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What VoIP Is Actually Good For 288

gManZboy writes "One of the things that's bothered me about VoIP is that other than so-so quality phone service at a cheap price, what's the big deal? I mean so you can now deliver voice mail into e-mail because it's all IP packets, does that mean I should ditch my telecom investment. Well in part 3 of Queue's special report on VoIP (here's part 1, part 2) two authors from Bell Labs help explain actually useful things you might do. Now I get it."
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What VoIP Is Actually Good For

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:09PM (#10498807)
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    VoIP is something that I despise
    For it means destruction of telephone lines
    For it means tears in thousands of executives' eyes
    When their trucks go out to remove their telephone lines
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:13PM (#10498848)
    I had a rather frustrating experience with the Net2Phone Voiceline product. Simply put, no matter how I tried to install it, it wouldn't give the green "provisioned" light or a dial tone.

    Their tech support was less than useless at telling me what was wrong... they just processed the return instead.
    • by austad ( 22163 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @09:29PM (#10499774) Homepage
      SIP does not always work well through NAT, even though there are some implementations that are NAT friendly. Also, some ISP's that offer their own VOIP service will block your access to competitors. ATTBI did it to me, I was even on the phone with the tech when he found the access list in a router that was blocking my access to Vonage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:13PM (#10498849)
    If you run a modem over VOIP, you can then dial into the Internet without a phone line. Now any computer with a broadband connection can surf the web in luxury at an amazing 56kbps!
    • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I actually tried this, not on purpose. I just got some really odd tone and then endless modem negotiation. I guess it didn't help that I was calling an island nation at the time.
    • Now we can make free calls to WOPR's backdoor []!
    • No, you can't (Score:3, Informative)

      by r6144 ( 544027 )
      Speech coding techniques used in VoIP are well tuned to human speech, for which it may still have poorer quality than ordinary phone lines in terms of signal-to-noise ratio, but sounds about the same quality to the human ear. When a modulated signal is fed into a speech coder, you get way poorer SNR than a telephone line, so the transfer rate you can achieve is generally much lower than the 33.6kbps achievable on a phone line, and definitely much less than the size of all these VoIP packets generated, so t
    • Problem: lame, underprovisioned ISP. You can dial-in at 56 kbps, but your downloads always go at 14kbps because hes got a million clients on a single T1.

      Solution: Dial your ISP, Use VoIP to open a connection with a demarkation point somewhere on the net (maybe very cheap because you can do the demarkation in software.) now you have guaranteed 56 kbps line coming out of your ISP (if the lame ISP claims to support VoIP, then this has to work.)

      uh... why wont everyone do that?
  • In use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by freitasm ( 444970 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:15PM (#10498863) Homepage
    Many telcos are using VoIP in parallel with their PSTN backbones, and this is ok - most users don't even notice this behind the scenes VoIP application.

    When it comes to services to end users, except for companies like Vonage and a few similar ones there's a huge gap. For example I've subscribed to Stanaphone just to find out that my account disappeared simply because I didn't use it for a month. Well, there's no way these companies can compete with operators if they keep this kind of policies in place. Could you imagine if you're enjoying a 45 days holiday in Europe (or in New Zealand, which is really cool!), and when back home find out your phone doesn't work anymore because of this kind of policy? No POTS operator would do this...
    • I've subscribed to Stanaphone just to find out that my account disappeared simply because I didn't use it for a month. [snip] Could you imagine if you're enjoying a 45 days holiday in Europe (or in New Zealand, which is really cool!), and when back home find out your phone doesn't work anymore because of this kind of policy? No POTS operator would do this...

      I'd demand my money back!

      Oh, wait - it was free, wasn't it?

    • Re:In use? (Score:4, Informative)

      by BasharTeg ( 71923 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:01PM (#10499212) Homepage
      I mean so you can now deliver voice mail into e-mail because it's all IP packets, does that mean I should ditch my telecom investment?

      Yes! []

    • Re:In use? (Score:5, Funny)

      by tim_mathews ( 585933 ) < minus punct> on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:34PM (#10499424)
      Could you imagine you're enjoying a 45 days holiday in Europe (or in New Zealand, which is really cool!)

