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A Look at What's New With Free Voice Over IP (VoIP) Providers Print E-mail
Written by Rene Tse   
Tuesday, 02 May 2006
What you should know before signing up with a voice over IP provider. The information provided in this article is geared toward people who operate a Linux operating system and are interested in converting their Pocket PC into a free Voice Over IP Phone. A special contribution from Rene Tse.

At the end of this article you will see a comparison chart, which will show the following:

  • What operating system/platform do you need?
  • Will you be running a Linux, Macintosh, Pocket PC or Windows Microsoft operating system?
  • What is the pricing structure?
  • Will you be able to make calls from your computer to a real landline phone?
  • The ability to use videoconferencing or not
  • Where can you buy it?
  • How is the sound quality?

 

I trolled the Internet for something new, interesting, unusual and perhaps something you’ve never heard about in the Voice Over IP or digital telephone markets. Before going further, I would like to define the following important industry terms:

  • What is Voice Over IP?
  • What does the term server-side mean?
  • What does the term client-side mean?

In a recent article, Peter Wolchak of Backbone Business Technology Lifestyle, interviewed Mario Belanger, president of Avaya Canada to get his perspective on the Voice Over IP market. Mario Belanger said, "Over the next five years, we expect the Canadian telecom market will shift offering fully converged IP telephoning solutions. Globally, there are approximately 400 million business lines and only about 18 million to 20 million are IP based business phone lines, which works out to 5% of the market. We're seeing a dramatic growth in IP telephony we think it will continue over the next five years. Our goal over the next five years is for Avaya's communications solutions to become designed into the offerings from the Canadian service providers. For example, customers will be able to call their service providers in Avaya solutions designed to fit their needs. This is likely not going to happen within five years, but is a longer-term goal." Mario Belanger also shared that the new features such as: meet me conferencing and unified messaging will put Voice Over IP in a competitive advantage over traditional long-distance services.

What is voice over IP?

 

Simply put, Voice Over IP is the ability to make a telephone call from your computer. The call on the Internet that you make from your computer, Pocket PC, tablet PC or laptop is turned into a voice signal, which is patched into your callers’ regional telephone network. Voice Over IP, digital telephony or Internet telephony is a technology that brings both Internet and the phone together. Internet telephony is an exchange of voice data over a network. Your local telephone company has a dedicated network to transmit voice data. However, with Internet telephony, the voice data streams over a general network, which in this case is the Internet.

Here is what you need to make calls on your computer or Pocket PC:

  • Plug your landline phone into a broadband Internet router
  • Plug the broadband router to your electrical outlet for power
  • Connect a cable from your Internet ADSL or cable modem to the broadband router/Voice Over IP phone adapter unit
  • Connect a cable from the voice over IP broadband router / phone adapter to a router or hub switch Connect your desktop computer, Pocket PC or laptop to a router / hub switch

If you do not understand this information, please Click HERE where you'll be directed to a diagram, that visually explains what you need to do to make calls on your computer or Pocket PC.

 

As a business user, it's important to take into account that there are problems in using this inexpensive technology to make long-distance calls from your computer. Please keep these in mind:

  • When making an outgoing long-distance call, you may or may not connect. Voice Over IP is still in its infancy in development.
  • If you're using a 56K modem as your Internet connection speed, your voice will have a delay in the connection. You can remedy that by subscribing to a broadband cable Internet service provider.
  • Before calling your local telephone company to disconnect your landline, the Voice Over IP technology has a lot of catching up to do.
  • What if you need to make an emergency call and call 911? You're not guaranteed 100% that you Voice Over IP call will go through. In my previous article Voice Over IP Comparison, which you'll find by clicking on this link:  I discussed how there are full-service Voice Over IP providers, that will allow you to make 911 calls. Both Vonage and Net2phone have this service.
  • Another problem with digital telephony is that there is not an E.164 standard like the ones set up to assign cell phone or landline phone numbers.

Eavesdropping On An Internet Telephone Call

Since Voice Over IP is still a developing technology, it's really easy for even a high school student to hack into your system to spy on your Internet telephony conversation. Encryption is not available on Voice Over IP. I wouldn't advise you to throw your Mickey Mouse telephone away just yet!

What Does the Term Server-Side Mean?

The server-side in the Voice Over IP equation would be the Internet telephony service provider. You need to sign up with a Voice Over IP provider if you want to make Internet telephone calls. There are full-service telecommunication firms such as : SIP phone, SIP Broker, Vonage, lingo, AOL, Total Talk, Verizon Comcast, Shaw cable, and Baby Tel, which are Voice Over IP service providers. These providers offer web-based Voice Over IP service for a monthly subscription fee. Some digital telephony providers are free such as: Skype and X-lite Counterpart Solutions Inc. Watch how Skype lets you make Voice Over IP calls to a conventional landline. In this case, you'll only be able to make PC to PC calls. Forget about ordering pizza or Chinese food on a Friday night if you are Skype user.

