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Voice Over Internet Protocol (Tech Bit 50)

You would think everyone has heard about VoIP, Voice Over Internet Protocol. It is advertised on TV by a number of companies, especially Vonage.

But apparently not. If your long distance bill is more than $30, it might be worthwhile to investigate VoIP as a cost saving opportunity.

One option in VoIP is a service like Vonage, Broadvoice, etc. Most cable companies also offer “digital phone service” that is VoIP. And many regular phone services are coming up with VoIP options.

These services are typically in the $20-30 per month range. They all include unlimited calls within the US, usually Canada, and some offer Europe (Broadvoice offers most of Western Europe and China in their package).

Unlike Skype, which requires your computer to operate, these services come with an adapter box (or they sell it to you for under $100). That adapter box plugs into your cable or DSL modem and you plug your computer or wireless router into them. You plug a regular telephone into the jack and you are ready to start calling. By putting the box between the modem and computer/router, they can ensure a better quality telephone connection despite your kids downloading the latest movies.

Vonage also has the slick V-Phone for traveling. It looks like a USB flash drive, which it is. But on one side is a small jack for a special cell phone headset. All the Vonage software is preinstalled. Just plug your V-Phone into a computer and start making and receiving calls. When you unplug the V-Phone it and all your call history/phone book go with you. That makes the V-Phone a great way to make calls using a hotel workstation or a computer at an Internet café. Load Migo’s software (www.migosoftware.com) on the flash drive and you can even take your desktop settings with you.

Many of these services can now transfer your existing telephone number to the service so no one will notice your switch to VoIP. Another plus is if you travel a lot, or have a summer cottage you stay at, you can take your adapter with you and your phone number stays the same no matter where you are in the world. You can even get a second telephone number in another area code (when my daughter was in Nova Scotia we got her Yak service that had a Nova Scotia number for friends at school and a 303 number for her friends in Colorado). Most of these services have voice mail and caller ID as standard options included in the monthly fee.

Watch ViaTalk’s web sites. About every 60-90 days they’ll do a buy one year, get one year free promotion. Sign up under that promotion and your average monthly bill drops below $10 per month ($199 for 2 years), although ViaTalk bills you an additional $2.50 per month for regulatory fees recovery.

I recently switched my VoIP service to Ooma (http://www.ooma.com/). They have a different business model than similar services such as Vonage. With Ooma you pay about $250 for the adapter, which includes unlimited US calling for life. For less than $10 per month you can upgrade to Ooma Premier which adds a second line and additional features. Calls outside the US are comparable to other VoIP services and Skype.

My experience with my VoIP service has been generally good and certainly less expensive than maintaining a regular telephone line and paying for long distance. I have, however, had instances of dropped calls or occasional drop outs (where the connection goes quiet for a few seconds before coming back).

Gregg Marshall, CPMR, CSP, is a speaker, author and consultant. He can be reached by e-mail at gmarshall@repconnection.comor visit his website.

CFA HEADQUARTERS GOES HI-TECH

This spring, the CFA joins the world of high technology as we go VoIP with our phones. High speed technology is a must in our world of servicing your membership needs. With that comes the availability and advantages of taking our phone service to a new level as well. We look forward to seeing this benefit you as we improve our reliability and service.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us