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Subject: [IP] some comments on Review of Vonage's VoIP broadband phone service

  • From: Dave Farber <>
  • To: ip <>
  • Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 20:03:41 -0500

------ Forwarded Message
From: Brad Templeton <>
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 16:44:28 -0800
To: Dave Farber <>
Cc: ip <>
Subject: Re: [IP] Review of Vonage's VoIP broadband phone service

Dave, let me add some comments on that for IP.

Vonage quality is decent, but it does fail from time to time, at
least on my cable modem, which could be due to its limited upstream.
I do hear echo from time to time, and detect longer than normal
latency.   During a Vonage to Vonage call with Bob Frankston, we had
a few seconds of complete garble dropout and a number of clicks.

Vonage uses a non-compressing codec that requires about 90kbits/sec of
bandwidth in each direction, they say.  64kbits for the voice and
some extra overhead.  You can switch codecs (though they claim it may
take an hour to kick in) to use a compressing 30kbit codec.   However,
while using that codec, several people on the other end reported to
me they felt there was terrible voice quality, so I gave up on it.

So I can't rate it as matching PSTN Toll Quality yet.  The reason
to get it is features, or if price is an issue for you, price.

Thus it is ironic that Vonage has decided to go for a "look as much like
POTS" approach as they can.   They don't support, for example, letting
people call you with SIP phones though there is no reason for them
to disallow this.  It would also let you use your computer to command
your Vonage phone to call a SIP phone, also handy.   This an other
click to dial applications would be cool.

They have had a lot of problems with their voice mail but say they are
fixing them.

Note however that using a hardware device to do your SIP conversion is
a huge win.  Many people reject VOIP because they tried a PC soft phone.
Even though the PCs have lots of power, they just don't seem to do a
good job in most of the applications that are out there.  They add lots
of latency right in the PC.  So while I rated Vonage as not up to the
quality of POTS, if POTS is a 5, Vonage is 4 to 4.5.  Sometimes it's more
than a 5, but you can't guarantee it.

Which is worth it for the idea of getting away from the Bell System and
the regulation and monopolies and the lower prices.

One cool feature is call transfer, available only on incoming calls.  If
you call me on my vonage phone, I can flashhook and transfer your call to
my cell phone, and get up and walk away.   I can't transfer if I called
you, though I can 3-way call.

There are competitors to Vonage -- (a unit of DeltaThree)
will also work with the Cisco ATA and other SIP Phones.  They are much
more flexible than Vonage, in that you can use soft phones, and you get
to control your endpoint.  Vonage locks up your Cisco ATA so that only
they can configure it.  While you can take your Vonage box on the road,
which is handy, with iConnectHere and other more open services, you can
keep the ATA at home and bring a lower quality "soft phone" with you on
the road -- ie. just a headset that goes into your laptop.

However, there is no question the soft phone quality is inferior, and I
would rate it a 3.5 out of 5.  I have not tried DeltaThree with the ATA
(because Vonage owns my ATA and I can't try switching it to another
but I have heard it's reasonably good with one of those.

Another competitor is 8x8, and their service.   Very attractive
pricing and you won the equipment.  But I have not yet tried them.

If you _do_ want to sign up for Vonage, make sure to find another Vonage
user and get them to do a referral for you.   They send in your E-mail,
and you click on the link in it.  You get $40 credit on your account and
so does the referrer.   I don't believe you can get the $40 credit
if you sign up on your own.

BTW, Vonage has other plans.  For example the $25/month plan includes 500
minutes of USA and Canada calling, and unlimited local.  This may be
a better deal than the $40 plan if your LD is more limited.  If you average
fewer than 13.3 hours of LD in a month it is a better deal.

More competitors will be coming.  With Windows Messenger (bundled only with
XP), there is a decent SIP Softphone, which can be used with iConnectHere
and several other providers.  Those providers are moving into support of
hardware such as the Cisco ATA and dedicated SIP phones.

------ End of Forwarded Message

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