VoIP be the end of 2004.
    Source: In-Stat/MDR
  • For residential and business markets, 94% of respondents (service providers) offer hosted IP voice by 2005, up from 56% in 2004
    Source: Infonetics
  • 1 million plus VoIP consumer subscribers in the US alone by year-end 2004, a figure expected to reach 3 million by the end of 2005 and rising to 6 - 7 million by the end of 2006.
    Source: IDC
  • Worldwide Wi-Fi VoIP handset revenue totaled $45 million in 2004 and units totaled 113,000.
    Source: Infonetics
  • The number of cable VoIP subscribers in North America jumped 900% between 2003 and 2004, from less than 50,000 to close to half a million, while cable broadband subscribers grew 26%, from 17.7 million to 22.4 million.
    Source: Infonetics

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Broadband VoIP Phone Service; Should You Make The Switch?

Although Broadband VoIP is relatively new, it's become one of the most talked about and used new technologies in recent time. But is it ready for you to make the switch to from your existing phone company? Or even more importantly, why should you switch?

As a small business owner, I asked myself the same questions.
  • Is the service reliable?
  • Can I get 911?
  • What are the advantages?
  • How much will it cost, or save me?
Well, after a year of using the Vonage VoIP service, and testing others (including the more consumer oriented Skype) several months ago I decided to make the switch and move my home and business telephone service to VoIP.

Was it the right move?

Three months after leaving my local phone company, here are my results.

First, there are the cost savings.

Old phone service:

$33.00 base + 0.06 cents per minute long distance. Average bill: $49.00
$49.00 base + 0.06 center per minute long distance + toll free line ($10)
+ incoming toll free calls. Average bill: $72.00 +
$45.00 + toll costs over 500 minutes. Average bill: $59.00

Total communication costs:
Approximately $180 per month.

New VoIP phone service:

Home and Business:
$29.95 base + $5 toll free number + $5 second line. Monthly bill: $39.00 (Includes unlimited long distance in US and 200 minutes of incoming toll free number calls)

$45.00 Average bill: $45

Incoming and outgoing calls, mostly international. Outgoing calls approximately 0.02 per minute world wide. Phone number, approximately $15 per quarter and $5 a month for outgoing toll calls.

New total communication costs:
Approximately $94 per month.
Savings of approximately 50%!

Costs are only one benefit, I've found many more:

Travel: When I travel, I take my laptop and either use my Skype Out service at $0.02 cents per minute, Skype In service for $5 a month, or with my phone adapter, make and receive free calls. I rarely use my wireless phone, saving the costs of overages and usually only take incoming calls from those that have my cell number for conveniece. Most hotels have Broadband service and WiFi hotspots are growing in numbers daily. Skype doesn't require broadband service.

Quality: Sound quality is outstanding on all services I've used, including Vonage and Skype. The calls are at least and usually better quality than my old land line phone service.

Reliability: One of my previous concerns has turned out not to be. Vonage provides a roll-0ver service in case my broadband connection isn't available and routes my calls to my cell phone. Also, I always have my cell phone to call out in case of an outage, which has not occured since I've began using the service.

911: My VoIP provider, Vonage, includes 911 service as long as I am physically at my registered location. If I move, or am traveling for an extended period, I have to register my new location to get 911 service. This 911 service is a benefit to me.


I've only found one, but I'm not sure it's a disadvantage. No phone or telephone book listings (as of this time). Having my phone number out of the phone book may be a benefit, no cold sales calls! :) With so many other marketing avenues available, the phone book may only benefit a certain type of retail business (I don't have a retail business).

Overall, I couldn't be happier with switching over all my phone services to VoIP and will continue to experiment with additional services (like video VoIP and WiFi wireless phone sets) as they become available. I predict more residential and business users will try and eventually switch over to VoIP as the services continue to add features and more reliable services.

If I can help answer questions, feel free to contact me at (remove the AT).

All the best!


