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See term definitions below.

Internet telephony refers to communications services—voice, fax, SMS, and/or voice-messaging applications—that are transported via the Internet, over your cable modem, ADSL modem or fiber modem like Verizon's FIOS.
(Broadband Voice can refer to a specific company or Internet telepony).

Voice over IP (VoIP) refers to sending voice over the Internet which used TCP/IP protocols

VoIP is implemented using a set of lower level protocols.
H.323 and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) are two of the more important ones.
Fundamentally, H.323 and SIP allow users to do the same thing: to establish multimedia communication (audio, video, or other data communication). However, H.323 and SIP differ significantly in design.
H.323 still commands the bulk of the VoIP deployments in the service provider market for voice transit, especially for transporting voice calls internationally. See Understanding VoIP - VoIP Protocols at Packetizer.com

Dedicated VoIP providers:
   Telephone Adapters to connect your phone wiring to the Internet
    Independent of a computer
    With  a computer
   Direct computer to Internet - Requires mike and speakers or headsets
   
 Bundled services
    Traditional phone service and cable TV providers now offer VoIP
   bundled with Internet computer access and TV
Dedicated VoIP providers:
Since these services are independent of the Internet Service Provider (ISP), then tend to be more portable (you can take your interface with you to another location and receive calls as if you were home.).
They save money by routing calls over the Internet to end points close to the call destination (or directly to the receiving party with Skype) thus avoiding long distance charges.
  • Telephone Adapter connections independent of computer.

    There are many service providers in this area. The following are the most popular with good ratings.

  • Vonage ® - Holmdel, NJ 732.365.1328
    The largest provider of VoIP.
    See details below.
  • Magic Jack - phone adapter
    They added a phone adapter which doesn't require a computer in 2011
    YMax: CT Corp.: Plantation, FL (954) 473-5503,
  • Onesuite Los Angeles - 866.417.8483
  • sipgate - Germany
      Regular phone features
  • via:talk - Clifton Park, NY (A HostRocket company) - 866-626-7150
  • Phone Power - Winnetka, CA - (888) 607-6937
  • 8x8 (was Packet8) - Santa Clara , CA - 866-879-8647
    Adapter has a built-in cordless phone.

  • Computer Interfaces
  • Magic Jack Computer interface-
    Provides phone service with a matchbox-sized device connected to a usb port on your broadband Internet connected computer (Windows XP or Vista, or Intel Mac) and has a phone jack to connect your house phone wiring, which works like a regular phone as long as your computer is running. See details below.
  • Computer Interfaces - no connection to phone wiring
  • Skype - +01 +352 26639134 (Luxembourg)
    Free computer to computer calls, using built in microphone and speakers on a laptop, headphones connected to your sound card, audio plugs, bluetooth headset or USB headphone.
    For a monthly charge you can access a gateway to talk to people with traditional phone service not on skype.
    There are also Wi-Fi ® phones for skype ($100-$180)
    See Skype below.
  • Onesuite also has a direct computer and iPhone interface.
  • - Chat, Instant Messaging
  • Others
  • ekiga
  • - Google Voice - PC-to-Phone calling and PC-to-PC voice and video calling plus other features
  • Combined CATV, ISP, VoIP Services:
  • Comcast - Philadelphia, PA 1-800-COMCAST
    Uses a Motorola TM402G Arris Touchtone mdm for people with their VO-IP service. It combines the cable modem with the telephone adapter. It is large because it includes battery backup for 6-8 hrs.
  • Cablevision/Optimum Online - Bethpage, NY - 800-825-9941
    Uses eather a Motorola Surfboard cable modem or a Scientific atlanta WebSTAR DPC2100.
  • AT&T - Dallas,TX - 1-800-288-2020
  • TimeWarner Cable - Fort Lauderdale, FL - 1-866-863-4856

