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Feedback on Vonage

Hello gents/gals -

I set up Vonage and I've had it for a month. Per www.Marktaw.com's request, and just as a courtesy for the help I received here during my decision process, I thought I would report back in.

Establishing Service:

I needed a phone presence that is local to my home area. One quirk of my Vonage account is that I operate in an area code that is not covered by Vonage currently, and I wanted to have a number that I can advertise locally. What I did in order to establish a "local-call-friendly" presence was to add a toll free number (Vonage has 877 numbers) to the account which forwards to my Vonage phone. Vonage's charge for this is $4.95/mo with 100 minutes included, and $0.05/minute for inbound calls.

The only 'problem' as I can see is that I selected the 614 area code for my Vonage account, and so anyone local I call from the phone will see 614 in their caller ID and will REALLY wonder what's going on. ;-)

Setup:

It took about 1 week for the hardware (the Motorola VOIP adapter) to arrive here in Ohio after I ordered it online.

My first trial was to simply plug the adapter into my home's ISDN router on same connection level as a workstation. Note, the instructions that come with the stuff state that the recommended network configuration is: broadband modem straight into VOIP adapter, finally to computer network router. 

Now, I expected to have to fiddle with the setup screen on the VOIP adapter - but the damned thing game me a dial tone after a few minutes! And I made a call back to our home phone. It was a bit warbly (ISDN is 128K and the VOIP adapter needs 90K up and down) but it was understandable. One thing I noted right off the bat was a latency in speaking and response, similar to a cell phone.

The fact that the Vonage device was able to operate through the router's NAT with absolutely no changes, and the fact that the device was apparently preconfigured perfectly in advance, was very impressive to me.

Ongoing Performance:

I currently use Vonage in a rented office on a Road Runner connection. In the office I do connect the adapter in the recommended way (between the inbound internet connection and my Netgear firewall/router) and it came up fine.

My experience with this setup is mixed.  What I find is that quality and clarity are usually excellent, but - I do get occasional chop - words not audible, etc. And the damned latency, again. I find that I have to pace my conversations similarly to a cell phone, but with a bit more attention yet. It makes conversations unnatural.

Also, the Road Runner connection keeps going down, which is not Vonage's problem. And also, Vonage is HIGHLY susceptible to every stinkin' flaw in the internet connection. When the connection is "slow", the call is dropped or words are lost.

By the way, I could never get into VOIP adapter's configuration screen. The supplied IP address from the manual just gets "connection refused". Which is OK since everything has worked so far, but it makes the unit basically like a black box - not "user serviceable".

Bottom Line:

Vonage is OK for the $24/mo that the service costs, and particularly for business office use (I expect to net a lot less than the 500 min/month limit for the forseeable future.) Mainly I will keep it for the time being as a voice mailbox, and an occasionall call. But I would emphatically say - don't replace a land line with Vonage *unless* your internet service has superb reliability and ultra-low ping times.

Maybe I can improve the situation with a better internet connection. Time will tell.

So, that's pretty much it.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 02, 2004

You're in Columbus?  If so, I'm surprised to hear you're having problems with Roadrunner.  I've had it for more than three years now (Pickerington) with never a noticeable interruption.  That's one of the reasons I've been considering Vonage.    Just as soon as I can figure out how to connect it to the existing phone wiring.

MT
Monday, February 02, 2004

No, I'm in the Cincinnati area. Vonage doesn't support 513 (yet?). I set up my account with a 614 based number because that was the closest area code that made any sense.

The Road Runner I am using is provided by the landlord of the building, who is reselling the traffic. I really need to lean on them to correct the situation.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 02, 2004

PS:

>> Just as soon as I can figure out how to connect it to the existing phone wiring.

Assuming that you can locate the phone line in your place where it finally exits to the telephone company - you could do the following. (don't blame me if you smoke anything!)

Cut off the telco wire, strip each of the four conductors, and connect the wire to a standard RJ11 jack. Just follow the color code: red to red, IE all like colors to like.

Click an RJ11 telephone extension cord into this wall jack and then to the RJ11 jack of the Vonage device, and you're in business. The Vonage adapter should drive your phones now.

I basically patched the POTS jacks of my ISDN adapter to a phone jack in this manner in order to extend the ISDN telephone circuit to an extension phone and fax.

The only thing I would watch out for is the ability of the adapter to drive more than a couple of phones. Most phones are not powered by the telco anymore so you should be OK.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 02, 2004

"Vonage is OK for the $24/mo that the service costs, and

...  500 min/month limit for the forseeable future.) "


Wait a minute. Am I understanding this right?

$24/month for 500 minutes of long distance (plus local service) ?


You can get under $.05/minute* for long distance within the USA.  500 minutes would cost you $25/ month IF you used all 500.

Have I got this right?

If so, then, for calls within the USA, there's not price advantage, but an awful lot of complexity.


* I get long distance through Costco, which is through TTI. service has been fine for the last 3 or 4 years. Rates for gold members is about 4.5 cents a minute if memory serves)

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, February 02, 2004

Thanks for the feedback.

Even if Vonage was good enough for everyday use (i.e. same quality as a land line), I wouldn't use it to replace my land line. The entire northeast knows that a phone that doesn't use batteries connected to a land line coupled with a good cell phone are the best bet in emergencies.

Just this morning my internet went out for about 10 minutes, and about a month ago for a few hours.

