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!