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Vonage Testing VOIP Handset, Video-over-IP

Vonage is in tests to offer a VoIP handset telephone for their customers. The price point looks like it will be around $100 and will initially run as WiFi sets. Vonage also announced it was testing video-over-IP with business customers.

Read more at: Yahoo! News - Vonage Sets $100 Price Point For VOIP Handset

Thursday, April 07, 2005

AOL Launches VoIP Service

AOL today launched its much anticipated VoIP telephone service. To start, it's available in 40 US markets and will run $29.99 a month for new users with unlimited local and long distance calling, increasing to $39.99 a month after 6 months. Current users pay $13.99 a month (going up to $18.99 after 6 months) for unlimited local and regional calling. The plans seem to be priced higher than comparable plans from Vonage and Packet8, although they are bundling their online service to set themselves apart. Read more at:

My Way News

Monday, April 04, 2005

VoIP Videophone Is Here: Packet8

Looks like the videophone may now be a reality, and in reach for most people. Packet8: not only has standard residential and business VoIP service, but also a high quality videophone service as well.

The videophone service requires purchase of the videophone hardware, and of course the party you wish to video conference with must have the same hardware as well. You can make regular (non-video) calls to any number and customers report the service as excellent. To get best quality, you'll need about 256K bidirectional bandwith which is standard with most cable internet services, but may not be available with some DSL services.

Comparing the Packet 8 service to others, it offers similar plans (unlimited residential, business and toll international calls) at a reasonable monthly cost. Packet 8 sets itself apart by offering the videophone service, which is not readily available as well as an enhanced business service called "Virtual Office". The business service includes a conference bridge (up to 20 connections), an auto attendant, voicemail, custom features and unlimited calling to any US and Canada telephone for each extension. This is great for any small to mid-sized office that needs PBX style service at a fraction of the cost.

The standard features included with all plans include all the normal functions you'd expect, plus distinctive ringing, fax, 3 way conferencing, caller id blocking, call return and anonymous call blocking. You can port your current phone number, although it may take up to 6 weeks. During this waiting period, you'll be assigned a temporary number to use.

You can select your phone number based on area code, although all areas aren't avialable, they have a good coverage area. You can select a number from any area they offer. Currently, only US numbers are available. Vonage offer US and UK numbers, and Skype offers US, UK, Hong Kong and France (note, Skype is mainly for personal use at this time).

Packet 8 also offers optional services including enhanced 911 service, virtual phone numbers, toll free numbers and do not disturb options. Note that the 911 service incurs an additional monthly cost; in comparison, Vonage includes 911 service at no additional cost.

Whether you're looking for home/home office, small-to-medium business, or video conferencing VoIP telephone service, you'll find Packet 8 offers high quality plans at a fraction of the cost of traditional phone service.

To get more information, visit Packet 8.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Portable VoIP Service Debuts

An innovative device and VoIP service called "VoiceStick" has been released by i2Telecom. Awarded the Internet Telephony Product of the Year, the device is a 50MB USB flash drive bundled with a Plantronics headset. It can be plugged into any internet enabled computer (dial up or broadband) and in conjunction with one of their flat rate service programs, can be used to call to virtually any telephone number in the world.

The service is aimed at people that are on the go including business travelers, college students and anyone wanting a low cost telephone service.

To use the service, you purchase a VoiceStick for $29.99 (current US price) which includes the Plantronics PC headset (plugs into your PC microphone and audio out connections) and a phone number. When you receive the VoiceStick you just activate a calling plan which ranges from $9.99 to $37.99 per month for unlimited calling. International rates are reasonable, but not the cheapest on the market.

You can plug the VoiceStick into any internet enabled computer and make or receive calls, access voicemail, transfer or use up to 50MB of flash drive storage, or call other VoiceStick users, which is free.