      No. I'm still working on what it would be like to have free weekends.

    • Re:In use? (Score:2, Informative)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 )
      Many telcos are using VoIP in parallel with their PSTN backbones, and this is ok - most users don't even notice this behind the scenes VoIP application.

      It has been decades since phone companies actually switched a dedicated piece of copper for a voice call - they long ago realized that they could digitize the call and multiplex the packets over a high speed connection (digitizing at 64Kbps for a voice call, which is why all of the telecom standards such as DS0, DS1, DS3, and so on, are multiples of 64 - i
  • by openSoar ( 89599 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:17PM (#10498875)
    We've put a VoIP unit in our place [] in the Carribean and it allows guests who are mostly from the US, to make (effectively) free calls back home - something that would be very expensive using the regular telephone system.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:48PM (#10499130)
      There is no real reason why international dial-up calls have to be expensive and VoIP ones cheap. Once dial-up calls hit the first exchange (in most places) they turn into digital soup anyway. Having dedicated switching that is suited to dial up (isochorous etc) means you can stuff more dial up calls through a given wire than IP calls (which must carry all the extra IP crap). Extra capacity in those wires can be used to shift IP traffic.

      The days of high cost international calls are limited. Here in New Zealand I can use my Vodafone mobile to call various countries (Australia, Canada, US, UK, Ireland) at the same rate as a local call.

      So far, VoIP's main attraction has been lower cost calls. THis won't last and VoIP will have to find a better way to justify its existence.

      • There is no real reason why international dial-up calls have to be expensive and VoIP ones cheap. Once dial-up calls hit the first exchange (in most places) they turn into digital soup anyway.

        If you define "most" as medium to large-sized cities in major industrial powers, then this is correct.

        However, in reality "most" countries are relying on copper telephone systems from one end to the other. Some countries and territories don't even have real-time telephony unless an outsider brings a sat phone.
        • Yes, very true. However very few of these places are going to have an IP capable infrastructure that will carry VoIP calls internationally so I think you're argument is moot.

          Most telephony roll-out into third world and rural areas is based on digital. Approx 15 years back now I worked at Plessey. One of the projects there was making microwave-based phone links with the idea of being able to place a network phone booths in 3 world villages without having to roll wire etc. Apart from the cost of actually layi

      • We are currently evaluationg VOIP for a new (small) office setup. One advantage for us is being able to route calls around the place. For example we are going to have a few people in one office, but the receptionist is going to be in another office ~300m away. She will be able to route calls to the other office site with no direct connection.

        Equally that could be a transfer to someone in singapore for no extra cost.

        This is through a local (Australian) provider ATP.
    • Here in Portugal, there was, about 5 years ago, a company doing the same. They were using a datacenter to accept calls and forward them to other contries through the Internet (VoIP was at least not as widespread back then as it is today, so I don't know what they used). Apparently they were so successful in their business that the biggest (and the only one at that time) telco here sued them.
  • by loveisafist ( 766873 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:18PM (#10498887) Homepage
    Having used Vonage for several months I can say I am very pleased with their service and the quality of the calls. Before Vonage my only phone was a SprintPCS phone. When I got Vonage and called family/friends to tell them about a new number most of them commented how much clearer it was compared to the PCS phone I usually call them on.

    The only time I have had a 'problem' was when I was downloading some files on bittorrent AND playing FFXI Online and received a phone call. There was a slight echo audible on my end.

    I have actually convinced my father and two friends to ditch the local phone company and get VOIP. They are also very pleased with the service and money they have saved, which equals free months of phone service for me! ;)
    • More on Vonage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:39PM (#10499462)
      Supporting (generally) the parent post, Vonage is pretty good. I've been using them for my main work line for about 2 months now. Quality of service is excellent and the voice sounds quite good (think high quality cell phone) most of the time. You get a ton of great features for not too much cash. I love getting my voice mail as an .WAV file in an email, and it is really easy to foward calls wherever you need them.

      The only time I have a problem with a connection is if I'm downloading, or worse uploading (dsl) something big at the same time which is entirely expected. (only so much bandwidth after all) My only recurring problem is that the Motorola unit they gave me tends to drop my PPPoE connection about once a day. Not quite sure why and there aren't a lot of settings to tinker with. I don't have that problem very often with my Linksys WRT54G and I'm pretty sure it's not the DSL provider (SBC in this case) causing the problem.

