What is it?
Vonage is a voice over internet (VoIP) telephone service. This means that you make telephone calls using a normal phone over your internet connection instead of over the lines of the phone company. You can call any phone number using this service and the receiver does not need anything special to receive your call.
Inexpensive, lots of features, includes all calls to the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Occasional reliability issues, some voice quality issues including echoes and static, not available during an electrical or internet outage, must have broadband internet access to use it
Vonage telephone service is great as a second line. It is very inexpensive and includes a lot of features compared to regular telephone service. However, it is not a utility and will never have the reliability of Ma Bell so I would not consider it as an only line option.
The unlimited Vonage plans cost $24.99 for a personal line and $49.99 for a business line. The business line includes all the features of the personal line plus a dedicated fax line. If you plan to list your phone number in a Yellow pages advertisement, they generally require that you have a business line. If you are simply telecommuting, a personal line is fine.
In order to use Vonage you must have high-speed broadband internet access. I have a cable modem and use Comcast as my internet service provider (ISP). Make sure you have adequate bandwidth before you get Vonage. Without adequate bandwidth, voice quality will suffer greatly if you are surfing the internet or downloading files when you talk on the phone. Vonage recommends at least 90kbs, but I have found that you should have a minimum or 728kbs in both upload and download bandwidth to consider using VoIP.
For me, Vonage is only reliable about 95% of the time. This is not necessarily Vonage’s fault because they have no control over blackouts, your connection speeds, or the network traffic going on at any given time. This reliability issue is important because you must have an alternative phone option in place to use during an outage or period of bad voice quality. I have access to my home phone and my cellular phone for use whenever I can’t use my Vonage phone. For me this works, you have to ask yourself if it works for you.
Vonage comes with a huge assortment of features that usually cost extra with a line from the telephone company. I use the call waiting, caller ID, voicemail, call forwarding, and conference call features constantly. To give you an example of how robust the features are let me tell you about voicemail. When someone leaves a voicemail message, I can listen to it from any phone, I can log into my account at vonage.com and listen to it through my computer speakers, or I can have an audio file of the message sent anywhere by email. I do all three. There are many more features available including free calls to anywhere in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico.
The final point I would like to make is regarding the geek factor. You do not have to be a geek or a rocket scientist to set up Vonage. However, it may still intimidate people that are afraid of wires and electronic devices. Another thing to note is that the Vonage adapter adds another bit of complexity to your network. This is only a problem when you have a problem. If you call your ISP for support for any type of internet access problems, you can be sure that they will ask you to disconnect your Vonage equipment before beginning the troubleshooting.
If you can live with all of this, then you are a prime candidate for Vonage.
Vonage is a great money saving choice for a second line or a home office line under the following conditions:
1. You have access to a land line or cell phone during occasional outages.
2. The speed of your broadband internet connection is adequate (I recommend at least 728kbs up and down).
3. You have a basic level of comfort with technology. (You do not have to be a rocket scientist or geek).