This just dropped into my inbox. An interesting read...

Voice over IP: Its Time Has Come

We've been intrigued by the idea of Voice over IP (VoIP) for years. We tried various Internet phone solutions such as Net2Phone and Skype. Being able to talk long distance at no extra charge was way cool - especially on international calls. But there were problems: you still knew you were using a computer. Calls dropped occasionally. It didn't feel like talking on the phone.

Recently, VoIP has gotten more transparent. Services such as Lingo, Vonage and Packet8 have gotten inexpensive and easy to set up. You use regular analog telephones to talk, and you get a real phone number on which people can call you. When we moved to the new house, we only had one phone line installed, in anticipation of trying out VoIP. After I found out from the phone company that an extra phone line, advertised as $12/month, would end up costing $27/month with all the taxes and fees (and without any extra services like call waiting, caller ID and voicemail), I was more ready than ever to try VoIP instead.

Last week, I finally got around to placing the order. After much research, comparison of features and talking to other people who have the services, we decided to go with Lingo. It's less expensive than Vonage ($19.99/month vs. $24.99) but more importantly, the unlimited service includes calls to western Europe as well as the U.S. and Canada (Vonage and Packet8 include only the U.S. and Canada). Since we work with people in the U.K. and other western European countries, that difference alone could save us a bundle. And that $19.99 includes call waiting, caller ID, voicemail, all the features that were NOT included in the $27/month price from the phone company.

The equipment arrived two days ago and it took about twenty minutes to get it set up. The reason it took so long is that the instructions assume you're using broadband (cable or DSL). Although we have cable Internet service as a backup, we wanted to use the VoIP service over our T-1 line for better reliability. So we had to go to the Lingo Web site to find out how to assign a static IP address to the VoIP device. That required plugging a laptop computer into the Lingo box and making configuration changes through the Web browser. After that, setup was a snap. We plugged attached an Ethernet cable from the Lingo box's WAN port to our T-1 router, plugged a phone into the Lingo box's phone jack, waited a few minutes, and we had dial tone!

Then we unplugged the phone we were using to test it and plugged the base station of our cordless phone into the Lingo box. Now we have access to the Lingo line from anywhere in the house, with six remote handsets. The cordless base (AT&T 2462) accepts up to eight remote handsets, and it's a two line phone, so we plugged the landline into its other port and we can use either the VoIP line or the landline from any of the handsets. Sweet.

The best part is the voice quality. I called several people and no one could tell that I wasn't talking on a "real" phone. We've had no call drops, nothing to differentiate the experience from talking on the landline. One thing that does differentiate it is the extra featureset. For example, now we can get our voicemail messages sent to us via e-mail. For us, that's a big deal because we're bad about forgetting to check the phone for messages. We check e-mail many times per day as a matter of routine, so we expect a lot fewer missed messages now. You can also configure the VoIP line to "roll over" to another number if it's busy or you don't answer. And you can send it to different lines for each situation; that is, I can have the call ring to my landline if the Lingo line is busy, or to my cell phone if no one answers the Lingo line. Very cool.

If you go on the road, you can take your Lingo box with you and use it anywhere you have a high speed Internet connection to make calls from your same phone number. Goodbye to hotel long distance charges! Through the Web interface, you can change your physical location for 911 purposes if you move or you're traveling with Lingo, too. You can even get extra phone numbers in different area codes (for $4.99/month each for U.S. number or $10/month for international ones). That means for ten bucks, I could have a local number in Seattle (or Italy, or wherever) so people there can call me without incurring long distance charges.

We're not "phone people." We avoid the phone as much as possible, preferring to communicate via e-mail whenever possible. But this new VoIP toy has us actually wanting to use the phone. If we didn't need two lines, we would probably drop the landline. As is, we'll drop the expensive additional services on it and use it as a second line when we both need to make calls at the same time and for the security service and FAX machine.

How about you? Have you tried Voice over IP yet? What service did you select, and why? Have you encountered any problems with it? Is it the greatest thing since sliced bread or what? Are you considering it, but haven't taken the plunge yet? Let us know what you think at
Credit: WinXPnews™ E-Zine, Tue, Feb 15, 2005 (Vol. 5, 7 - Issue 163)

What does everyone think... could it take off in this country?