Mobility Loop


Originally published by Mobility Loop.

Reposted with permission.

Copyright 2006 Core Competence Inc.

All rights reserved.





One VoIP Phone To Go, Please




Friday, December 23, 2005

Written by Lisa Phifer   

PhiferI've been a Vonage customer for half a year. To be honest, I started as a skeptic, expecting no better than hit-or-miss cellular reliability.    But, after months of relatively trouble-free service, I was comfortable enough to drop one of my land lines and port that number to Vonage.  Now that I'm hooked, I'm itching to take the next step: I'd like to take Vonage with me on the road.


Vonage offers several hardware and software options. For starters, I could lug my Vonage Linksys router with me when I travel.  By connecting that router to broadband Ethernet drops at hotels, business centers, and customer sites, I could receive and make VoIP calls "for free" with my existing Vonage account.  When my router isn't active, incoming calls end would up at my Vonage mailbox -- just as if that router were sitting in my empty office back home, with nobody answering the phone.
Of course, I would not characterize this solution as "mobile."  At best, it can be described as "luggable."  Some folks might not mind carrying a router (or TA) and telephone in their rollaboard, but I am not one of them.  To cut the cord between handset and router, I could replace my Linksys with the VTech 5.8 GHz cordless broadband phone.  This would reduce clutter back at the office -- I currently use a VTech cordless POTS phone, plugged into the analog port of my Vonage router.  But no, this does not eliminate the tether that ties my Vonage gear to the wall.
Or I could pay Vonage an extra $9.99 per month to run the Vonage X-PRO SoftPhone on my laptop.  The SoftPhone is assigned its own number; I could even add that number to my existing Vonage Ring List to have incoming calls follow me when I travel.  I haven't tried this particular program yet.  But, based on past experience, I'm not a big fan of SoftPhones.  I know that some people love them, but I just don't enjoy using my laptop as a mobile phone.  Sure, I will use a SoftPhone to avoid placing toll calls from hotels, but I would really prefer a solution that's more compact and stand-alone.
Which brings me to the latest Vonage offering: the UTStarcom F1000 Wi-Fi Phone.
As described in this Mobility Loop news article, the F1000 is a cellphone-sized VoIP handset, designed to use any nearby 802.11b access point to reach the Internet and Vonage.  At first glance, the F1000 looks promising: it is small, light, and cable-free.  No booting up a laptop or messing with a headset (unless you really want one).  This Wi-Fi phone can fit in my pocket -- heck, it's smaller than my PDA SmartPhone.  And it won't require a service contract with a wireless carrier.
On the other hand, the F1000 does require its own Vonage account -- I can't tack it onto my existing account like a SoftPhone.  It also requires an accessible Wi-Fi access point, which may be readily available in some locations but not others.  I envision sitting in hotel lobbies and Starbucks so that I can catch up on phone calls.  I suppose I could carry a little travel AP, so that I can use the F1000 in hotels with free in-room broadband but no wireless.  Hmmm, I think this merits some experimentation.
And so I begin my next phase as a Vonage customer. My new F1000 arrived this week, just in time for the holidays. Over the coming month, I expect to have many occasions in which to use this little Wi-Fi phone, in several different public and private venues.  So stay tuned: I promise to share my Wi-Fi phone experiences with you next month.