Mainly I'd use it to get a phone number in a different area code, as you're doing. Now if Vonage did European phone numbers, it would make calling all my friends in the military that much easier.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Packet8.net offers unlimited calling for 19.95 a month, and they have service available in Cincinnati.

The Ted
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

http://www.packet8.net/about/services.asp

I have the Freedom Unlimited plan for $19.95/mo:

Unlimited calling to anyone in the 50 US states and Canada and Packet8 subscribers world wide


There's also a Freedom Plan with no monthly charges:

Unlimited calling between Packet8 subscribers only (requires purchase of equipment)

The Ted
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

How does the phone do in 911 situations?

m
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

FreeWorld offers unlimited free calling (and no signup or monthly charges) to anyone else who is on VOIP anywhere in the world (or something close to it).

They also offer software so you don't have to buy the expensive phone.

It won't work to call someone who has a regular phone, but if you and your friend are willing to get VOIP and have broadband (I'm assuming you need broadband, I've had some normal sounding voice conversations on AIM when I was on dial up), it could save you a lot of money.

http://www.fwd.pulver.com/index.php

I've never used it, but it looks interesting.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

To use 911 service with vonage you have to register your phone.  Packet8 didn't offer that option when I signed up with them.

The cool thing about VOIP is that you don't have to be in a certain physical location to send/receive calls.  Hence the need to tell the vonage service where you are.

I don't know how vonage works, but with packet8 you get a little adapter that lets you plug in a regular phone.  I can take the adapter anywhere I go and still receive/send calls.  As long as there is broadband, that is.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

So the adapter uniquely identifies you? Is that how they prevent me from turning off my phone and having my friend halfway across the country turn his on, but both using the same account?

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Costs: the reason that Vonage is desirable price wise is because I can have a limited phone presence in my office, plus toll free access, and features such as caller ID and voicemail, for about $23/month. If you order from the phone company, a business line alone is something like $50/mo with no calling features. Remember, this is an office building with higher business rates implied. You just can't get a residential phone rate in an office building.

The way Vonage breaks down is:

$15/mo for basic Vonage account - 500 minutes per month.
Extra minutes about $0.039/min.

$5/mo for toll free line, with 100 minutes included. $0.049/min above 100 minutes.

Inbound calls to the toll free line therefore would be (at most) $0.088/minute once you break both limits above. Outgoing at most will always be $0.039. So it's perfect for my needs right now.

If I needed unlimited calling (not likely) or higher limits I would upgrade the package.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Oh yeah, I found out about Packet8 right after getting my adapter. Oh well. I have also read a lot of consumer complaints about Packet8.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Robert X. Cringely feedback on Vonage, Packet8:

http://www.inc.com/magazine/20031001/rcringely.html


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Entrepreneur-

You left out the cost of local service.  With my old provider (Sprint local), it would cost about $40/month with every feature/bell/whistle turned on.  Long distance (of which there was a lot to my wife's mother's area code) is on top of that $40.

We decided to get a Vonage line with my mother-in-law's area code, so all my wife's call to mom fall under local calling, even though we're on the other side of the state.  Of course, that means all actual local calls are LD-charged, but there aren't all that many (we're new in the area).

To sum up, with Sprint local & 10-10-811 for LD, we were paying about $100/mo. for phone service.  With no change in calling behavior, we now pay only $28/mo (taxes/fees included).  It's paying for the broadband service it requires, and then some (I like to think it's picking up the tab for the TiVo - connected via the internet - as well).

I have a cablemodem, and voice clarity has been top-notch... no one would know that we've got Vonage if we didn't say so.

Greg Hurlman
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I have the most basic Verizon residential service that I can get.  It costs something in the ballpark of $11 a month and includes no long distance, soley local calling.  After taxes fees (including a federally mandated long distance fee that I have to pay regardless of the fact that I have no long distance) I pay $24.48 a month to the money squandering pig of a telco.  More than double the cost of the advertised service!  I am planning on switching to Vonage on pure principle regardless of quality.  I'm waiting a year though to help balance out the $70+ turn on my service fee that I had to pay.  And to boot, I didn't get to pick my area code, so even though my family is 15 minutes down the road, because of my assigned prefix and area code, it's long distance to call them.

Elephant
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I should add that it was an additonal $20 a month if I wanted to have an area code/prefix that was local to my family.

Elephant
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I set up Vonage in my apartment last night.

It took a while to get my Linksys wireless router working with the service - I ended up having to release and renew the IP address of the router so it would receive one from the Digital Adapter.

I was paying $37.88 a month for Verizon - local calling, call waiting, caller id, and 3-way calling.  That's it.  No voicemail, nothing.

I now pay $25 + about $2 in tax for Vonage, which includes free local calling and 500 minutes to the US & Canada (my folks live in Toronto).  I would have switched if it were even the same price - that's how much I have grown to despise Verizon (and their consistent overbilling).

The last thing I need to figure out is how to get the Digital Adapter to power all the phones in my apartment.  Other folks at work simply plugged it into the wall and it worked - I was not so lucky.

Cybersuraa
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

FWIW, there's a thread on Broadband Reports about the problem with choppy VoIP performance.  There are some suggestions about how to modify a Linksys router/gateway to give priority to voice packets.

http://www.broadbandreports.com/shownews/38267

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

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