To get more information visit:

IT Managers Satisfied With VoIP

In a study by Sage Research of IT managers in companies with over 100 employees that have either tested or deployed VoIP services, 71% reported that they are either somewhat or very satisfied with their VoIP service. Source:

Thursday, March 17, 2005

AOL Steps Into The VoIP Arena

AOL announced their own VoIP service, using technology from Sonus and Level 3. With 29 million subscribers worldwide, AOL will boost awareness of VoIP, currently only about 22% of US households are familiar with it.

Early VoIP provider Vonage has reported breaking the 500,000 subscriber mark while adding more than 15,000 new customers per week.

Read more at Internet Phone Calls Not Just For Geeks

Friday, March 11, 2005

Skype Adds International and US Incoming Phone Service, Voicemail

The ultra-popular Skype VoIP peer-to-peer internet telephony service just got better.

Although still in BETA, they've added a slick incoming telephone service and voicemail. For about $13 US, you can get three months of service and a dedicated telephone number in the US, UK (England), Hong Kong or France regardless of where you live and accept calls from anyone, anywhere directly on your PC. The area code selection in the US is limited (about 30 area codes in most major metropolitan areas), although they are committed to adding more.

(Note: In order to use the SkypeIn and voicemail service, you have to download the new BETA software. As with any BETA software, it's smart to backup your current settings and contacts, although after using it for some time, it appears stable and all functions I tested worked fine.)

Your telephone number automatically comes with voicemail included at no extra charge. (You can also order voicemail separately for your peer-to-peer service when you're not available.) Setting up your voicemail is easy, you can customize your greeting, indicate how long to wait before sending to voicemail and what to do if you are on a call when receiving another.

Since I have relatives in England, I setup a UK phone number and began testing. Had the number and voicemail setup and was accepting calls in just a few minutes. Caller ID worked great on the international number (although this is dependant on what provider your caller uses), call quality was better than my old land line and best yet, I never had to pick up a phone.. just my headset and laptop which I use throughout the day.

Another great use I found for the SkypeOut service is to record conference calls for future reference. Since my schedule doesn't always allow me to listen to calls I'm interested in at the time of the call, I dial into the conference using SkypeOut, and use a little program called Perfect Sound Recorder to record it directly to an MP3 file. I then transfer the file to my Archos MP3 player and can listen to it on the road or when I have some free time. Great combination of technology and it's all digital and easy to manage!

If you need help in getting something like this setup, don't hestitate to leave a comment.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Major Search Engines Shopping For VoIP

As about 115,000 US homes switch to VoIP every month, major search engines are looking to get into the market. Google looks like they are now shopping for a telephony partner, AOL announced plans to offer a service within the next month and Yahoo and MSN already have simple services and partnerships, but no solid VoIP product.

Analysts predict that by 2008, 16 million homes will have VoIP service. No wonder the top search engines are looking to get into the market! Read more below.

Google window-shops for VoIP | Tech News on ZDNet:

"The meetings offer further confirmation of the view that as the Net phone business starts to take off, search giants and Web portals such as Yahoo may not be far behind. Among the announcements at VON, America Online said it plans to unveil a VoIP service in the next month, heightening speculation that Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and Google--its biggest Web rivals--may be exploring similar moves."

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Great Press for Vonage

Vonage is getting great press, and for good reason. Their package is very reasonable priced, easy to get and the unlimited calling plans are very attractive. Perfect for home or SOHO (small office/home office). Look for new wireless phones for Wi-Fi hotspots from Vonage... Net2Phone already has a wireless Wi-Fi phone with their Voiceline service.

"Try New Age Web Dialing"

U.S. News & World Report
March 7, 2005

By Mary Kathleen Flynn

There's a new kid on the telecom block--courtesy of high-speed Internet connections.

Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) has been batted about in techie circles for many years. Over the past few years, it has been installed in many large companies to replace traditional telephone systems for internal calls. But within the past year or so, home users have begun to buy VOIP services, using their broadband Internet connections to make phone calls across the same pipes that carry the Web traffic. The start-up Vonage has packaged VOIP for the home user. Vonage's Digital Voice service costs $25 per month for unlimited local and long-distance calls in North America. The company boasts 450,000 customers, with an additional 10,000 coming onboard each week.

