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VoIP for the Masses! 489

SkywalkerOS8 writes: "Vonage has begun offering Voice-over-IP(VoIP) service to residential broadband users. I've had the service since Friday and the quality is indistinguishable from a regular phone line. It's only $20/month for 500 minutes or $40/month for unlimited service. They include Cisco equipment, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Caller ID and Voicemail (which you can check online) in the service price. You can read more about it in this article in Time. It works fine through my Linux NAT firewall/router and my monthly phone budget has now dropped from $60+ to $20."
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VoIP for the Masses!

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  • I wonder since with limited upstream on most residential broadband connections nowadays, when you try to call someone will it kill your ping on your game of Tribes. Or if you're downloading a bunch of stuff, will your girlfriend get mad because your phone won't ring when she tries to call? ack.. i can see the problems already..
  • Why???? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sqlrob ( 173498 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:10PM (#3352703)
    At these prices, what is the point?

    Unless it includes international, you can get almost the same deal on a cell phone which you can carry with you and 911 works.

    And considering how flaky broadband providers are, do you really want to trust your phone service to them?
    • International Rates (Score:5, Informative)

      by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:18PM (#3352787)
      Here's their rate chart for international calls [vonage.com]
    • You remind me of those Sprint PCS commercials...you're so far gone, you don't even remember what it's like to not have to deal with the crappy quality of cellular phones.
    • To have a starting point from whichto reduce rates. Remember how expensive Cellphones and Internet service use to be?

      • Re:Why???? (Score:2, Informative)

        by ScoLgo ( 458010 )
        Are you sure they'll eventually reduce the rates? Sometimes providers start you off with low-cost or free services to hook you in only to raise prices later. Like all these [usa.net] formerly [email.com] free [yahoo.com] e-mail providers have recently done.

        Granted, cost of long distance has gone down in recent years, but cost of home service has increased. Cell phone charges have also spiked up lately for per minute charges when you exceed your monthly quota. With the 200 anytime, 2000 weekend plan, for instance, how many times do you manage to stay within the limits? If you exceed those limits, what are you really paying per minute? And you're somewhat locked into it since cell plans usually involve at least a one-year contract agreement. Buying out of those is never worth it no matter how schweeet of a deal you can get elsewhere.

        Which brings up an interesting point; Here is what the Vonage website has to say about the term of the agreement...

        "b. Term
        The term of this Agreement depends on the plan, feature or promotion you select and is described in separate subscription or calling plan ("Calling Plan") materials provided by Vonage."

        Ok, I'd like to know what that really means. I couldn't find any calling plan details anywhere on their site, and I would be very interested to know how long I'm locked into something like this and if there's a way out if I end up not liking what I've signed up for. I'm sure this information is available to you before you sign the agreement, but they really should state the terms clearly up front. Makes for better PR, IMHO.
    • Re:Why???? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not to mention that DSL users can't cancel their main phone anyways...
      • You don't need to have full phone service on a line to use DSL across it, they're two different entities and don't rely on each other. In fact, I believe only ADSL -will- run over the same line as normal analog phones.
    • Wow, I must be very cell phone ignorant. From what provider can I get unlimited domestic service for $40 per month? That's not meant to be an asinine question, the answer would help me a lot.
  • Sounds cool. And I admit I'm too lazy to read up for answers.

    What about

    • Latency. Forget about BW, I've heard that getting latency down below 0.1 second was really important for interactive conversations.
    • Gateways into local exchanges. So how does my VoIP traffic practically get to real world telephones? Somewhere and somehow the local carrier has to let me in.
    • Latency: no noticeable. When I say the quality is indistiguishable from a land line I mean it. I've used plenty of computer based things like Internet Phone, DialPad and Net2Phone and there was always a noticable quality difference. With this there is NO difference. Gateways into local exchanges: Vonage maintains the gateways and is also smart enough to direct VoIP to VoIP calls directly to each other. It saves THEM money to do that.
      • Not to cause trouble, but Vonage doesn't maintain the gateway, Level3 does.. But damn does Level3 they have some serious equipment..

        Level3 Network Map [level3.com]. I've physically inspected or have (or had) equipment or connectivity in their New York, San Diego, Los Angles, Tampa, and Frankfurt.. I've brought guests into the Tampa colo, and into one of their private peerings, and just watched their jaws drop.. Those who weren't impressed had no clue what any of the equipment did.. I have (and had) equipment in quite a few other companies facilities, or toured. L3 is very good. I'll save my negative comments for another day. :)
    • I read a VoIP dealie on Cisco's web site about a year ago that said that the acceptable cutoff was 150ms of RTT. Outside that the delays were just too much.

      The gateway question is interesting -- presumably the VoIP provider saves money by aggregating their infrastructure, but does that mean that everyone who calls me has to make a long-distance call? Are all my calls local as long as they're too the home market of the VoIP provider?