      Anyway if you are thinking of Vonage I can readily recommend them if you can tolerate the occasional (and easily fixed) downtime. If phone availability is mission critical to you or you aren't especially technologically inclined, you might look for a more traditional alternative. But overall it's a great service, especially for home or home office use.
      • by achurch ( 201270 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @09:30PM (#10499778) Homepage

        I can readily recommend [Vonage] if you can tolerate the occasional (and easily fixed) downtime.

        . . . Wow. As if the tolerance of Windows BSODs wasn't bad enough, now this? Whatever happened to "you pick up the phone and it just works"? In 26 years of using POTS, the only thing I can recall even approaching an outage is very occasional "circuit full" messages on long distance calls on holidays, and I haven't even heard those for over a decade.

        If you can deal with not having a functional phone every now and then, then I'm certainly not going to argue with you, but this casual acceptance of "things break" is rather surprising. And somewhat disturbing, as it reduces the incentive to make things work well. I, at least, would vastly prefer a pencil and paper that "just work" to an electronic notepad that did OCR and networking but a habit of conking out at the most inopportune times; I've got enough stress to deal with as it is.

        • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @11:08PM (#10500405)
          . . . Wow. As if the tolerance of Windows BSODs wasn't bad enough, now this? Whatever happened to "you pick up the phone and it just works"? In 26 years of using POTS, the only thing I can recall even approaching an outage is very occasional "circuit full" messages on long distance calls on holidays, and I haven't even heard those for over a decade.

          There are a couple of point's I'm going to make in response to this.
          1. Vonage's VOIP technology is based on a system that is FAR more complicated and less tested than POTS. Furthermore it is an application of a general purpose technology to a specific use, whereas POTS is a purpose built technology (voice communication) which just happens to be cludged for other uses (modems/DSL). In fact my VOIP is riding on a DSL circuit sitting on top of POTS. Less reliabile is unavoidable.
          2. For $20 a month I get features that would cost me nearly $100 using POTS. (and some features I cannot get at all) Furthermore there are no long distance charges unless I call internationally. Plus I can take my Vonage system anywhere I can find an internet connection which I CANNOT do with my regular land line. While I don't deny that the reliability of POTS is something to be admired, Vonage gives me WAY more bang for my buck.
          3. As an engineer I'm not happy unless something "just works" but I also recognize how rare that really is. VOIP will probably get there someday, once it has had 80 years to develop. I'm not going to stop using a new technology just because all the bugs haven't been worked out.

          Does that clarify my statement sufficiently?

    • I have little doubt that VoIP voice quality can be made excellent (via compression). All it takes is a modest amount of bandwidth (6kByte/s?).

      I wonder how latency can be brought below 100 ms even with QoS. It's probably close to the 230 ms delay you get on phone calls routed through satellites. I find it irksome.

    • I've had Vonage for several months now, and it's saved me a lot of money. I do not recommend it (or any VoIP) for faxes, it just doesn't work very well. Otherwise, any bad outages I always have my cellphone or I email documents to a satellite office and have them fax it.
    • I've had Vonage for almost a year now, and initially I had the same QoS problem you had. Since the vonage box was inside the network (rather than on the outside, which is also an option, albeit a dumb one), and my router is a 3-NIC PC running linux, I was able to tweak the QoS easily. However, I hear that SOME of the newer home-cheapo routers (like the ones from linksys) can do traffic shaping now, so that would also be worth looking into.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Presumably, like other things that travel over IP, you could encrypt your calls against tapping.
    • actually, (speaking as a telco employee) you can encrypt conversations over POTS with the proper hardware.

      (and have been able to for some time)

      What will be nice about VOIP is now you can encrypt your calls through cheap or free software, negating the need to buy specialised crypto hardware.

