By Deane Barker on July 28, 2004

Start-up finds talk is cheap with Vonage: I’ve heard a lot about Vonage and seen their ads, but I was never able to pin down exactly what they did. Turns out its commercial Skype with hardware.

Its service is simple. Vonage sends customers an Internet phone box, which looks like a small cable TV box. The box plugs into most high-speed Internet connections. Almost any telephone plugs into the box.

The phone works like any other phone, but Vonage is routing the calls over the Web. (If the person on the other end of the line is not a Vonage user, the call will hop onto a regular phone line for the very last leg of its journey.)

This is the future.



  1. I’ve been using Vonage at home for a few months, and my brother has been using it for even longer. We’re both reasonably satisfied with the service. You have to watch out when you’re doing heavy traffic with other applicatios (like BitTorrent, say), or figure out how to hook up the Vonage box upstream of the router (never worked for me, but could be my router).

    As far as cost goes, we still get phone service through Verizon. As it turns out, it’s cheaper to drop to pay-per-call with DSL on Verizon and add Vonage with a second number (it’s in my wife’s family’s area code!) than it is to get basic local and long distance from Verizon alone. If I were a cable internet customer, I could be rid of Verizon entirely.

  2. Whenever I hear about internet telephony, the first thing that crosses my mind is what happens if people start embracing this en masse? Is the internet infrastructure really capable of handlng a huge increase in volume? What happens to all the old phone infrastructure? And how reliable is internet telephony?

  3. “Is the internet infrastructure really capable of handlng a huge increase in volume?”

    Well, the internet infrastructure IS the telephone infrastructure in most places. IP traffic and voice traffic travel on the same lines. When you consider that VOIP systems like Vonage typically compress the audio all the way end to end, and probably with a more efficient algorithm than the phone company is able to use, you come out with a win/win for data capacity. Move the voice traffic to the IP space, where it’s taking up less bandwidth than it did as raw voice, and you can use less of the backbone’s bandwidth for voice and more of it for IP. I’m sure the phone company compresses a regular voice call as best they can, but they have to compress upstream of the call’s origin, which means they’re compressing a lot of audio streams at once with the same piece of hardware. If a special phone box or a PC can do that at the point of origin, then it can devote more cycles to compression, since it only has two streams to worry about (one in, one out).

    I’ve had phone service over my cable line for about a year now, and I can’t discern any difference, except on the bill.

  4. I wrote up some concerns with VoIP at http://kalsey.com/2003/05/bad_call/ , but I ended up switching to Vonage after they solved some of my relaibility concerns. For one thing, if calls can’t be routed to my house, Vonage automatically routes them to my cell phone. That’s useful if the Internet connection is down.

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