      I would think there would be some really hairy tarriff issues, too -- would ILECs even sell trunks to these people?
      • Well, according to the article, you get to pick the area code for your new phone number. I'm guessing the is regardless of where you actually live.

        So if you live in San Fransisco and you mostly tak to people in New Jersey, pick a New Jersey area code.

        Saaaaaay, maybe if I can pick an area code in rural Montana somewhere I won't get as many local telemarketers calling...

  • Eh, why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Omicron ( 79581 ) <slashdot.20.omicron@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:11PM (#3352715)
    Cool idea and all, but why not just go all cellular/mobile? I have for the past year and a half. $40, 4000 minutes (which is WAY more than I'll use in a month), 3 way calling, caller id, voicemail, paging, text messaging, wireless web, email, custom ringers and a phone i can take anywhere if i feel like it. Yes, I know that not all areas have this level of mobile service but once you make the switch you'll never go back. People say that mobile service isn't reliable in the case of an emergency, but from my personal experience I'd trust my cell phone a LOT more than my cable modem =)
    • Re:Eh, why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Casca ( 4032 )
      Because I would like to have more than one handset in my house without having to pay 20-40 for each one of them.

      Because the voice quality on cellular still isn't nearly what it is on a landline ( I don't care what the sprint commercial says, they suck rocks).

      Because in most areas you can get fewer calls going in a cell than you can on landlines, so when something big happens, like a tornado, I want to be able to use my phone. Of course cable will be out since it relys on power, and not many cable providers have UPSs in all the distribution points.

  • just so you can choose your own area code...I think I'd like to be from Alaska (907)
  • by Patman ( 32745 ) <pmgeahan-slashdotNO@SPAMthepatcave.org> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:12PM (#3352724) Homepage
    I haven't had much of a chance to look at this technology, but can you do PPP over VOIP?
    I ask because my company has no VPN access in place, and forces us to use a dialup connection. ONly reason I still have a land line at all.
    • If you're joking, this is really funny. If you're serious...

      You want to run a modem over voice over IP over broadband over telephone lines?
      • Cable lines, actually.

        And no, I don't particularly 'want' to, but this could conceivably save me money over my current landline, which only gets used for dialing into work.
        • Re:PPP over VOIP? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ZxCv ( 6138 )
          When I told a former employer that I was using my home phone line solely to dial in for work purposes, they agreed to foot the bill for it (granted, it was less than $25/mo, but still). If you haven't already, I'd try this tactic with your employer.
    • Re:PPP over VOIP? (Score:2, Informative)

      It supports faxing but not PPP modems at this time.
      • There is no way to run PPP over VoIP. The problem is that you've already got IP connectivity. Why bother?

        However, in this case, it looks like they're using G.711, which is essentially the same encoding as standard phone lines. In that case, you can get relatively decent modem speeds, but you can't really hold them for very long, as there IS a not-humanly-detectable delay in encoding(as much as 40ms). You won't notice it, but the modems will, especially at high speed.

        What would be more impressive is if they offered G.729 compressed down to 14k. THEN you could use it while online with a dialup, and everybody'd be really happy.
  • I guess unless you make a whole lot of LD calls it won't really help too much if you have DSL, since that requires a regular phoneline to piggyback on anyway, and personally I do all my LD on my cell since it is effectively free (all those nice extra nationwide minutes).

    I also wonder how the cablemodem providers will view this, especially AT&T since it will obviously cut into their PSTN profits. Anyone have any idea on how this would interact with their enduser aggrement?
  • This is really funny. Let's avoid "long distance" charges by using the exact same phone lines but calling the information "data" rather than "voice" and therefore bringing the charges under a "data" pricing scheme which is currently fixed-cost.

    Something has to change here. This is providing no service whatsoever except a means of sidestepping the billing methods of the telcos. I guarantee that one of two things will happen: phone charges will become fixed-rate, or data charges will increase for "long distance" connections.

    TANSTAAFL.
    • Something has to change here. This is providing no service whatsoever except a means of sidestepping the billing methods of the telcos. I guarantee that one of two things will happen: phone charges will become fixed-rate, or data charges will increase for "long distance" connections.

      The point is it doesn't provide a certain service. IP is connectionless without Quality of Service (there's a flag, it's not used, or it would be abused). The phone network does provide QoS, even if it's a low level of service, and it's connectionful (which can be wasteful).

      The reason data is cheaper is because the costs are lower; the equipment, configurations and the underlying protocols of IP are *vastly* less complex than those for POTS/ISDN/mobile phone service.

      Another reason that this would be cheaper is basically that it's a company competing for your business, that doesn't have your current phone service provider's ludicrous marketshare/monopoly on the last mile.

    • This is providing no service whatsoever except a means of sidestepping the billing methods of the telcos.

      Any experienced phone phreaks out there correct my if I'm wrong, but I don't think your long distance phone calls (landline anyway) are routed via an ATM network (asynchronous transfer method). Unless I misunderstand, your phone calls are analog all the way. They require a direct connection, via a system of circuts and exchanges, from point to point. In other words, your POTS service does not get routed over the same networks as your TCP/IP service.

