Vonage Refines Internet Phone Service

Service provides more amenities for less money than traditional carriers

I recently tried out an exciting product that allowed me to take advantage of my unused DSL/broadband bandwidth, and could save me money in the process.

No, this is not a SPAM message. Im talking about a service from a company called Vonage (www.vonage.com) that lets subscribers make phone calls over the Internet.

Stop laughing: This is the real thing. Im not talking about some point-to-point VoIP utility, but a real alternative to local and long-distance phone service. For $39.99 per month (I pay that much for my basic local service alone), users can make unlimited calls to anywhere in the United States and Canada. The monthly charge includes voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, online account management and voice mail retrieval.

The Vonage phone service isnt much different from the conventional telephone service were used to. Vonage provides a Cisco ATA 186, a little black box that plugs into the users Internet connection and analog phones. Thats about it for installation and setup. Plug in the power, give it a few minutes to register itself, and before you know it, you have a dial tone. You wont have to take time off to wait for a technician, but you will need to get a cable router if you dont already have one to share the Internet connections.

Vonage also has some really nifty features that local phone services will probably never provide. For example, small businesses that want a presence in another city can choose an area code from that city to be their Vonage number, for an additional cost of $4.95 per month. If you travel and hate paying exorbitant hotel phone fees, take your Vonage box with you and plug it into any high-speed data connection to make and receive calls as if you were back home.

Given the cost of traditional local and long-distance phone service, Vonage offers a quality, competitive alternative. Add a phone line for your home or business, send it off to college with your kids, use it on business trips, or just get rid of your regular telephone service all together. Once you start using it, you quickly forget that youre making calls over the Internet.