  • VoIP is great! (Score:5, Informative)

    by swimfastom ( 216375 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:20PM (#10498901) Homepage
    -"so-so quality"

    This is simply not true. Voice packets are given the highest priority across the network. If a voice packet does not make it to the destination, it is not resent. If the proper investment is made (you need newer switches and equipment) and the configuration is correct, it really does work great. I think it is ideal for an office with 30 people, especially if it is in a rural area where you may be paying a lot for a frame relay circuit or other connection. This setup can be done using Avaya VoIP phones in just a few hours and is very reliable!!
    • Re:VoIP is great! (Score:5, Informative)

      by shrinkboy ( 746876 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:51PM (#10499152)
      Yes, voice packets are given priority on the network IF your ISP has DQoS implemented and enabled. This is not assumed or standard on any networks I'm familiar with, and you'd be foolish to assume ISPs rushing out to benefit third-party VoIP companies when there's a push to roll out ISP-branded VoIP... Anyway, without DQoS, it's all best-effort. As noted above, given sufficient bandwidth, you'll hadly ever get jitter unless you saturate the pipe with up/downloads that preclude sequential voice packets.
    • Re:VoIP is great! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:20PM (#10499341) Homepage
      other than so-so quality phone service [...]
      I have Vonage, and the quality of service is better than what we used to have with the telco. Our neighbors have had lots and lots of lengthy service outages this year, during which we were fat and happy. Also, Vonage throws in a lot of freebie services that we weren't getting from the telco, such as caller ID.

      [...] at a cheap price
      What's so bad about a cheap price? It helped me convince my wife that it made sense to ditch modem access and get broadband.

    • Sigh called home today 1 word in 10. Quality out is not so great.
  • I don't have first hand knowledge of the actual testing that was done because I just transferred here. However, I was told by one of my professors that the school just tried to implement a VoIP system, but the sound quality was terrible. In fact, they've already dropped it and gone back to the regular PBX / POTS system.
    • If you implement a system according to the specifications, it will not suck. If you try to cut corners and use cheap hardware, older infrastructure, etc., it will perform poorly. This says nothing of VoIP except that it needs decent-quality gear. It does say that your network designers are doing a poor job.
    • by gdbjr ( 751194 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:42PM (#10499093) Journal
      When VoIP is deployed on a network that is properly configured with QoS and you have adequate bandwidth, voice quality is not an issue. When it is done right you can get voice, video and data all on the same circuit without any loss of quality. I manage 6500+ IP phones in locations in a half-dozen states and everything work just fine. It all comes down to making sure you have the bandwidth and QoS, which is something that would won't find on your average home cable or DSL connection.
  • It's useless... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:24PM (#10498949)
    Having since disconnected both my landline and my packet8 subscription, I've managed to save some $110.00 a month in bills by just getting a GSM phone with a nationwide plan, nights and weekends, etc.

    • Phone service even when power/internet is out
    • being able to have a phone anywhere, at anytime I need it. This by itself is the biggest reason I went "2004" and joined the modern era.
    • ability to send short text messages anywhere, at ANY time, without having to be an uber geek

    • Having to deal with Customer Service idiots
    • contracts

    I believe that VoIP and any other "permanent" phone installation is going to pass and mobility will be more important to most people.
    • Re:It's useless... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SunPin ( 596554 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:41PM (#10499478) Homepage
      You obviously weren't in the path of any hurricanes this summer. I have a gsm phone and it, along with everybody else, was effectively dead within an hour of constant 120 mph winds. It remained useless for days afterwards. The cell phone network can't deal with disasters.
      • It can if your prepared. Cell phones could be redeployed within hours after a event because one cell towers []. Within hourse, Verizon Wireless and the like can have trucks heading into these areas before a disater strikes if need be. Regular PSTN lines take alot more time to piece together after they have been shredded. Temporary Cells On Wheels can be deployed while permanent replacements are erected. Odds are, you still probably had cell service way before you had landline phones and p
    • Under disadvantages you forgot the one that stopped me from going 100% cellular.

