VoIP - Still Happy After All These Packets

Hi this is Phil, thanks for calling. Right now I am not available to take your call, but please be assured that your message is being recorded digitally by a high speed computer, and will soon be compressed into a portable digital audio file and posted on a website which I occasionally visit to retrieve messages such as yours.

I’ve gone to VoIP… and I am happy about it.

Several months ago I took the plunge and converted my home phone to Voice Over IP using Vonage. I did it mostly because I am a notorious cheapskate. Getting paid by the word is no sure path to riches, and online advertisements lured me in with promises of cutting my home phone bill to a fraction of what I had been paying. I took the bait. I made the switch. It was true. It actually works. I am still a happy customer.

Voice over IP works by routing itty bitty packets of digital voice to a special box that is either attached to your cable modem of your DSL modem. That box, called an ATA also has a phone jack into which you plug an ordinary telephone. The real beauty of this system is that my ordinary telephone doesn’t know that my voice is being chopped up into bits before it even leaves the house. It doesn’t even care that the person on the other line’s voice is being reassembled from tiny bits before it comes back to my ear.

Just like the fuel injection system on my car, VoIP (say voyp) works without my completely understanding it. It does all the work and I barely notice any difference between my new VoIP service and the POTS (plain old telephone service) I used previously. In fact, I am quite pleased with the nifty new techno features that come with the new service. I can change my call forwarding settings from a web page; I can check my voice mail over the web; and all of my long distance calls to anywhere in the US or Canada are included in the price of the monthly service. It’s cool and I am saving money. Those don’t often come together for me.

It’s about to get very cool.

At the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Vonage showed off a prototype of its new videophone. They promise that by spring of this year, we will be able to dial up any other VoIP phone user with a George Jetson like videophone sitting on our desk. They claim the new videophone will take full advantage of broadband connections and a new chipset to deliver CD quality sound and TV quality video over the video phone. It remains to be seen if our throttled-back broadband internet connections will actually let them deliver that quality, but I am eager to see how close they get.

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.