Vonage is no longer the only game in town, as telephone companies and cable companies have also started selling VOIP services to their residential customers. AT&T's CallVantage and Verizon's VoiceWing start at $30, and Time Warner Cable's Digital Phone starts at about $40.

Increasingly, VOIP service will also be available on wireless devices. Vonage, for example, will soon sell a wireless phone that uses Wi-Fi hot spots.

Friday, March 04, 2005

PC Software VoIP Reviews

My first thought after reading about placing a telephone call directly from my PC was... cool!

PC VoIP is basically using a software application, your PC headset (microphone and speaker) and your VoIP provider service to place an outgoing phone call.

Here's a snapshot of the Vonage Softphone VoIP service:

There are several different forms of PC VoIP... I'll talk about a few you may consider.

Vonage offers a package called "SoftPhone". You download the application, make a few setting choices and you're up and running to make - or receive - phone calls. That's right, SoftPhone lets you make and receive calls directly from your PC with a dedicated phone number assigned to you. BTW, you can choose the location of the phone number... local or nationwide. It's only available with an existing Vonage account for $9.99 a month, $0.039 per minute (at this writing) and comes with 500 free minutes. One note, the 911 service available with all other Vonage plans is not available with SoftPhone. Call quality is excellent and comparable to other Vonage plans and standard phone lines. Vonage has been rated a "Best Buy" at PCWorld, received an "Editor's Choice" from CNet and received the LapTop Magazine's Editor's Choice award.

Net2Phone has a service called CommCenter. It adds fax, PC to PC and instant messaging to the outgoing phone service, but lacks the ability to receive incoming calls. You don't have to have an existing account to sign up, you can setup an account just for the CommCenter service and you are not assigned a phone number. To use the service you download the software, open a free account, load funds into your account and you're ready to go. PC to PC calls (calls to other Net2Phone CommCenter users) are free, all other calls and fax rates are based on the location of the call. For example, calls to the US are currently $0.02 per minute.

Lingo doesn't currently have a PC VoIP option.

Skype has PC VoIP package called "SkypeOut". The Skype service is basically a P2P (peer to peer) software application where you can connect with other Skype users at no cost. The "SkypeOut" service is an extension of the software that allows you to place calls to just about anywhere for about $0.02 US a minute (as of this writing). You load your account with a minimum of 10 EUR (about $13 US) and all calls are deducted from your balance. The sound quality is excellent, sometimes like a cell phone, but most often as good or better than a standard phone line.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a solid service with a permanent phone number that you can make and receive calls, Vonage is your choice. If your needs demand fax, chat, and outgoing calls only, Net2Phone has it. If you want to connect with others via a P2P network along with phone conference, chatting, file transfer and the option of calling anywhere (for about $0.02 per min), check out the popular Skype service.

Happy calling!

Monday, February 28, 2005

Net2Phone: Grandaddy of VoIP

Net2Phone is one of the pioneers in VoIP telephone service and offers a wide variety of services. In comparison to other VoIP companies, Net2Phone offers residential, business, PC To Phone, PC To Fax, calling card, VAR, reseller, corporate and infrastructure services.

Their residential and business service plans are very similiar to those of Vonage in cost and offerings (unlimited calling to US and Canada for a fixed monthly cost) although Net2Phone offers a wide variety of additional equipment, including the very cool WiFi XJ100 Cordless Phone that allows you to make and receive calls through your wireless network and VoIP service.

The calling card plans are very competitive, start a 1 cent per minute and are available in several different forms and dollar amounts.

Their Voiceline plans include a free adapter, online control panel access to your phone account and VoIP broadband telephone service. A unique feature of the Voiceline service are the overseas packages available. There are bundle packages for several areas including India, Asia, Europe... specifically designed for those calling overseas regularly. Something to note, the Voiceline plans do not support 911/emergency service, where both Vongage and Lingo do.

