Vonage Internet Phone Service
I'm thinking about switching to Vonage for my home telephone service. Can it completely replace the landline service I currently get from the phone company? Are there any gotchas I should know about?
Is Vonage Telephone Service Right For Me?
Vonage Internet phone service is one of the oldest consumer-targeted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services. The company name is a play on its original slogan "(It's the) Voice Over Net Age". Vonage VoIP is used by 2.4 million customers worldwide now, who have opted to drop their traditional landline phone service from the telephone company.
Vonage plans include the Vonage World calling plan, with unlimited international calling to more than 60 countries for a flat monthly fee. The introductory fee is US $14.99 per month for the first three months; then the monthly fee jumps to $25.99. The Vonage Basic 500 plan gives you 500 minutes of local and long distance outbound calling in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada for $17.99/month. Incoming calls are free, but international rates apply for calls to other countries. At the low end, Vonage Lite gives you 200 minutes in the U.S. and Canada for $9.99/month.
Vonage rates are competitive with other VoIP services. But that's not all you need to use the Vonage phone system. Vonage telephone service works with the Internet, but Vonage is not an Internet service provider. If you don't already have a high-speed connection (DSL, cable or fiber), you'll have to contract with an ISP for broadband Internet service and then sign up for Vonage internet phone service. A dial-up internet connection is simply not fast enough for the large amount of data that voice over internet requires.
You'll also need to buy or lease a preconfigured router from Vonage. They call it a "Vonage phone adapter" but it's really an off-the-shelf-router optimized for VoIP traffic. Then you need a phone to talk on. Chances are, your existing phone will work fine. Any phone with a standard plug (an "RJ-11 plug") will work with Vonage phone service, or you can buy a Vonage VKey - a USB thumb drive with the Vonage Softphone application on it. The softphone lets you make Vonage calls through your computer's speakers and plug-in microphone.
What About Call Quality and 911 Calls?
Like any VoIP phone service, Vonage phone services have some periodic issues with call quality. Usually, that has more to do with the quality of service from your Internet provider. Traffic jams on the Internet can cause parts of voice calls to be lost. Internet outages mean no Vonage phone services for you. Fax transmissions are especially sensitive to data losses, so you may have to re-send faxes or throttle back the fax transmission speed.
Emergency or 911 service is another critical difference between regular landline phone service and VoIP services such as Vonage Internet phone calling. There is no street address associated with a VoIP router, so you have to fill out a form telling Vonage where you will be calling from most of the time. In most U.S. areas, this address will be forwarded to emergency services such as police and fire departments when you call 911 using Vonage. Laptop and other mobile users may face delays in telling emergency services where they are in the physical world.
Monitored home alarm systems that rely upon phone service may also have problems with Vonage Internet phone service, or any VoIP service. If you have such an alarm system, check for compatibility with the alarm company before switching to VoIP.
Vonage customer support has also been a sore point with some customers. Cancelling a Vonage account was infuriatingly difficult in the past. You could not cancel online, you had to call the company and wait on hold a long time. Then you had to listen to a lengthy sales pitch before Vonage would actually cancel your account. (If you've ever tried to cancel an AOL account, you can sympathize.) Vonage also made it difficult to transfer your phone number to another phone service provider, until the Federal Communications Commission cracked down on that "customer retention" tactic in 2007. Now, a third-party service called Focal Communications handles number-transfers for Vonage.
The Vonage Contact page offers a link to email for customer service, and online self-service options. You can also find phone numbers for Sales and Customer Service, where live operators are available 24 hours a day.
I don't personally use Vonage, because in my area Verizon offers a phone/TV/internet bundle over FIOS, a fast fiber-optic service. Other telecom companies offer internet phone service similar to Vonage. Check with your current phone, cable or TV service provider to see if they offer a VOIP internet phone service, then compare their calling plans and prices to what Vonage is offering.
Do you have experience with Vonage phone service? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 31 Dec 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Vonage Internet Phone Service (Posted: 31 Dec 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved