I'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
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.