    • That may work wherever the hell you live but where I live I have to pay through the teeth to call somone on a mobile.
  • Skype (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpooForBrains ( 771537 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:25PM (#10498961)
    I installed Skype [] the other day (it's apparently developed by the people who originally developed Kazaa, using "peer to peer" technology, however that works). Anyway, it installed without fuss and works from behind a firewall without me having to open ports. I haven't tried skypeout yet, only skype to skype, but hey, I'm chatting to my friends in the states for free, and the quality is much better than a long distance phone call. Thusfar, I'm impressed.
    • I tried Skype, but the quality of the audio was below usable levels. A friend uses it for cheap calls to the US and/or Canada, but it looks like there's no point in me bothering about it at least until my home and work Internet connections are upgraded.
  • Team Gaming (Score:4, Funny)

    by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:28PM (#10498988) Journal
    When you need cover fire to plant a frag on some fool's camp spot, that crappy voip over is 100X better than typing.
  • I am kindof with VOIP and would be very happy to make the switch once it qualifies the basic requirements, like it should work with there is no power.

    My local phone works when there is a power outage (how would i report a complaint that my power has been cut off otherwise?). Also, VOIP uses the existing internet connection, which means if the internet is down, the phone is also down (so no more backup dialup access or phone line).

    The day it gets over such things and guarantee a 99.9999% availability, I do
    • by rsrsharma ( 769904 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:53PM (#10499170) Homepage Journal

      I had the same exact problem with VoIP, except I also didn't like the fact that 911 calls didn't go to the 911 center. However, I've figured out how to get around these problems:

      1. Keep a regular landline on your current phone number, just with $0/month (no free minutes or low rates) local + long distance plan on it.
      2. Build a box with Asterisk (the OSS PBX) on it, as well as 2 FXO cards and 1 FXS card.
      3. Connect the phone line from the VoIP ATA to the first FXO card.
      4. Connect the PSTN line to the second FXO card.
      5. Configure Asterisk to use the PSTN line for incoming calls, and the VoIP line for outgoing calls. (You'll probably want your VoIP company to forward all calls to the PSTN line, I know that Vonage does this for free.)
      6. Connect another ATA (you'll have to buy it yourself) to the FXS card.
      7. Get a double-pole-double-throw relay. This basically connects one line through when there is power, and another when there isn't. Let the line from the Asterisk server go through when there is power, and the unmodified PSTN line go through when there isn't.
      8. Configure Asterisk to only use the PSTN line for 911 calls.
      9. Connect the line from the DPDT relay to the phone lines in your house/buisniness.

      So yeah, that should cover it. If you want more info, chech the Asterisk-Users list under the topic "Vonage, PSTN, 911, and hardware question". I'm planning building a system with this setup later this year.

      • I thought that all phone lines had to be alive enough to let you call 911 (emergency) and 611 (set up new phone service)? Dial any other number and you get an immediate busy signal, or maybe a recording explaining? That's the way it was in all (I think) of the apartments I've lived in.
    • Power outages are a problem, but the consequences can be minimized. I currently use Vonage through my cable modem. I have my cable modem, router and Vonage box on a UPS. As long as I turn off my computer shortly after a power outage, the UPS can give me a few hours of phone usage, and I could get a stronger UPS and/or dedicate a UPS solely for the cable modem/router/vonage. Of course, if the outage is widespread and the cable service is also affected, then I won't have phone service. Vonage does have a
  • I'm testing the Cisco 7970G [] for the local university's Technology Quarters [] program... It's a VOIP phone, but it's only VOIP across the university LAN. Mostly it's absurd overkill, but you can see how people in a big company who make lots of calls could really use it.
    • My company uses Cisco VOIP; we're big enough to have offices throughout the US, as well as overseas, and routing inter-office traffic over our leased inter-office IP lines saves us a lot on long distance calls (think: design engineers in IL, manufacturing in Texas, Mexico, China, and France; lots of phone calls).
  • by d3ity ( 800597 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:34PM (#10499035)
    Telco company: Hello, welcome to genericom, how may i assist you. Me: My is laa...a..aaaa....a..g.... Telco company: Whats that sir, I cant quite understand you. Me: My Telco Company: Sir, your going to have to speak more clearly...
  • by Kinkify ( 818557 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:35PM (#10499043)
    does that mean I should ditch my telecom investment.

    Don't you think question marks are just the worst.

    I mean really, who actually bothers anymore.
  • Quality does vary (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufey ( 683902 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:35PM (#10499044)
    Last week I played around with a VoIP box at my house just to see what kind of clarity it had, and, it wasn't nearly as good as my POTS line.

