The Return of VoIP

 
 
By Cade Metz  |  Posted 2003-10-22 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Years after its introduction, Voice over IP finally reaches the masses.

Voice over IP services—products that use the Internet to mimic telephone calls—have been around for ages. Net2Phone launched the first widely-available VoIP service back in July of 1996. Such services were much cheaper than traditional telephone service—in the heyday of the dot.com, you could even use them for free—but they never really caught on with the average consumer.

Voice over IP services—products that use the Internet to mimic telephone calls—have been around for ages.Net2Phone launched the first widely-available VoIP service back in July of 1996. Such services were much cheaper than traditional telephone service—in the heyday of the dot.com, you could even use them for free—but they never really caught on with the average consumer. They werent suited to dial-up connections—the primary Internet-access method in the late nineties—and using them was rarely as easy as picking up a good old-fashioned telephone handset.

Today, however, VoIP is on the verge of a renaissance. According to Arizona research firm In-Stat/MDR, over 5 million people will subscribe to VoIP services by 2007, a five-fold increase from the end of 2002. Many of the traditional Voice over IP companies, including Net2Phone, are still going strong, but much of VoIPs resurgence is due to a pair of new companies, each providing a fresh approach to the technology.

Vonage (www.vonage.com), based in Edison, New Jersey, provides VoIP service without routing calls through your PC. When you sign up for its DigitalVoice service, the company gives you a phone number in the area code of your choice and sends you a free ashtray-size hardware device known as an analog telephone adapter or ATA. You simply plug the adapter into your network router and connect your phone to the adapter, and youre ready to make calls. If you like, you can plug the adapter to a wall jack, connecting every phone in the house.

The service is considerably less expensive than a standard telephone line. One plan lets you make unlimited calls to anywhere in the United States and Canada for $34.99 a month. Another gives you 500 minutes of long distance calls for $24.99. These fees include such amenities as Call Waiting, call forwarding, and caller ID, and you even get a few perks unavailable with a traditional phone account. "You can check your voicemail online or receive e-mail notification when you get a new voicemail," says Lou Holder, the companys executive vice president for product development. "You can even attach a voicemail to an e-mail and send it on to others." According to Holder, the company has installed more than 50,000 phone numbers to date. Similar services are now available from such companies as 8x8 and DeltaTree.

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