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VTech and Vonage - A Killer Cordless Broadband Telephone System

by Nick Anis

If you don’t own a VTech telephone (wired or cordless) – you are really missing something.  In fact, you might own one and not realize it, since VTech also makes the phones for telecommunications giants such as AT&T.  And if you haven't discovered the world of Voice over IP (making telephone calls that are via the Internet to the telephone network) you are also missing out big time, and probably wasting a king’s ransom.

Before I tell you about these incredible products and services, a short history lesson might be helpful.  Back in 1988, National High-Performance Computer Act established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network, of which Dr. Vinton Cert was a principal architect.  Four years later things really took off when the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (co-sponsored by Al Gore) opened the Internet to commercial traffic. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 also opened the flood gates for completion for local and long distance service and telephone headsets and systems.

A good friend of mine, Bill Schlossenberg (Travel-Watch's Publisher), scrambled to open a telephone “interconnect” company – that offered wired phone systems for small and large businesses.  John C. Dvorak and I, wrote a telecommunications book that was not only the first major book covering the Internet, it was also a mammoth 800+ page monster that sold hundreds of thousands of copies.  In Dvorak’s Guide to PC Telecommunications, John Dvorak and Nick Anis predicted that telephone long distance charges would fall below 5 cents per minute and that communications speeds would increase from 24,000 bits per second to 1,500,000 bits per second and higher.  We were right on both accounts.

So here we are in 2006 – and the time has come to AGAIN jump on the Internet “BROADbandwagon” – but this time to route your telephone calls so you can save a fortune even when compared to today’s lower long distance and international rates of the conventional telephone network. 

Instead of paying a deposit, and shelling out $100 to $300 for installing a telephone and $24.00 to $36 per month for basic phone service with perhaps unlimited LOCAL calling – plus more money for any calling features you may wish – you can get a Vonage Account for a paltry $14.95 per month for up to 500 minutes or only $24.95 per month for UNLIMITED calling.  And that includes anywhere you call in the United States and Canada even if you use your Vonage account while you are in Europe or anywhere else in the world – if you are trying to call “to” the USA or Canada it’s included as part of your service.  Calls “to” other countries are also quite economical, averaging a few cents per minute.

We also have a Vonage Softphone that lets us make phone calls with our laptop on the road if we have access to wired or wireless high speed internet – it’s great to be able to receive and make calls (usually for no more than your monthly service charge) from anywhere in the world.  When we receive calls, we could be in New Zealand at an Internet Café and the caller would not even realize it unless we opted to tell them.

If you have DSL or cable modem service at your house, you should get yourself a Vonage account.  And for a measly $5.00 extra per month, you can get a stand alone fax number for sending or receiving faxes. 

It’s great for college students to have a phone at their dorm, and for travel writers and business persons on the road, or for just about anyone (that doesn’t want to exceed their cell minutes or be charged for roaming or long distance, etc.).

Okay, so having decided you want to stop wasting money on phone charges and you want to have free features such as call waiting (you can enable or disable whenever you wish), three way calling, call transfer, voice mail, caller ID, etc. all managed via the phone or via your computer – you have two options for the service.  You can use Vonage’s network adapter and ANY telephone you wish.  Or you can use a VTech Voice over IP cordless phone system that supports up to 4 extensions.  What’s that you say, “But I already have phones, why do I need to buy new phones?”  Well, you don't need to buy new phones; you can use your existing phones if you want to, but once you realize the advantage of a VTech IP8100-2 Integrated Voice Over IP cordless phone system, you will toss your phones out the window, or give them to a relative you don't like (so they, instead of you, can waste money on their phone calls).

With Vetech’s IP8100-2 you can have up to 4 extensions around your house without having to do any wiring, have jacks installed, etc. and you can carry the phones around the house, into the yard, down the street, etc. because they have quite an impressive range and they use the latest 2.8 GHz technology.

The IP8100 from VEtech comes bundled with two cordless expansion handsets.  Each phone handset features a speakerphone, 2-way paging, and built-in data ports.  And if, like me, you have been disappointed in the past by the quality of some of the wired and cordless phones out there – there is no need to worry about VEtech – these phones are high quality stuff, easy to use, and their range and signal quality are quite good. 