Net2Phone has one of the most comprehensive service and equipment offerings of any other VoIP provider and are a popular choice for both residential and business customers.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Review: Skype VoIP

Skype is not only one of the most popular software downloads around today, it's also an incredibly powerful (and inexpensive) communication tool.

Created by the same team that started KaZaA, Skype is a peer-to-peer tool that allows you to speak with other Skype users directly at no cost, regardless of their location. You can also transfer files, conference with 3 others or instant message.

The innovative part about Skype is its SkypeOut feature that allows you to call just about any phone number for about $0.02 a minute almost anywhere in the world (at this time). To use SkypeOut you just add a minimum of $10 US to your account and your calls are automatically deducted from your balance.

The software interface is intuitive, well designed and easy to use. I had it installed, account credited and making both phone calls and connections in just under 6 minutes. Everything went smoothly and I was impressed in how seemless the process was. Just plug in your headset and you're ready to connect. The call quality has been excellent, similar to cell phone and sometimes clearer than your local phone service.

An interesting thing to note is that if you're making a call out using SkypeOut, the caller ID shows the call from 012345 (or something similar). Be sure to mention this to those you call that screen calls or this is a great anonymous calling tool!

Note, you can't receive regular telephone calls (you aren't assigned a phone number) although you can receive connections from other Skype users.

Skype is a great service if you communicate with family, friends or business associates worldwide or want to reduce your outgoing mobile or long distance telephone expenses. Once you use Skype, you'll probably end up make most of your outgoing calls with it and receive your incoming calls on your mobile or land lines (my experience). With internet access almost everywhere you turn today, with your laptop and headset you can stay in touch just about anywhere you travel.

Overall I give Skype a big thumbs up and would highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

VoIP is ready for prime time

Overview of how VoIP is making an impact on how we communicate, and the plummeting costs. Notice how much the author is saving a month on his mobile phone bill! I'll be reviewing the popular Skype service in my next post.

VoIP is ready for prime time | Tech News on ZDNet:

"For the last few months I have been experimenting with Skype in particular for voice connections when I travel. During the last six weeks, all of my telephone calls--Skype-to-Skype, Skype-to-mobile and Skype-to-fixed line--have been via a headset and my laptop computer. I've connected to the internet via wired or Wi-Fi LANs in hotels, office buildings and restaurants.

In short: my mobile phone bill has plummeted from $500 a month to less than $10 a month. The number of times I have had to use my mobile phone in the US during the past two weeks can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For the most part it is people calling me on my mobile that dominates my usage. My outgoing calls are now few and far between. The prevalence of low-cost or free Wi-Fi across the US means I am at most paying for a local telephone call in the destination country."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What Is Broadband Phone Service?

In a nutshell, broadband phone service uses the internet to route your incoming and outgoing calls. It's revolutionary and has now becoming a "real" alternative to traditional phone service providers.

Another technical term for broadband phone service is VOIP, or voice-over-internet-protocol.

The service requires a broadband internet connection (cable, DSL, T3, T1, etc) along with some type of phone adapter (each company provides their own compatible hardware).

It's now quite simple to install and setup your service, especially compared to your local phone company. Pretty much just plug and play... plug in the adapter to your cable modem and then to your computer, reboot and if all goes well, you can be making and receiving calls within minutes. Now that's pretty cool!

Your options are to either signup online with a service like Vonage (one of the leading providers) or visit your local computer store (or store that sells computers) and pickup a "retail" installation kit. Ordering online takes a few days to receive your adapter, but in my opinion worth the wait. You get a better adapter and if you use the link above, you also get a free month of phone service.

I personally use Vonage and have been really happy with the service, especially recently. It's taken some time for the industry and service providers to mature and work out the kinks, and I think it's now at a point where it's a viable alternative. So much so that I've cancelled my local phone service and use Vonage exclusively.

Let me know your experiences and any questions you might have.