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May 16, 2008

Vonage Talk – Looks Like a Good Deal

If you're a Vonage customer, Vonage Talk is a cheaper way to make calls to ordinary phones from your computer than Skype Out. All calls you make with Vonage Talk are billed at the rate of your Vonage account; if you have an unlimited account (24.95 plus annoying fees per month), you don't pay by the minute for calls to the US or Canada or for landline calls to the UK, France, Spain, Italy or Ireland.

So, if you're traveling anywhere in the world and calling your friends at home in the US or Canada or on landlines in the listed countries, you pay nada for these calls. Skype charges 2.1 cents per minute to call the US (except 5.6 cents to Alaska), and landlines in UK , Ireland, France, Italy and Spain. Vonage also has attractive rates to most other international destinations and is almost always cheaper than Skype Out, which, in turn, is cheaper than traditional carriers and much cheaper than roaming calls on your mobile phone. However, if you're not a Vonage customer and you travel a lot, it may be cheaper just to get a Skype subscription – one plan charges $9.95/month for unlimited calls to landlines in all of these countries and many more plus mobile in the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. BTW, Skype is upfront that "unlimited" means 10,000 calling minutes per month.

You can also receive calls on Vonage Talk but only from another Vonage Talk client. Would be much more useful if you could forward calls from your Vonage landline phone to this client. Even though the documentation doesn't say so, this client "rings" when the associated Vonage line is called. More about that here.

The Vonage Talk client, which seems to be available for the PC only, looks like a stripped down version of the Skype client. It doesn't have Skype bells and whistles like video. I haven't done enough testing to know if it is as good as the Skype client at getting excellent sound out of poor IP connections. Interestingly, the Vonage application is an opensource SIP client from SourceForge. This apparently means it is standards compliant which the Skype client is not and may indicate that the client will work with other SIP softphone and devices in the future. It already supports a number of instant messaging services including its own.

Vonage Talk is part of Vonage Alpha, a sandbox recently announced by Vonage for new services. Vonage warns that Alpha software may break and is NOT supported by their customer support. Other Alpha services include relay faxing of documents created on a PC, a contact manager, and a way to leave a code someone can use to call you without exposing your phone number.

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