      Long distance phone networks, even the most advanced, are still somewhat tied to 19th century technologies, especially at the last mile. That's the real hold-up here. This company is doing something valuable in making an effective last-mile solution.
      • Phone calls in almost all cases are digital almost as soon as they leave your local handset. SONET (fiber connectivity) is built for DS3s, which are digital. They really have no idea about data or voice, just DS3(or OC3) frames.
      • Re:laugh (Score:3, Informative)

        You misunderstand. The last mile of your phone service is analog, but that's about it. Long-haul voice was digitized years ago. At this point, I believe it's digital after the CO, so the "last mile" is more like the last 1000 yards in a metropolitan area, although it might be longer in Mayberry.

        Now digital doesn't mean ATM, of course, but at any rate not analog.

    • This misses an important point: circuit switched networks are inefficient; packet switched networks are efficient.

      I sympathize with the notion that people are expecting something for nothing and that long distance data/voice will not continue to be move towards free forever. But I do think that it's important to understand just how much difference it makes to carry voice traffic as data packets on packet-switched networks.

      Currently 20+% of all voice traffic on several US->other country routes (including US->israel, US->mexico and US->argentina) are carried not just as VoIP, but as packets on the public internet. Carriers do this to save money.

      When a call on a circuit switched network is in progress, 100% of the 64Kb/s allocated to that connection is wasted, even if the two speakers are silent for the entire duration fo the call. When a call on a packet-switched network is in progress, only 6-12Kb/s is in use and even that can be reduced when the speakers talk less (or are more silent).

      this stuff obviously matters.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:45PM (#3353042) Homepage Journal
      This is providing no service whatsoever except a means of sidestepping the billing methods of the telcos.
      Hardly new. Isn't that why DSL exists? It's not that different from ISDN. I don't mean the 128K ISDN that almost nobody can afford, but the high-speed version that's even more expensive. But DSL isn't covered by telecom tariffs....

      I seem to recall services that allowed people outside the U.S. to place international calls anywhere at reduced rates by routing the call through the U.S. The to-U.S. leg was set up as a bogus "collect" call, so they caller payed deregulated U.S. rates for the whole thing, instead of paying local monopoly rates.

      This goes back to Thomas Edison. Unable to patent his movie film, he copyrighted the sprocket holes. That gave him a monopoly -- until somebody invented a camera that punched the holes as the movie was being filmed. No DMCA back then of course!

      Then there were "tax carts". In the UK, they used to asses road taxes on people who owned wagons and carts, based on the number of axles. Naturally somebody invented a cart that held up to six people, but only had one axle.

      Social Libertarians like to think that Evil Unchecked Regulators are a sudden, massive crisis. It gives them an excuse to demand the other extreme -- privatize everything, even the army. No regulation of anything, except by contract and lawsuit. Nice classroom exercise --- let's hope that's where it stays.

      The reality is that a modern society is full of people with conflicting agendas. The comprimises and workarounds they generate are often weird, kludgy, and inefficient. But that's preferrable to mandating that everybody adhere to some "logical" theory, be it Libertarianism, Marxism, or whatever.

      • It's not that different from ISDN. I don't mean the 128K ISDN that almost nobody can afford, but the high-speed version that's even more expensive

        You mean a PRI? BRI is 128k, generally companies will install a T1 PRI (23B +1D) for voice.
        That is basically the same thing as current telco's use. This 'new' service is much more efficient in it's bandwidth usage (not 1 64kb channel per call), but doesn't carry the QOS that the telco's have..

        I seem to recall services that allowed people outside the U.S. to place international calls anywhere at reduced rates by routing the call through the U.S. The to-U.S. leg was set up as a bogus "collect" call, so they caller payed deregulated U.S. rates for the whole thing, instead of paying local monopoly rates.

        Well, now you're going OT, but if you had a magic Captain Crunch whistle, you could dial an 800#, blow the whistle (2600mhz!) - which told the switch to get ready to dial a new number, enter your LD number, and get connected. When you hung up, switch would only record a call to an 800#, not your "drop and switch"..

    • No; you've missed the point.

      VOIP really is cheaper for everyone.

      The reason is that the computers at each end are able to compress the data WAY down, and they can EASILY get 6:1 compression ratios; or even more- and generally only one end would be talking at any one time as well, that cuts it by another factor of 2 on average. Normal long distance costs use far more bandwidth; and the quality isn't necessarily better.

      The downside of VOIP is loss of quality. QOS is not guaranteed by the IP protocol right now, but IPv6 may be able to support this.

      The other point you've missed is that the customer really have already paid for the bandwidth! When I buy, say a 500/250K ADSL line, in a lot of cases the ISP actually only guarantees 50:1 contention ratio, so I'm actually buying only 10/5k of backbone bandwidth worst case, which is far, far less than I'd get if I make a long distance call.

