I recently joined the 21st century and signed up for high speed internet access. As a way to justify the higher cost of internet access, I decided to ditch my regular phone service and go with Vonage broadband phone service.
Vonage uses voice over IP technology and requires a high speed internet connection such as DSL or a cable modem. Depending on your calling needs, they have a variety of packages available starting at $14.99 for 500 minutes of calls within the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, $24.99 unlimited minutes including calls to Europe, $39.99 for 1500 minutes of small business usuage and tops out at $49.99 for the unlimited business plan including calls to Europe.
Since I’m not a big phone talker and have only called Europe twice in the last ten years, I opted for the $14.99 plan. My typical Verizon bill used to run about $35-$40 including long distance, so I’m saving $20-$25 per month. So far, I have not even come close to using up my 500 minutes. Even if I did, additional minutes are only 3.9 cents each. Or I could upgrade to the $24.99 plan and still save $10 to $15 each month.
One of the key decisions for me was the ability to keep my existing phone number. Transferring was a snap. It took about ten days once I signed the paperwork to have the number switched over to Vonage. In the meantime, Vonage assigned a temporary phone number that I could use to take advantage of their features and I was still able to make and receive phone calls through Verizon on my regular phone line. The transition was seamless. An email let me know when Vonage had my old phone number activated.
Vonage comes loaded with all kinds of freebies that the phone companies charge extra for such as call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail, caller ID, 3 way calling, call return and more. One of the features I like is if for whatever reason your internet access goes down, you can assign a second number like a cell phone number to receive the calls. That way you won’t miss a call in the case of a cable outage.
The voicemail features several options, you can access voicemail through your home phone, a phone call to retrieve it, check it over the internet or even have the voicemails emailed to you. These are all handy options.
Vonage internet phone service does work with your existing phone but requires a special adapter. If you sign up for Vonage on their website, they have a free adapter available after rebates. I bought my Vonage phone service at Best Buy bundled with a combination Linksys wireless router/Vonage phone adapter. I needed a wireless router anyway to set up my wireless network. With rebates, the router ended up being free too.
Vonage says you can take your adapter with you on trips and use the Vonage service where ever you go provided you have high speed internet access. Just plug in and you are ready to make free calls. I haven’t tried that out yet and probably would opt to use my cell phone instead but it’s nice to know that if the occasion came up, that would be an option I could use.
While Vonage does work with existing phones as advertised I ended purchasing a phone system to better suit my needs. Only the phone directly plugged into the adapter is connected to the internet. Vonage does not connect into your existing wiring making the other extensions useless. To work around this, you could either purchase a set of wireless phone jacks or a cordless expandable phone system. I went ahead and purchased a 5.8 Ghz cordless phone system with a total of three handsets, one for my office, one for the kitchen and one for my bedroom. This added another $80 to my Vonage investment but will pay for itself in a few months. I opted to go with the more expensive 5.8 Ghz phones because of my wireless network.
911 services work differently with the Vonage internet phone service than through your typical phone utility. Due to the nature of the internet and the ability to take Vonage on the go, you must tell Vonage where your phone is physically located. This is done on your account webpage and you are sent many reminders to take care of this vital step. Vonage then routes any 911 calls to the appropriate agency in your area.
The quality of the phone calls is comparable to that of the phone companies. On the account website, they have a feature where you can adjust the bandwidth settings to different levels as well.
I’m extremely happy with Vonage’s internet phone service, it’s easy to set up and use and it’s nice to have all the extra calling features that typically cost a great deal more through the phone company.