Pocket PC Voice Over IP - A Surprising Feature

Pocket PC owners, you'll be glad to know there is a company called Counter Path Solutions Inc. who will sell you a single user license for your Pocket PC for only $29.95 USD. It's called a Pocket PC 2.2 Sip SOFT Phone. Best of all, you can make videoconferencing calls if you upgrade to the next level. When you save money by using your Pocket PC to make free long distance calls, it’s like crispy, salty beer nuts - it's addictive! Once you start, you can't stop. To find out how you can use your Pocket PC as an Internet phone, please click on this link: http://www.xten.com/index.php?menu=Products&smenu=PPC. Best of all, you don't even need a headset to make or receive calls using the Pocket PC 2.2 Sip SOFT Phone application.

What Does the Term Client-Side Mean?

There are generally three types of standards or protocols in a typical Voice Over IP solution.

  • 1) H.323
  • 2) SIP or Session Initiation Protocol
  • 3) There are also third-party proprietary protocols used by: Skype, SCCP, CISCO.

What's the difference between the session initiation protocol and the rest of the different standards? SIP stores the VoIP customer's IP address in their own package. This can be a problem when your Linux, Macintosh or Microsoft Windows operating system is behind a firewall.

Both Gnome Meeting and Microsoft NetMeeting use the H.323 protocol. Apple's iChat, SIP phone and Microsoft Messanger use the Session Initiation Protocol(SIP).

Hardware for you - The Client

If you want to have the highest possible sound quality, consider these two options:

1) Purchase a TALKPro USB 100 parrot translator from VXI Corporation for only $129.00 USD. You can call them toll free at (800)742-8588. Their Corporate website is: vxicorp.com. Hours of operation are from 8AM to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Some of the features I really enjoy on this Macintosh certified headset include: volume dial control, the mute on and off button, the quick disconnect switch, Echo reduction, noise canceling technology ensuring higher speech recognition accuracy. Once you start using the VXI talk Pro headset, you'll never consider any other brand name. If you are also a Macintosh user, you'll be glad to know that these headsets are compatible with Macintosh laptops and computers. If you would like to read a recent press release on the talk Pro USB 100, please click on this link:http://www.vxicorp.com/about/Press/2006/2006-04-04.asp. In addition to the noise canceling technology, you'll also appreciate the very high call quality coming through on your TALKPro USB 100 parrot headset. This product comes with a two-year unconditional warranty.

2) In addition to considering your network architecture, look at how much available bandwidth you can access. I tested a Voice Over IP call using a slow dial-up 506K modem. The call was not even, there were dead gaps where I couldn't hear anything from the other caller. The static and connection was really poor and inconsistent. I tested another call using my Talk Pro USB 100 headset from VXI. This time using a high-speed broadband cable connection provided by Shaw cable, the call had clarity, there were no echo sounds, and I could hear the person very clearly through out the duration of the call. I was really impressed. I run a Linux operating system and installed Gnome Meeting on my computer and have found this to the best option.

If you want a use your Pocket PC as a Voice Over IP phone, your best bet is a Pocket PC 2.2 SIP phone from www.xten.net. Here is a comparison chart of four applications, which I tested. Comparison Chart.

  Gnome Meeting Kphone Skype X-Lite
Licence        
Operating System Linux Linux Linux, MS windows, Mac Pocket PC, Linux, MS windows, Mac
Make Calls from your computer to a real phone Yes No No No. But Pro-version. Possible
3 way calling Yes no no No. only in Pro-version
Sound quality Very good, consistent Good enough for me since I use Broadband connection Good, sometimes choppy & flaky The sound was good in both directions, sometimes on a subsequent call, there was static in the speech 
Requires Headphones to work   Yes Yes No
Protocol H.323, SIP SIP Has their own proprietary Protocol SIP
Where to buy it? Gnome Meeting Kphone Website Skype Website Buy it from the Xten Website

 

You are not bound by a fixed location. Like the old adage, have phone will travel; only now it's the broadband router and phone adapter that travels with you. Simply pack the adapter in your suitcase and at your new destination just plug it into a broadband connection. Say hi to your friends and neighbors back home just by using one of the Voice Over IP providers recommended above. Source: image is provided by: http://www.broadvoice.com/support_install_SPA2100-bv.html. The Linux Journal issue 145.

Rene is on the look out for mobile devices to enhance her productivity. This website cuts to the chase and has valued information on: cash back cell phones and which is the best voIP solution available for your Pocket PC or smart phone.

If you have any questions regarding this article please submit a comment on my blog at: Cell Phone Review Blog

 


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