      Incidentally, in a pretty real sense 'long distance charges' are already factored into the costs of buying an ISP line, the ISP knows what proportion of connections are long distance on average, so they've already charged you for this.

      Finally, it costs the ISP less to charge you a flat rate for IP traffic. Recording the individual call items actually means they have to print stuff, pay for software and hardware to record stuff, people to chase the people who can't afford this months bill etc. etc. Flat rate is cheaper all around.

  • I've tried different services like this and all performed really well. The hard part is finding good hardware. But it looks like this company is helping out in that department. This could seriously cut down your phone bill if you use the unlimited rate. If they can stay afloat I think the public would really love the service.
    But what do the Bells think about this? Here's a service you can buy that's about the same price as theirs, but INCLUDES long distance? I'm sure they will throw a fit if they see a drop in sales or customers jumping ship. Just curious as we might see the giants trying to crush the little guy again.
  • $20 for 500 minutes? Man, my cell phone is a much better deal than that. Unlike VoIP, the number follows me everywhere. I get that this is cool, but it's a long way from practical.
    • My basic Verizon services -- caller ID, local, call-waiting -- run me $35 a month. My fiancee routinely makes $40-$60 worth of calls over 10-10-636 (which, at $0.05/ minute, is damned cheap). So for the unlimited deal, I'd be paying much, much less... for unlimited calls. Whoo! Plus, I could throw out Verizon (oh, and god, how I LONG to do anything that would spit in Verizon's face). I think this is an excellent deal.
    • Uhh.. that's BS. What cell phone company has 500 (ANYTIME) minutes for $20 bucks

      Sprint ($50)
      ATT $50-70
      Verizon $55
      Cingular 50-70

      Yes, they all give you 2500 "off peak" (when you sleep) hours, but you (read most people) don't use them.
  • Not for the masses (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Casca ( 4032 )
    Until broadband providers support quality of service as in 802.1q&p, this isn't going to be very popular. Most people will get pretty pissed when their phone service starts to crap out because the kid next door just set up a warez site, and your shared bandwidth is being hogged.

    I love VoIP, and can't wait until my cable provider has it, assuming they do it right.
  • by sethadam1 ( 530629 ) <adam&firsttube,com> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:14PM (#3352749) Homepage
    I work for a large US Naval organization and we've had a large VoIP solution in place for over a year (I believe it's the largest commercial VoIP rollout through Cisco so far...ever). The phones are great, they offer plenty of cool features that make them "really cool" and they are cheap to run (save the bandwidth costs). They are eseentially little routers - they use Cat6 twisted pair and can even run XML scripts. It's also nice to have your voice mail delivered to your e-mailbox instead of an answering machine.

    My question is, with the low service reliability of broadband (mine needs a reboot once a week or two and it goes down every few months for a few hours), what will you do when your phone lines go out for 4 hours on a Sunday for a small "service problem?"

    My take: it's too early for residential VoIP. Adam

    • Due to the reliability and the lack of 911 coverage, I wouldn't consider this for my only phone.

      But, if I had a home office, this would be the ultimate phone for business calls. I would love to be able to get all my calls in a digital mailbox for later reference. Can you direct all your conversations to a digital mailbox for your records? It'd also be nice to be able to capture all the caller IDs for your business calls. Is that possible?

      It wouldn't bother me a bit that it didn't work when my broadband/power was out. I really wouldn't want to take many business calls when I couldn't access my computer or the Internet anyway. There's just too much on-line that I'd want to be able to reference or access while I'm talking. Your business might vary, of course. Can you redirect calls to another number (my personal phone/cell phone) if the service is unavailable for whatever reason? That'd be a neat feature.

  • With the spotty service my cable provider provides, VoIP would not be a good product for me. I regularly get ping times of 300 to 500 ms, and bandwith can be constrained at peak times.


    Interestingly, my cable provider also provider telephone-over-cable, and its infrastructure is said to be completely VoIP - which makes sense, it would be relatively cheap, and on you own LAN you can do a better job guaranteeing QoS. Still, even that service is not as good as the regular telco's.


    This gets me wondering what interesting packet-shaping equipment my cableco's ISP has in place. It might be in their benefit to make sure VoIP I run myself has terrible service, forcing me to use their own phoneservice...

  • oh poo... (Score:4, Funny)

    by dryueh ( 531302 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:15PM (#3352756)
    Drawbacks? For arcane technical reasons, you can't call 911

    Crap! At last I thought I'd have a way to call 911 for free...

    I guess 911 would have trouble tracing a call to 66.96.178.192...

  • by smnolde ( 209197 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:16PM (#3352767) Homepage
    Have you seen this? Speak Freely [speakfreely.org]

    You can even encrypt the voip using various encryption algorithms so all your other geeky friends around the planet can talk for free.