Features Offered

Feature MagicJack Vonage Skype
Service charge 1 $20/yr. $25/mo. Free PC-PC
$5/mo. to non-Skype
$30/yr. for a phone #
Equipment $20 none Included
International 6-22¢ 4-18¢ 2-7¢
Usable with your computer off No Yes Yes (if you have a Skype phone)
>Magic Jack and Skype will use resources on your computer while waiting for incoming calls.
Usable with a normal analog phone Yes Yes No (unless you have an adapter; see comment #29 below)
Voicemail Yes, will record a .wav file if your computer is on; you can’t call in for messages. Yes Yes (free with monthly plan, $20/year otherwise)
Video chat No No Yes
Send & receive SMS text messages No No Yes
Available to consumers outside the U.S.A. No, but you can travel with the MagicJack and call into the U.S. and Canada Can use it from anywhere but must have USA, UK or Canada billing & mailing address to sign up Yes. Skype is the most international and travel-friendly of these three
Emergency 911 Calling Yes
requirements
Yes
requirements
No
Feature MagicJack Vonage Skype
Keep your current land line phone number No Yes (usually) No
Works with a dialup connection Technically yes but dreadful quality No Yes, okay quality
Recommended bandwidth 4 125 kbsp (bits/sec) 128 kbps (adjstable) 30 kbps voice
512/256 kbps video
Three way conference calling Yes, but the 2 calls need to be inbound to you. Yes Yes (conference calls up to 9 people possible)
DTMF2 Yes
Some probs. reported
Yes Yes, through software 4.0 for the PC and 2.8 (beta) for the Mac
Automatic call forwarding (eg. to your cell phone) No Yes (free) Yes (free with subscription)
PC Mag rating 4.5 4 4
1. See specific services below for other rate plans.
2. DTMF is Dial Tone Multi-Frequency. This is what lets you type in numbers to an automated service, when you are asked to push "1" for one option, "2" for another, for example.
4. Bandwidth given as 512/256 kbps is download/upload speed in bits/sec.
Notes: There are 8 bits per Byte plus some overhead so Bytes/sec is lower.
See bandwidth for different services DSL, Cable, ... at Data Communications Interfaces
See more at Skype below

Source: MagicJack vs. Skype vs. Vonage: The Internet Phone Service Showdown | Spot Cool Stuff: Tech

Call Quality:
Noise, dropped calls, and circuits busy can occur with all these services, but in general they are pretty good. SpotCoolStuff.com says "It is impossible to make an objective blanket statement comparing the three."
Problems depend on several variables: your Internet access throughput, backbone Internet response, gateway connections to the PSTN, background processes on your computer (MagicJack and Skype) etc.


More Information:
OneSuite, Chat and Google voice are other alternative phone services. See below.

Vonage | MagicJack | Skype

Vonage:
How Vonage Works at vonage.com
Costs:
unlimited local and long distance in US Canada and Puerto Rico $25/mo.
500 min. of local and long distance $18/mo.
You can add a 2nd virtual number so people in a different area can reach you with a local number for $4.99/mo.
You can take your Telephone Adapter with you to your summer home or other location and receive calls there as if you were at home.

  • SoftPhone $10/mo.
  • V-Phone - A flash memory stick that works similar to the Magic Stick. It has a Detachable Stereo Earpiece Microphone and software to activate soft-phone$30 ($15)
  • WiFi Phone (Discontinued)
You can adjust bandwidth from 30 kbs - 90 kbs by going to your account on the vonage web site and selecting Features > "Bandwidth Saver". This will have some affect on sound quality. It will take a while for the settings to be downloaded to your telephone adapter.

I initially had some problems with dropped calls and ability to make calls but when I switched from Optimum Online cable to Verizon FiOS most of them went away. Note: Optimum Online upgraded their network shortly thereafter.
I originally had a Linksys combination router / telephone adapter which had to be rebooted occasionally and ultimately had to be replaced/\.

Additional charges:
Regulatory Recovery Fee $0.99
Emergency 911 Cost Recovery $0.99
Sales Tax (varies by state) $1.49
Federal Program Fee $1.30
State 911 Fee (varies by location) $0.90
Total $5.67

See Call Plans at Vonage.com


MagicJack: www.magicjack.com
You can select an area code but not a local exchange, so people in your area code but outside your local exchange may get charged for calls to you.

Incoming international calls (e.g. if you send a magicJack to a service person overseas) are charged at the local rate (or free) from the number associated with the Magic Jack.

You get one number change per year; additional changes are $10.

Can file voice mail in folders for future refernce.

It can be configured to communicate thru the audio ports on your laptop, so you can use it without a phone like Skype.