    However, I've had others swear by their VoIP. It seems to me that there is still just too many variables in the IP infrastructure for the experience of VoIP to be uniform. Not to mention the issues with power outages, 911 service, and the like.

    Another thing to note is that having voice mail sent to email is not a feature of VoIP per sey. We are currently implementing an email system that has this ability, given that you have the right voice mail equipment. While there are some features that VoIP does offer that can't be done with POTS and appropiate equipment, many of the features being touted as "VoIP only" features can be done with POTS.

    That said, about 5 years ago I was involved in a project to roll out VoIP in a new building (about 300 people, a call center of about 10 stations included). We used Cisco equipment and had two 24 channel trunks come in from POTS (one for local, one for long distance). Once it was up and running, the sound quality was nearly as good as POTS - we did have a slight echo once in a while, but other than that, it was great. We, of course, had complete control over the network, so doing QoS and stuff like that with voice packets was easy.

    VoIP, if done right, can be nearly as good as POTS in terms of sound quality, if not better. But given all the variables (phone, DSL/Cable router, your ISP, the POTS/Internet interface, etc), there are just too many places that can cause quality to suffer. And the problem becomes worse if you try and use a fax machine over a VoIP line, which doesn't have a high tolerance for packet delay.

  • We're doing it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by johnnyb ( 4816 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:35PM (#10499045) Homepage
    We're doing it for cost and flexibility:

    1) No telephones == more desk space

    2) No telephones == less money wasted on telephone maintenance

    3) No telephones == less money wasted on phone line maintenance (only run one network instead of two)

    4) IP == If you log in to VPN you can get calls transferred to you at home

    5) VoIP == cheap long distance

    6) Other features -- automatic call recording, easy ability to script call-ins, etc.

    7) PBX Box ---- WAAAAAY cheap ($1,500 for a build-it-yourself asterisk solution vs $10,000+ for a traditional PBX solution)
    • Those are very good points, but how do you make phone calls if the internet is down or the power is out? The second part is helped with UPSs. My issue is if you put too many eggs in one basket, that sounds like wishing problems of greater impact. Sure, it sucks to either go without phone or internet, it is worse of BOTH are out. Yes, I had this problem. The only way to communicate to the outside world was personal cell phones. I needed to handle some business over the internet, I was about ready to dr

  • I'm still using my commercial Vonage service as my primary home line. It has never had any any audio quality problems or service outages that I've noticed, and it's a steal price-wise. With the activation fees and shipping and everything, my initial bill to get set up and cover the first month was $57.78, and thereafter it's been $16.94 a month (I use their 500 minute plan instead of the unlimited minutes, it's cheaper and I doubt I'd go over that on my home voice line).

    On top of all that, I've set my T-
  • Does any VOIP provider work as a land line for DirectTV's DVR? I've seen the answer is yes for 'standard' tivo boxes, but as of a year ago no for the ones they shipped with DirectTV.
    • If you do a google search, you'll find a mixed bag of success and failure with the DirecTivo boxes. I believe that some of the problem lies with the QoS that people's VoIP may have.

      Modems and fax machines don't deal well with the packet delays that can occur on VoIP that isn't properly QoS'ed. The problem is that end DSL/Cable users don't have control of the QoS of their VoIP packets beyond their premise equipment, and sometimes not even then. I shouldn't assume this, but I assume that all VoIP provide

  • Its great... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rpdillon ( 715137 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:40PM (#10499074) Homepage
    I am a Vonage customer and use it as my primary line. Not only can you get voice mails delivered to email (great when travelling), but you can, for an additional $4.99/month get a line that is local to someone that calls you a lot, so they can make toll-free (local) calls, even if you're in New York and they are in California.

    The feature I like best is that, free of charge, I have my cell phone ring anytime my home phone rings. That way, when I'm away, I still get all my home calls, and don't have to give out my cell number to everyone. This feature can be used for simultaneous ringing on any other number, or it can forward it to another number after a certain number of seconds without answer on the first line. You can turn the feature on/off and the change takes effect almost immediately.