  • QoS & Reliability. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hallow ( 2706 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:17PM (#3352774) Homepage
    My AT&T broadband cable modem connection is spotty at best. I've had weeks of downtime, their level of customer service is horrible. They call me every now and again and try and sell me their voice over cable service. I wouldn't use it if they paid me. There's no way I'd use this. After all the problems I've had between the cable modem and the digital cable, I went with DirecTV, and even switched my long distance carrier. I just wish I had an affordable broadband alternative (too far down the loop for dsl). Like hell I would ever trust my phone service to AT&T broadband.

    That issue aside, has anyone checked out how this works for data connections? Even if you have high speed net, DirecTV + Tivo still needs pots.
    • I don't have a Tivo (yet), but I'm just curious, why do DirecTV and Tivo need POTS? I know they need to phone home, but what makes it impossible to do over VoIP?
  • by evanbd ( 210358 )
    Anyone else notice, at the bottom of the article, you can't call 911? Would you want that drawback? Not I...
  • Upstream Cap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:18PM (#3352793) Journal
    With the ever shrinking bandwidth limits being opposed on broadband customers, (can you believe that 2 years ago they used to advertise broadband service as being able to stream full screen movies?) it wont be long before we are capped at around 128K both directions -- I wonder how good this would work in that situation....
    • Unless you're capped at under 64Kbit it's a non-issue. Standard voice service is "only" 64 Kbit, uncompressed (8 KHz bandwidth, 8 bit/sec). Which is why single-channel ISDN is 64 Kbps, dual is 128 Kbps, and a T1 is rated for 24 lines of voice service.

      I'm sure you could do some fairly trivial compression on that to use less bandwidth, at the expense of some quality. It's been many years since I poked my head into telecomm.
  • by loteck ( 533317 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:18PM (#3352796) Homepage
    From the Time article:

    For arcane technical reasons, you can't call 911.

    Yeah. That's just GREAT. In your last moments, as you're lying on the floor, convulsing in the midst of cardiac arrest, do yourself a favor and think: "At least I didn't pay too much for real phone service."
  • by carlivar ( 119811 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:19PM (#3352807)
    I think VoIP is great techonology, but I have a hard time replacing a technology that has been working for 100 years.

    For instance, usually your phone still works when your power goes out. Not with Voice Over IP, because your DSL router/bridge is dead. I guess you could get a UPS, but then we start adding additional costs to this technology that is supposed to save us money.

    The Cisco VoIP solution is also very popular and has some nice features, but be advised that the core of it, CallManager, runs ONLY on Windows 2000. From what my VoIP consultant friend has told me, it's still quite buggy. And no surprise, patching it or making major changes involves rebooting... and your calls disconnected. I think there is redundancy but whether it works correctly is anyone's guess... since it is Win2K, my guess is no.

    The fundamental problem is: no one minds too much if a computer network is down. These things happen and people are used to it. But if the PHONE is out everyone from Grandpa to Little Susie is going to be complaining!

    Carl

    • Talk to people who were in Manhattan on 9/11 about how well the phone lines and cell phones worked compared to Instant Message. I think if VoIP was in place, it would have been able to handle the load.
    • The fundamental problem is: no one minds too much if a computer network is down. These things happen and people are used to it. But if the PHONE is out everyone from Grandpa to Little Susie is going to be complaining!

      To put it another way, in a VoIP system the reliability of the IP network forms an upper limit upon the reliability of the voice service. If your IP service has 99% uptime -- that is, it is down 1% of the time -- then your phones will be down at least 1% of the time. In fact, since the VoIP system itself has points of failure, you can predict that your phones will be down rather more than that.

      It doesn't matter if your IP connectivity downtime is due to power failure, routing flakiness, or your ISP's obnoxious DHCP address rotation policies. Unless your IP service is at present at least as reliable as your voice phone service, then moving to VoIP will necessarily make your phones work less of the time.

      This may be a reasonable move for many businesses. Business phone service is expensive, and many businesses rely on their IP service at least as much as their phones. They have service guarantees for both. But for residential users, a "utility" level of IP service reliability just isn't here yet.

      Or, to put it in modern American terms: Think of the children! If your kid's trying to call home and your ISP is being stupid, VoIP means your phone doesn't ring.

    • Cisco's VoIP solution does NOT rely on CallManager, in fact - Vonage's solution relies on SIP. CallManager does not support SIP. SIP phone sets (the new Cisco ones) and terminal adapters can be used with any SIP "proxy" server, including open source Linux ones like Vovida Vocal and even the new SIP proxy that comes built-in with Windows .NET. CallManager does however support Skinny (which their old VoIP phone sets use) and MGCP on SOME IOS routers.

      Unlike CallManager, IOS routers can support MGCP, SGCP, SIP AND H.323 v1&2 . And the newest development versions of IOS have CallManager -builtin-! This is called SRST (survivable remote site telephony) or Cisco IOS Telephony.

      Microsoft Messenger also features SIP and can make voice calls out SIP gateways. It is nice that a standard is converging that can be used as a physical device on your desktop, or as software on your PC. The fact that Cisco makes the ATA available so that you can build your own VoIP is even more appealing.