Software is in the MagicJack and installs and configures itself on your computer so you don't have to download or configure anything other than selecting your area code the first time.

Caller ID is phone number only. not name, unless you put the name in it's directory yourself.

There may be some firewall issues with getting the service set up. I am getting one and will be trying it at a variety of locations, Starbucks, hotels, library, ...

magicJack VoIP support, tips, tricks, and hacks forum

Magic Jack Complaints: From RipoffReport.com

They don't tell you you may not get a telephone number in your local calling area (which may be smaller than your area code), so people in the same area code may be charged toll call fees to call you.

They dont tell you that they are going to redistribute your personal information to other customers in their database like they did mine.
See MagicJack's CEO response to terms of service.

They dont tell you that if you wish to send your product back it will take them 45 days to issue you a refund.

They dont tell you up front that in order to have 24/7 phone access your computer can not go into hibernation or be shut off, imagine if you have an emergency at night time when your computer is usually off and dont have access to a phone,? or if you have a burglar and need to contact the police?

When you do call 911 they dont tell you that your actually speaking with a internet computer and not that of your local police department which by the way you have to be sure you give them all kinds of information Home address, name, phone #,etc) before they even dispatch anyone out to your home.(I dont know about you guys but I have small children, who are to young to memorize this information, and trust them to know that in a hectic situation/emergency they are going to be able to assist this internet operator to get some help in time? I mean what if something ever happened to mommy or daddy and they needed the police but didn't know the information because their to young 5,yrs. old?
See their 911 disclosure statement.

DTMF (calls that require you to input #s from your phone pad) may not work.
Note: Some people say they have no trouble with this.

They dont tell you that you have to dial your area code to make phone calls within your own city, so to call your next door neighbor you must first dial your area code.

They dont tell you that you can not be on your computer doing work because every time someone in your house picks up the phone or a call comes in a box pops up which you have to minimize, and yes you have to minimize it for every call going out or coming in , trust me its a pain especially when your spouse work is done primarily on the pc, try wrting a word,power point,excel, while every 10 seconds you have a box popping up on your working screen, now you can take care of this problem by simply unplugging your phone, thus eliminating anyone in the home using the phone, or receiving calls, but hey atleast you get your work done without any annoying boxes interupting you.

They dont tell you that once you connect the magic jack to your computer, your going to be using up your systems resources, & have to update all your pc's direct x functions, so if your not a computer garu your in trouble, or you can just call their tech support and speak with someone who can walk you through the process.... oh no wait sorry they have no live person you can talk to if you need any customer assistance or tech support you have to go online and chat with them. by the way good luck getting somone to log in to the chat area to assit you, lets just say that if its less then 2 minutes your one of the lucky ones.

Others:
The MagicJack software displays ads on your computer (which is a major reason why their service is so cheap). And their Terms Of Service states: Our computers may analyze the phone numbers . . . you call in order to improve the relevance of the ads. We do not provide any personal information to our advertisers or third parties. Despite that promise not to share personal information some people feel that the number of telemarketing calls they receive goes up after signing up with MagicJack.

Once you install the MagicJack software there's no easy way to uninstall it, especially from Windows where a manual uninstall process involves editing your computer's registry.

"Spot Cool Stuff" says:
"We don't think MagicJack is a scam. We also think there's some merit to their critics' arguments."


Skype: www.skype.com
The Skype software is easy to uninstall, does not display ads and does not collect personal information about your phone calls. The company also has a very active forum on its site. Customer service is conducted by live chat and through support requests; it can sometimes take more than 24 hours to hear back from a request.

Free Skype-to-Skype calls to your iPhone. Skype Wi-Fi ® phones are available for ($26-$180)

See: Skype Video Responsiveness to Bandwidth Variations (pdf)
Skype Forums


Onesuite:
Onesuite

Uses standard SIP call setup
How OneSuite Communication Works - YouTube
  OneSuite dialer for iPhone, Android, Blackberry
  Softphone from Portsip to work with onesuite

