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.