      I am currently running my own Cisco-based VoIP solution which is highly stable. Keep power to your network (switches and gateways), keep your voice lines up and you'll be fine.

      Pat

  • A residential phone solution that's a couple orders of magnitude more complicated and less reliable than what I've got now!

    We've got VoIP here. It's down frequently, even when the network is up. And when it comes to broadband reliability... well, I notice my DSL line being down about 6 hours out of the month, so it's probably down a lot more than that. My POTS line hasn't been down for any noticeable length of time in the last 20 years.

    And I can buy a POTS phone for about $10.

  • I wonder if you could dial by IP :-)

    Hey you! Yeah, you! Stop port scanning my machine knob!!!
  • FINALLY (Score:5, Funny)

    by Control Group ( 105494 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:27PM (#3352874) Homepage
    Now I can call all those long-distance BBS's to download my warez without racking up my phone bill!

    I've been waiting for this since 1992!!
    • Now I can call all those long-distance BBS's to download my warez without racking up my phone bill!

      Yeah, that lasted until you got your phone bill and realized you paid $60 for a $20 game..

  • by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:32PM (#3352922) Homepage Journal
    So, this is my field of expertise... To answer some questions/comments...

    1. Why?
    -- Cost and features. It costs the same amount for the phone company to run 4 or 8 lines to your house as it does 1. Features like 3WC, call waiting, etc... don't require special equipment.

    -- You don't have to have seperate phone and data networks (more important in businesses, where they actually own/lease phone equipment.)

    2. Latency
    Latency on a phone call is generally noticable above 120ms or so (1/8th of a second). VoIP calls typically split audio into 10ms (or smaller) packets, which have maybe a 30ms buffer. Add some propagation delay and you're still well under 120ms.

    3. Gateways
    Yes! Equipment providers have gateways to translate between packet and traditional TDM networks. All different sizes, including home gateways that have a packet interface on one end and plug into your home phone network on the other.

    4. PPP over VoIP
    Ick. It *can* be done, but generally isn't a good idea. Wastes bandwidth. (You could then run VoIP over PPP over VoIP again...) For 99% of the cases, you're just going to data over the base IP network.

    5. traditional Telcos response
    Most major telcos have slowed their growth in TDM equipment in favor of VoIP/VoATM equipment. (Sprint just announced a > $1B deal for this equipment recently.) Fact is that telephone switches are expensive and naturally low bandwidth. Growth is in high bandwidth services, so moving to a data network makes a lot more sense.

    6 Why no 911?
    That's just a problem with this particular implementation, not of VoIP in general. For even more arcane reasons, 911 uses a specific type of digital trunk and requires a special gateway to talk to that trunk. There are ways around it.

    7 What about spotty cable modem service?
    That's a problem. Broadband needs to be something that you don't think about before you'd hook your phone line up to it. It's coming, but isn't there yet for a lot of people.
  • So you mean (Score:2, Funny)

    by aengblom ( 123492 )
    So let me understand this. I can pay $40-50 a month now to get a "broadband connection" that's slow as molasses (read "as a modem") because my roomates on the phone. Wow progress.

    1995. Two phone lines. Slow Net, Clear phone call.
    2000: One line. Fast broadband. Clear Phone Call
    2002: One line. Slow Broadband. questionable clarity phone call.

    Fantabulous!
  • How long until we see P2P VoIP solutions?

    A Gnutella like network could be setup to search for computers that are a local call to where you are trying to call. Once you have found a host, it will take care of the land line communication and the rest will happen via the internet. Should the call happen to be dialing someone who is already on the network then they wouldn't even need to hit a land line connection.

    This could already be done (albeit crudely) with existing hardware like voice modems and sound cards. Would be a neat project anyway...
    • Actually, the SIP protocol (Developed by the IETF) is a very decentralized method for initiating VoIP sessions without going through any specific centralized resource. You just say "I want to establish a phone link with the person 'my_friend@someisp.net', and Voila! In fact, that person doesn't even need to be logged on via his home account -- he can be at work or on vacation somewhere.

  • From their our technology [vonage.com] page: "SIP-thru-NAT, Vonage's proprietary communications technology. "

    NAT [faqs.org]
    SIP [faqs.org]

    Doesn't look terribly proprietary to me :)

  • Any idea if there's any noticable lag / delay using this?

    One thing that drives me batty using cell phones some times is the delay between the time you speak and when the other person hears you (or the other way around)... you end up talking over each other all the time, and conversations are just painfull!