Others:
sipgate
ekiga
- Google Voice
- Chat, Instant Messaging


Terms:
  • ADSL - Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line - A type of DSL that has higher download speeds and slower upload speeds. ADSL supports data rate of 1.5 MBPS to 9 MBPS when receiving data (downstream) and 16 to 440 KBPS when sending data over internet (upstream). See DSL below. and Data Communications Interfaces
  • ATA - Analog Telephone Adaptor is a handset-to-Ethernet adaptor that turns traditional telephone devices into IP devices. The Vonage Telephone Adapter is a type of ATA.
  • CATV - Originally referred to Community Antenna Television from the early 50's when an antenna was shared by multiple households by routing TV signals over 75 Ohm coaxial cable. It still uses 75 ohm cable but signals come from a head office which gets digital signals from various video sources as well as the Internet.
  • Codec - coder-decoder - A hardware circuit that performs analog-to-digital conversion (ADC) and digital-to-analog (DAC) conversion. (e.g. the telephone adapter)
    Also - compressor-decompressor - software that compresses digital audio or video streams.
  • DECT or Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications. European cordless phones. DECT 6.0 can be used in the US on the 1.9GHz band.
  • Dialup - Computer communications using modems connected to regular voice telephone lines for data speeds up to 56Kbs.
  • Dial Around services bypass traditional long distance carriers (AT&T, MCI, Sprint) you would get with direct dial services by using special access codes e.g. 10-10 or 800 numbers.
  • DSL - Digital Subscriber Line. Allows data to be transmitted at much higher rates over the unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wiring going from phone company central offices to most homes buy using digital technology. It can get speeds 30 times faster than modems which converted signals from to digital to analogue for transmission over the phone network. See ADSL, HDSL, VDSL, DSL-Lite FAQ at European Telework Online. See Data Communications Interfaces.
  • DTMF - Dial Tone Multi-Frequency. This is what lets you type in numbers to an automated service, when you are asked to push "1 - for one option, "2 - for another
  • ETSI - European Telecommunications Standards Institute
  • FiOS Verizon Fiber-Optic Network providing fiber to the home with TV, Internet and Phone service.
  • IP - Internet Protocol - one of a set of specifications defining how data is transmitted over the Internet
  • IPTV - Internet Protocol TV (TV over the Internet)
  • ISP - Internet Service Provider - Originally dial-up companies like AOL and Earthlink, now broadband services are typically offered by cable TV and Telephone Companies.
  • IXC - Interexchange Carrier - Long Distance Company
  • LEC - Local Exchange Carrier - Local telephone company
  • Modem (Modulator-Demodulator) - Converts the digital output of the computer to analogue form for transmission over the voice telephone network and back into digital form at the other end for use by the computer.
  • ONT - Optical Network Terminal (optical modem)
  • PSAP - Public safety answering point - Place where your 911 calls are answered.
  • PSTN - Public Switched Telephone Network - Originally a network of fixed-line analog telephone systems, the PSTN is now almost entirely digital between telephone switches and only used analog on the last leg to your home and in Fiber to the home (FTTH) services such as Verizon FiOS it is digital to your home. It now includes mobile as well as fixed telephones with dedicated wiring to your home or office. It usually requires you to use Long Distance phone company to make calls out of your local area, although more phone companies are bundling long distance with basic service.
  • SIP - Session Initiation Protocol - Widely used for setting up and tearing down multimedia communication sessions such as voice and video calls over the Internet.
  • SMS - Short Message Service - Text messages to cellphones
  • UTP - Unshielded twisted pair - Standard telephone wiring consists of 2 twisted pairs with 4-pin modular (RJ-11) connectors, Ethernet Category 5 (Cat 5) cable consists of 4 twisted pairs with 8-pin modular connectors - 8P8C (often incorrectly referred to as RJ45).
  • Telephone Adapter - (ATA) Device which connects standard telephones to IP
  • VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol. Services that digitize your voice and break it into IP data packets for transmission over the Internet or other data networks.
  • VIP - Comcast/Optonline's VoIP service.

Links:
VoIP Providers - VoIP Reviews - at VoIPReview.org
CNET review
VoIPChoices.com
Vonage.com
MagicJack.com
Skype.com
Understanding VoIP - VoIP Protocols
Google Voice -- Compelling phone service trumps Skype for Boomers and Seniors | Aging In Place Technology Watch
Maine Public Advocate: Telephone Service: Ratewatcher Guide
Best international telephone service for your Vacation Rental - MyVRZone

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last updated 5 Feb 2012