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Switching phone companies to Vonage

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware, Internet, Mobile Devices | Posted on 30-07-2003

Ok, so here is the deal. What if I told you you could cut your $100 or $200 phone bill to $39.00 a month, AND you can have a second phone line for a dedicated fax machine, AND you can have 1500 minutes of long distance? Interested? Read more!

Cutting Features

About a year or so ago after getting what I considered outrageous phone bills I took out my axe and started cutting features from my phone bill to save money. Voice mail, $5.00, calller ID, $9.00, FCC fee, $5.00, and the list goes on. Not only are there all kinds of add on FCC fees that are full of crap, but every little thing that makes a home phone useful starts to add up. And, to make matters worse, all of these charges are before you make any long distance calls.

Voice over IP

VoIP uses the Internet (which uses IP) to carry voice traffic. It has been around for awhile and some companies and people have been using it for awhile. I have always been interested in using VoIP but never thought I would have the chance at home. Then, one day while surfing the web I came accross a new company called Vonage. Vonage allows you to do VoIP from your house. I booked marked it and made a mental note to research this when I had more time.

Replacing SBC

So, the story picks up several months later when I was able to investigate this a little further. Most of the forum threads I was reading were pretty good at giving me the pros and cons. I have to be honest and say that I was having a hard time finding the cons. I made the decision to switch to Vonage and give SBC the kick to the curb.

I logged onto the Vonage web site and picked their small business plan which gave me 1500 minutes of long distance and a free fax number. I paid my initial bill to cover the Cisco ATA 186 VoIP box and I was all set. A few days later the box arrived.

Setting up Vonage

This might be pretty obvious to most geeks, but in order to do VoIP you need to have a high speed internet connection. At home, we have Comcast. This is good and better than DSL as far as I’m concerned as far as VoIP is concerned. Why? Well, with DSL in the area where we are at, you HAVE to HAVE a phone line to carry the DSL over. This means that if you wanted to get rid of your phone company as I did, and just use VoIP, you are out of luck. You still have to pay the phone company a monthly charge before you even pay for the DSL line. I know, another rip off.

If you have DSL and you use tons of long distance, Vonage can still save you money. However for me since I am using Comcast, I am able to cut off my existing phone. BTW, Vonage has a feature where you can put in a forwarding phone number in case your Internet connection is down, cool huh?

After unpacking the Cisco ATA 186, I plugged it into my network and then plugged in my phone into the back of it. I picked the phone up and dialed *80 and it gave me my IP address. That was it! I had a phone. I couldn’t believe how easy setup was.

Transfering Phone Number

Since I didn’t want to loose my existing phone number, I faxed Vonage the agreement letter for them to swap my phone number to their service. After about 2 weeks my phone at my house stopped ringing and my Vonage phone started ringing using my old phone number. Vonage does give you a virtual number which works as soon as you plug the unit up so you can recieve calls on it as soon as you get it.

Day to day usage

Most of the time I forget I am using VoIP. The reception is great and it just works like a regular phone. Since you only have one place or jack where the phone comes into I purhased a new 5.8GHz wireless base station from Target. Don’t knock Vtech phones either. I know they aren’t *name* brand but I’ve used them since college because of their price and they last. Plus, there was no way I was going to pay over $200 for a 5.8GHz phone. With the base station in place I put a couple of extra phones throughout the house. No wires and they don’t interfere with the wireless network either since they are 5.8GHz.

Day to day usage is no different than a regular phone line. The biggest difference between a regular phone line and Vonage is the online features Vonage provides. For example, how would you like to get an email when you have new voice mail at home? With Vonage you can. How would you like to have real-time billing? With Vonage you can. These are really nice features and they are all web driven. From their dashboard you can see all incoming and outgoing calls in real-time as well as check voice mail online, change your forwarding number, upgrade your account, add new features, etc. Of these features, I like getting emails of voice mails the most. For those of you that are curious, the email comes with a .wav attachment so you can listen to your message.


So let’s add up the numbers here if you still aren’t convinced and see where we land.

  1. Comcast Internet – $45.00 / month
  2. Vonage Small Business – $39.99

Total: $94.99 / month

Remember this includes two phone lines (one for fax) caller ID, call waiting, voice mail, and 1500 minutes / month and Internet access. Plus, remember all of those ridiculous fees? They don’t exist anymore.

Other Perks

If you travel a lot and where you are going has high speed internet access, you can just plug your Cisco ATA 186 into the network and you’ve got your home or small business phone with you. Crazy huh? Going to Europe and want to call the US? Take it with you and find a high-speed internet connection and plug your phone up and you can make a local calls back to the states at no charge. Now that is cool! I told my co-worker who’s wife is British that they should buy one and ship it to her parents so they can call the US for virutally nothing. Remember this works because the Internet isn’t ‘state’ or ‘country’ specific. As long as you have an IP address it will work.


So the conclusion is, if you are like me and you have high speed internet access and want to drop SBC altogether, Vonage might give you a way out. If you are using DSL and make lots of long distance then Vonage might be for you as well. Otherwise, check things out and see where you stand. Be sure to check out their other plans as well and if you decide to sign up, let me know cause I get a free month on their referral program.

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