    MadCow.
  • by Zeekamotay ( 115667 ) <zeekamotay AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @03:49PM (#3353072)
    I've been using VoIP for quite a few months now. I have a hardware IP phone plugged right into my hub, and the connection goes through my firewall (over an IPSEC VPN) back to the central office, which is 800 miles away. I can just pick it up and dial a three digit extension to speak with anyone in the office. It works very well -- under ideal circumstances. Those momentary little pockets of packet loss that cause you to die in CounterStrike make the conversation sou..nd li..ke.. so..th...ng..swe. oke...n.. It's not bad for talking to the folks in the office, but not a good thing if you have to deal directly with customers. The quality has gone to heck since cox.net took over. I want my @Home back. :(

    If you're not doing QoS (which isn't very likely on residential broadband), then you'll need to terminate (or at least pause) all your high-bandwidth activity while you use the phone.

    In an unrelated topic, I ran nmap against my phone (what an odd concept!) and found a telnet daemon running on it. Has anybody hacked this puppy? It's a Polycom SoundPoint IP 400.
  • I'm a US'er living in Montreal Canada. I work often in the US, have family & friends there, etc. So this looks like a great idea esp. as the sweetie & I only have cellphones and there are no really good cell-plans from Canada to the US.

    So my thinking is to go in on one of these, register myself as living in Boston with family, plug the thing in up here in Montreal and hey I've got a home phone with cheap "local" rates!

    'cept they don't even list Quebec in their calling rates. They've got listings for the rest of Canada (though some of the names are wrong) but Quebec - nope. 25% of this nation's population is skipped over.

    Furthermore what checks are there to assure I am where the vendor wants me to be? I'm more then happy to appear as being in the US & take my calls here in Canadia but surely there's some tarrif problem with this.

    Anyone got any insight into the details on these questions? What is the deal with Quebec (can't be language as everything in Canada is required to be bilingual)? Will they be satisfied with a US billing address & credit card or need I worry about getting cut off someday?

  • I've been using 3com's NBX VOIP system for a while now at work and i've even set up a telephone extension at home via my cable modem. It works very well. All those that are afraid of VOIP shouldn't be. Most voice conversations only need 64k of bandwidth....most broadband connections can easily handle this. I'd love to get this service at my house!

    -ted
  • I live in the UK. Would this be a way for me to chat to American friends really, really cheaply?
  • The service looks nice, but I have had very mixed experiences calling Poland using VoIP via Net2Phone's phone-phone VoIP. This is a calling card that dials you in to such a box as Vonage uses, though on a much larger scale. The call is routed over IP and then plugged back into the local phone system of the place you're calling. (sometimes such that different latas have different charges. Warsaw $.06/minute, Radom $.15/minute, mobile phone $.24/minute)

    My experience? It works correctly about 60% of the time. The other 40%, delays, echos, or frequently duplex problems (ie, one person can talk and the other can listen, but that's it. damn frustrating.)

    Net2Phone keeps emailing me, encouraging me to spend the $50 prepaid I have left on my account, but I'm going to wait another month or two to see if they can work out the bugs.

    For now I'll continue to pay through the teeth using my VoiceStream cellphone to call Europe.
  • How long till DSL providers start comming up with reasions to kill it.
    How ironic. The DSL killing the phone service.
  • Multiple Phones? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nate@baxle y s .org> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:00PM (#3353164) Homepage Journal
    My biggest problem with replacing the land line phone with a cell phone or VoIP is that each phone unit is expensive and, in the case of cellular, small. I like to have a permanent phone in many rooms with one cordless that I can roam with. And the cordless is never where it's supposed to be when the phone rings! So can I use all of my regular phones with this?

    From the article: Hook your cable modem or DSL line up to one end of the box, plug any ordinary phone into the other end, and you're ready to go.

    Can I then plug the "box" into my existing phone network and enable all the phones that I currently have in the house? I think that might sell me right there. I'd be really interested if someone has found a way around the expensive cell phone problem also.
    • That's what I also wanted to know--what's the ringer equivalence of the ATA-186? If it's 3 or higher, you should be able to hook up your entire home phoneline to the ATA-186 and service all your phones (provided they're all/mostly electronic and have a low RE).
  • by _LORAX_ ( 4790 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:06PM (#3353206) Homepage
    It appears that thie areacodes they support is fairly slim. Unless you really WANT to have NYC number. Hey mabye the scammers will love this, only takes CC and you can project a local phone number anywhere on their network.

    New York - 212 - 516 - 631 - 646 - 718 - 914 - 917
    New Jersey - 201 - 732 - 908 - 973
    California - 408 - 415 - 510 - 650 - 707 - 831 - 925

    So if you don't live in those areas it's useless.
    • Pizzahut: Thank you for calling the Downtown Seattle Pizza Hut, can I have your phone number? Customer: 408-555-1234 Pizzahut: We're sorry sir, but we don't deliver out of state Customer: But I'm only two blocks away from your store?!
  • 'normal' phone service is blackout-resistant, this for sure isn't. This and the lack of 911 kind of severely hamper people who might want it as their *only* phone.

    But getting it for long distance (keep the phone for local calls and to get DSL) seems really good...
  • Doggone it! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Peale ( 9155 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:07PM (#3353215) Homepage Journal
    Now they're disguising ads as articles!
  • by drew_kime ( 303965 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:16PM (#3353302) Journal

    If you already have broadband, then $20 or $40 per month doesn't sound too bad for phone service. But I don't already have it. So let's see, what would this really cost me?


