With more players jumping into the already populated space of Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), the perceptive user has that much more choice. Vonage is a leading player in this marketplace with over a million subscribers worldwide in a short lifespan of three years. However, there is a set of negatives too, so wait until you reach the end of this review before you decide to switch from your traditional landline service to Vonage telephony.
What is Vonage and how does it differ from your landline connection? For a start, you must have a broadband connection, preferably cable-based; a dial-up is no good. When you call Vonage customer service for a connection, Vonage sends you a tiny box, which you have to plug to your telephone and your cable modem or DSL. You are now set to start a Vonage conversation. With a Vonage connection, you have access to your telephone through your computer and the broadband connection. The other big difference from a traditional phone service is cost effectiveness; with a Vonage, you can cut your telephone bill significantly, and converse worldwide by buying local telephone numbers from Vonage.
Vonage offers a set of four monthly packages for all calls in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico: a premium unlimited offer at US$24.99, a basic plan of 500 minutes at US$14.99, a small-business unlimited package at US$49.99, and a basic small-business offer of 1500 minutes at US$39.99. For calls from the US to other world destinations, there is a nominal per-minute rate applicable, which is well below what you would pay to your landline service provider. For example, for a minute’s call to Mumbai (India), you need to pay only US$0.17; for a call to the UK, it is as low as US$0.04 per minute.
The Vonage Website lists the charges applicable to each city on its network. Perhaps the best part of Vonage is that you can carry your US telephone number to any part of the world with broadband connectivity, and call the US at local call rates. For any reason, if you are dissatisfied with Vonage services, you can opt for the 14-day (or 30-day for some packages) money-back offer. This trial period is enough time to try out the excellent features that you get with Vonage:
However, Vonage is not all positives. Its founding premise is a bit wobbly; your connection is afloat only as long as your broadband connection is. Any Internet outage and Vonage will cease to function. Call quality is also dependent on the speed of your broadband. Then there is the question of availability of a local number for your city; Vonage may not have your city listed, so you should confirm this with Vonage customer support before deciding on the service. Vonage is facing stern competition from AT&T and Verizon, and users have preferred the call quality of AT&T to that of Vonage. Vonage is also not the cheapest VoIP service around in the marketplace.
However, Vonage is a winner on features. If you have a dependable broadband connection, need to make frequent international calls, and travel to world destinations but need to stay in touch with the US, Vonage is for you.
Hamesh Brown enjoys writing about VoIP. See http://www.voipreviewsonline.com/2005/10/vonage_review.html for another Vonage review.