Presented on http://thetechlounge.co.uk/tv/the-tech-lounge-show/
by @TheTechLounge Monday 28th May 2012
I’ve been with VirginMedia since they were ntl: with a bundle that includes cable TV, broadband and landline. B ut the estate where I live, I’ve found out after years of asking, is incapable of supporting Caller ID on the VM line. So says Virgin Media. Estimated fix is 12th of never. Judging that Caller ID was essential, I decided to go with a VoIP provider, and changed my main phone number over to them.
Having had experience with Vonage before, and closed the account when I changed employers, I rejoined Vonage again. Except this time I ported over my main number. This was admittedly the easy way, but I could have chosen a different dialling code number from quite a large list that included lots of 01, 0207, 0208 & 03 prefixes.
The Vonage Box is installed near the router, beside the cable outlet and is connected via a splitter to a four-way DECT (home phone) and a one-way DECT (my home office desk). Thus we’ve five phones throughout the house, all on the one incoming Vonage number.
The Vonage Box
Missed incoming calls get bounced to online voicemail, which pings as email to our two iPhones. Instantly. How ace is that?
Messages can also be picked up via the online account or handset via the usual PIN system, or even be forwarded as emails – dead handy – and archiving these emails is a breeze of course.
The phone can be switched to DoNotDisturb mode, in which it doesn’t ring but goes straight to voicemail (if set) which is great for times when you don’t want the phone to ring. This can be set via handset or online.
Rear panel of the Vonage Box showing connections
But – is it a replacement for the traditional BT landline? Well, I would say yes, but with some caveats which I will explain.
Firstly – emergencies. In a blackout the internet won’t work, and thus the VoIP won’t either. My solution to this (unlikely but yes needs to be planned for) event is
(a) use a mobile – we have a total of five mobiles on three different networks so it’s likely we could call 999 using one of them
(b) we’ve kept the normal VirginMedia line, mostly because if I drop it from my package I lose bundle discount which makes that cost-neutral so I might as well keep it. I have a non-powered normal old-fashioned handset at the from door/main exit which is literally only for emergency use. N.B. of course DECT phones don’t work in a blackout.
Secondly – calling 999 from VoIP. The phoneline by definition is non-geo. But Vonage allows you to regist er an address to the account so that if 999 is called via VoIP, the emergency services get your geo details .
Thirdly, what if the internet goes down? What happens to incoming calls? Vonage allows setting up of a forwarding number. If it’s a landline it’s free*, if it’s a mobile you pay. We just put ours over to the VM line which also has an upstairs downstairs DECT. Yes, I know. That’s seven phones. I know.
*Free – well, all calls to landlines in UK are free on all packages. And you can get bigger packages that make various OS calls free as well. Currently I get all calls to UK Australia US NZ and 26 countries for £8.99 a month. Of course mobiles are extra (except US Canada China and a few others).
Other issues – you can set the bandwidth consumption as Low, Medium or High, and get corresponding call quality. I think that medium equates to a normal phone, and high equates to CD. Yes, it’s good. Since we have 100Mbps broadband, I leave it set to high.
And recently, Vonage has got even better. Because they have an app. Think Skype, except it uses your own phonebook. The call quality is just brilliant (on wifi – I’ve not actually tested on 3G) and we used it successfully when my daughter recently travelled to China on a school trip. She used her iPhone 3G with no problem whatsoever with the app, which does calls, texts and picture messages.
So, can a Vonage VoIP replace a landline? I think so, with only a little bit of contingency planning. And I also believe it can replace the Small Business phone as well, as they’ve just introduced some quite well-priced plans aimed purely at business. You need to have broadband, that’s all. No landline. And your home (or office) voicemail is no longer a machine. Smart move.
And you don’t need to have your computer on, like Skype. Vonage works and feels just like a normal phone. These are the additional (free!) benefits that I use all the time on my Vonage:-
Call Waiting 1471 Call Diversion Anonymous Call Block
Caller Display Do Not Disturb there are many more available.
No longer is it compulsory to have BT or TalkTalk or VirginMedia or whoever provide you with a landline. With Vonage you get a landline for much less than a regular landline, and many more benefits. All you need is broadband.
My thanks to @mattyrider and @vonage for answering my tweetout for resources to prepare this article, and providing these files for publication (video & audio)