    From here [adelphia.com]:


    Power Link service plans* start as low as $34.50/month for customers who own a DOCSIS compliant, Adelphia approved cable modem. For customers who prefer to have Adelphia provide the modem, service plans start as low as $42.95/month. All service plans include up to 4 email accounts and 10 Mb of personal web space.

    Hmm, that's not too bad. But then add the $25 setup fee and the $20/month minimum for the phone, and I'm up to $62.95/month. Amortize the installation over the first year and make it $65. Suddenly sounding not-so-good. Oh, and can I even use it? From here [adelphia.com]:


    ===
    1)Generally Prohibited Conduct.
    (a) You agree not to use the Service or any equipment or software provided by Adelphia:

    ...

    (iv) so as to improperly interfere with, inhibit, degrade or restrict the use and enjoyment of the Service by others or Adelphias ability to deliver the Service to users and to monitor the Service, backbone, network nodes and/or other aspects of network servicing, including, without limitation, by:
    (A) excessive use of bandwidth (e.g. exceeding 2.5GB of traffic in a given month);
    (B) sending excessive data transfers;
    ...
    (H) failing to comply with any bandwidth, data storage or other use limitations imposed on your use of the Service

    (v) to run a server of any type in connection with the Service, nor may you provide network or host services to others via the Service. Prohibited uses include, without limitation, running servers for PPP, FTP, HTTP, DNS, POP, SMTP, NNTP, PROXY, DHCP, IRC, TELNET, TFTP, SNMP and multi-user interactive forums, or remapping of ports for the purpose of operating a server on the network.

    ...
    5) "Camping on the system". When you are not actively using the Service for any duration of at least fifteen minutes or more, you agree to disconnect it so that other active users will not encounter difficulty logging on. Adelphia does utilize detection programs to ensure that our customers are not keeping the connection open for prolonged periods when not in active use. In the event that such detection programs discover an open connection with no activity for thirty minutes, the connection will be automatically shut down. Active use is user-directed utilization of the connection for activities such as web browsing, e-mail, chat and file transfer. You must be physically at your computer to engage in active use. Use of automated programs to keep your connection open without your active involvement is prohibited. In the event of active involvement for twelve continuous hours, your connection will be automatically shut off.
    ===

    So when they say No getting booted off [adelphia.com] and You get flat-rate unlimited Internet access [adelphia.com] they don't really mean it. This service would be totally unusable for a phone.

    • I like the links, but they don't lead to anything related to "not getting booted off" or "flat-rate unlimited internet access". Both of those terms are usually used in relation to dial-up access. And that would be just plain dumb.

      I need an internet connection to use my phone, but I need to dial my phone to get an internet connection...

      In short, $62.95 per month for unlimited local and long distance calling (as long as you don't go over your bandwidth allocation) and high-speed internet access.

      It's only worth it if you want both long distance (international is CHEAP [vonage.com] (look, proper use of links!) with this service ) and high-speed internet access. If you just want one, look elsewhere.
  • by chainsaw1 ( 89967 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @04:29PM (#3353413)
    In Cisco's document:
    [cisco.com]
    http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/product/ vo ice/ata/ata186/ata186ug/186ugch3.htm

    Unplugging the device while the function button is flashing could permanantly damage the device

    If the device is configured to find a DHCP server when there isn't one, the function putton will blink forever

    I can see my mom with an endlessly blinking IP phone guarding it with a bat in case any tries to unplug it...

  • Vonage has begun offering Voice-over-IP(VoIP) service to residential broadband users. I've had the service since Friday and the quality is indistinguishable from a regular phone line. It's only $20/month for 500 minutes or $40/month for unlimited service. They include Cisco equipment, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Caller ID and Voicemail (which you can check online) in the service price. You can read more about it in this article in Time. It works fine through my Linux NAT firewall/router and my monthly phone budget has now dropped from $60+ to $20.

    Tier Networking has begun offering colocation service to residential broadband users. I've had the service since Friday and the quality is indistinguishable from other providers. It's only $87 per burstable Mb and if you find a better price, they'll beat it by 5%. You can read more about it from their website [tiernetworking.com]. It works fine our Linux NAT firewall / router and our monthly colocation budget has dropped in half.

  • Did anyone find anything on their website about future availability in Canada? I couldn't see anything myself. Is there anything similar to this available in Canada right now?

  • I noticed there aren't any local area codes for where I live, so if someone calls locally to my number how does it get billed?

    Or do I have to switch to their 39$ service?
  • Why? Because these buggers wouldn't even return my call when I tried to get a job there. I figured they were another dot.com gone bust and now I find out they actually have a product! I guess that means they didn't like me... bummer...

    And they are right up the road too... I had dreams of riding a bike to work... if only they had called!

    Oh, well. Congratulations, Vonage!

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