    Most of all, all the extras that you pay for with normal phone are automatically included in the Vonage plan. I pay $25 a month for all my phone needs (that are non-cell), and that's a lot better than my old SBC/MCI pairing I used to use.

    I don't really notice bad voice quality, but I took a lot of time to set up my Vonage box *behind* my firewall, but then forwards all the ports necessary to have it manage the connection properly for voice-quality. For a more no-brainer setup, just route your connection to the Vonage box first, then to your router.
    • I agree with everything you said. One other additional feature that is useful is that, with the web interface, it is much easier to configure services such as forwarding. On my old land-line, I had to dial a * number plus my cell phone to forward calls. And I was never sure if I had did it correctly, because it was so spotty. With Vonage, I just log in and change it. And I don't have to be home to change it. I can change it from work, if I forgot to reprogram the phone.

      As for voice mail over email, I though

    • Just a question - what *are* your non-cell needs? I haven't had a landline (other than a year where I had a stripped-to-the-bone line for DSL purposes) in about 5 years now, and haven't really felt the need at any point during that span. I'm curious why people maintain a landline.
      • I got Vonage for a business line (now that I'm home more often). My cell phone would cut out on conference calls.
      • Re:Its great... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by swillden ( 191260 ) *

        Just a question - what *are* your non-cell needs? I haven't had a landline (other than a year where I had a stripped-to-the-bone line for DSL purposes) in about 5 years now, and haven't really felt the need at any point during that span. I'm curious why people maintain a landline.

        Because I can't afford a cell plan that gives me 4000 minutes per month, and my company won't pay that much either.

        Those of us who work from home, yet still need to collaborate closely with team members, spend a *lot* of time

  • by reg ( 5428 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:40PM (#10499084) Homepage
    It worries me that these articles concern themselves so much with matching traditional US PSTN services (like 911 and call centers) and very little with celluar phone services. It's probably because of the lack of a good packet switched cellular network in the US... Since GSM based phones are already packet switched, and can already do packet switched (IP) data via GPRS and 3G technologies, why aren't we seeing a strong push fot VoIP and cellular integration. An additional advantage is that the turnover of mobile phones is much higher than land lines, so technology adoption is much faster. Regards, -Jeremy

  • I'm late to the world of VoIP, arriving just after
    the release of Skype

    Here's what I've got on my To Try list:

    Applications for Skype:


    I'net Dating

    Random Surveys

    Conference Calls

    Lic-free "Ham Radio"

    VoIP I'net Phone (free)

    Remote [Language] Teaching

    Remote Councilling Service

    Remote Computer Consulting

    Improve Int'l Relations (P2P)


    Unanswered questions about Skype:

    What's needed to use it "standalone" across a LAN?
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @07:52PM (#10499166) Homepage Journal

    Phones are easy. Pick them up, dial a number, you talk to the other person.

    Email is easy. Type a person's address, your message, hit send.

    I don't consider myself a stupid person, but whenever I've had a phone in my office, I've had absolutely no idea how to use any of the conferencing, hold, transfer, or even voicemail features. They vary from phone to phone, and have non-obvious icons. It took me a few moments to realize that the icon that showed a receiver going down didn't mean hangup, but speaker-phone.

    I agree that having this infrastructure will make new, better things possible, but a VoIP infrastructure isn't all that more disruptive than already having an IP infrastructure. Some novel applications came out of IP being pervasive, but I see VoIP as a byproduct of an earlier disruptive agent, not as the disruptive agent in itself.

  • Simple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lrwx ( 800141 ) *
    Right now most people have multiple phones a house phone and a cell phone. Some even have a buisness cell phone that their employer has them use. all have different numbers. Some people have family plans with multiple phones each with seperate numbers. Imagine this. You call my phone number lets say its (234)555-xxxx. When you dial that number my home phone connected via ATA, my VoIP enabled handheld with 802.16a and my wifes phone all ring. Just one number. Each phone (although having individual IP adresse
  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:01PM (#10499214) usually means I'm getting a phone call from an international telemarketer.