The ip8100 weighs approximately 3 lbs and is constructed of ABS plastic.  All VTech are designed to withstand damage from being banged around, dropped, etc.  The feel of the keys as you dial a number is great – and what’s more, the labeling on the keys don’t wear off like some of the other phones I have owned over the years this is because IP8100 handset uses printed rubber keys mats with protective coating for added resistance to abrasion.  The ip8100 ships with a 3.6V 600mAh NiMH battery and has excellent talk providing it with excellent standby time and a talk time of up to eight hours.  V-Tech recommends you charge the phone for 12 hours before first use, after that the phone should be fully charged in eight hours or less hours. 

The VTech IP8100-2 system is made specifically for the Vonage service and it makes using Vonage so much easier because you plug the phone base station into your cable modem or DSL modem, plug your phones into charge, and Bingo, you are ready to make and receive calls to your heart’s and pocketbook’s content.

VTech IP8100-2 intelligent cordless expansion design provides you the flexibility of accessing one Vonage VoIP subscription from multiple handsets – Vonage charges are phone account, and not affected by the number of extensions you use. 

I was able to setup the whole system (base station and extensions) in just a few minutes.  First I unboxed the units, plugged them into the a/c current to charge their batteries.  Then I set the date and time on the base unit, and setup the voice mail.  You can use the telephone system’s voice mail or you can use Vonage’s voice mail, or both.  Then I plugged a RJ45 cable from our DSL modem to the VTech IP 8100-2 base station, and a RJ45 cable from the base station to our wireless Internet router we have for spreading our Broadband Internet all around our house. 

Upon discovering I was late for an appointment I then rushed out the door.  When I returned a few hours later, without thinking about it, I picked up one of the 4 IP8100-2 extensions, got a dial tone and make a call.  It worked like a charm.  It wasn't until a few minutes later, that I realized I had used VTech and Vonage to make my call.

We were paying $39.95 per month for unlimited calling in the USA and Canada plus $24.95 per month for our phone service, plus taxes, which is over $40 – now we can do the same thing and MUCH more for only $24.95 per month.

Also now we have telephones and intercom extensions throughout the house including the living room, kitchen, family room, and bedrooms – which makes our live a whole lot easier.

When you use the VTech IP8100-2 system you can use voice and data without any problems but if your whole family is downloading MP3 files at once your phone service may not work quite as well.  Our configuration is somewhat unique in that we have 8-12 computers around the house at anyone time and sometimes the entire household (and some friends) are simultaneously online.  Also we have yet to enable security for our wireless network and perhaps our neighbors sip our Internet bandwidth from time to time.  We haven’t implemented the security yet, because most of our neighbors have their own Broadband connection anyway and have no use for ours, and also because if you enable the security settings – it’s more of a hassle for our visitors who try to use their computers or new computers we bring home to connect. 

The features of the VTech IP8100-2 and Vonage include:  5.8 GHz Technology, Caller ID/call waiting, One-touch access to Vonage voicemail and feature setup, "Hands-free" speakerphone in each of the handsets,  V MODE: Transfer calls, conference an outside call or use the intercom feature between handsets, 50 name and number phonebook directory, Tri-lingual prompts: Choose between English, Spanish (Espanol) or French (Francois), Call transfer, Voicemail waiting indicator, Vonage-certified VoIP system and Headset compatible.  

You know what, sometimes for fun I’ll make a call to my mom in Florida and then transfer it to my brother in New Jersey, and they can talk as long as the want for FREE and without tying up my phone line (and I'm able to make other calls).  The people you call and the people who call you do NOT have to have a Vonage account or a computer or access to the Internet, but if you call ANOTHER Vonage phone your call will be free regardless of where they are anywhere in the world.

Another aspect of the Vtech IP8100-2 and Vonage I like is that we pay for our Broadband Internet connection so that we can do our email and surf the Web.  Now we can also make phone calls with our Broadband service.  That helps us get more use out of the Internet service we are paying for.  It reminds me how they take water in rivers, and streams and turn it into electricity or mill grain.  It’s really great to be able to get more use out of something you pay for – and save additional money to boot, because Voice over IP is so much more economical than calls routed entirely over the conventional or cellular phone network.

You will find VEtec phones and Vonage in Costco, Sam’s Club, Good Guys, Circuit City, Staples, The Sharper Image, Vtechpones.com, and Vonage.com.  For about the as much as the spiff you get for referring 3 members you can get a Vtech IP 8100-2 and one month Vonage service.  After that you can continue the service for $14.95 (500 minutes), or $24.95 (unlimited minutes) per month.  So what are you waiting for?

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.

 

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