    Last week, I got a VOIP call from a telemarketer named "Steve Dallas". Although you wouldn't think that someone named "Steve Dallas" would have such a strong Indian accent.
  • Packet8 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrudel ( 729083 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:04PM (#10499226) Homepage
    I have Packet8 VOIP at home, and I love it. I have a 6 down/768k up Speakeasy connection and I've had no problems.. no outages, great call quality (Linksys WRT54GS running Sveasoft firmware), and I can take the box with me when I travel... VOIP is great, as far as I'm concerned, landline-quality phone (or better) for $20/month...
  • by tekunokurato ( 531385 ) <> on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:04PM (#10499227) Homepage
    VoIP is good because AT&T can begin using and save $500 million like that. No, really. It scales incredibly.
  • Infrastructure (Score:5, Informative)

    by csirac ( 574795 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @08:18PM (#10499329)
    We're replacing our knackered commander system (15 years old) with a bunch of VOIP phones (Snom 190). Also we're splitting our shop into two premises; using a WiFi link (with WEP/MAC filtering/IPSec/L2LTP etc for security).

    Using VOIP on our local LAN/WAN, we can share the same PSTN line pool (about 20 lines total) between both shops. If someone dials one shop but wants to speak to someone in the other, we can transfer that call. Very useful, not to mention the other possibilities with Asterisk (caller ID, call logging, stats, voicemail, extensions, music on hold, etc).

    As for actually using a VOIP carrier for outgoing call... no, not yet.

    We're setting up with Asterisk and Digium TDM400 cards with FXO modules.

    Standard x86 servers, Linux, Asterisk, Digium and Snom phones add up to a LOT less than the integrated turnkey solution we were looking to get from Siemens.
  • I recently tried Skype [] and was impressed with the clarity of the voice transmission despite the distance (calling international).

    Try Nuggets [], our mobile answer search engine. Get answer to your your questions via SMS, across the UK.

  • In the US,company email is the legal property of your employer. Email is typically monitored after the fact as text searches of archives, but there are multiple commercial efforts employing pattern recognition technologies as real-time filters. Add VoIP and voice recognition at the commercial level and you have one brawny big brother at the workplace.
  • ...helping people propogate hideous grammar.
  • The "part 3" article on VoIP sucks as badly as what came before. This time the idea is that VoIP somehow majikally enables k3wl "services" like distributed call centers. And golly gee it sometimes separates calls signaling from the call path.

    Well whoop-de-doodle -- that kind of thing was being done over the TDM-based (circuit) telephone network in the 1980s! In the public switched network, call signaling was divorced from the bearer path in the 1970s to 1980s, with CCIS, and in the 1990s with its replac
    • by anon mouse-cow-aard ( 443646 ) on Monday October 11, 2004 @10:43PM (#10500227) Journal
      Spoken like a true bellhead, You are missing the point. VoIPs network is free (as in freedom) IP based, as in dirt cheap, if I pee it will land on an equipment vendor. Not stuck on a few media. Ever run SS-7 over cable-TV networks? How about a metropolitain gigabit ethernet lan? Youre going to say SONET, well gee, that only costs 10x of a gigabit ethernet... where can I get SONET termination? can I run packets on that? oh.. need to encapsulate it in IP... hmm... why?

      How much is that PBX in the window? ok, so Id like an SS-7 switching network, and I aint a phone company, oh? cant have one? have to run my own wires? hmm...

      Separating control from data only makes sense if the network is smart. Smart networks only make sense if the manager of the network is your friend. Usually, that is not the case for anyone except the phone company. The whole point of IP is to make the intermediate network a non-issue. make it stupid so that there isnt any value there, and it can be replaced by any number of technologies or providers. That is always going to be cheaper for end users, but not the phone company.


  • Pocket PC (Score:4, Informative)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <deliverance.level4@org> on Monday October 11, 2004 @11:20PM (#10500487) Journal
    Since there is skype for pocket pc it makes any pocket PC into a mobile phone.

    What's more it is only useful when you are making outgoing calls or expecting an incomming one so there is not that annoying incoming cell phone buzz.

    People will switch entirely to IP telephony and it will be free eventually, the hardware to implement it will become powerful enough.

    What's bogging it down? No standards. Same as Webcams there simply is no way to get everyone onto one system except to get them to abandon their old system, something the telephone network never had to deal with.

He's dead, Jim.