Recently Vonage one of the big names in the VoIP arena announced a deal with The Cloud in the UK to allow free access to all of their hotspots for the Vonage Wi-Fi phone. This piqued my interest, as with the phone, for the flat rate of Â£7.99 a month the phone allows you to make and receive phone calls for free to any UK land line number. Indeed the Wi-Fi phone can connect to any wireless network anywhere in the world and give you free calls to any UK land line.
Looking at the site, although it seemed like a good deal, aside from trips to Canada, where it could significantly cut the cost of phoning home, it didn’t give much of a price advantage over our existing long distance provider. However, on digging through the site a bit further, I found the Virtual Phone Number option on their list of additional features. What this provides is a second phone number for the account in any of the countries in which Vonage provides service, which includes Canada. So although it didn’t save us any money with outgoing calls to Canada, we could set up a phone number in Alberta, and then our friends and family in Canada could call us for at most the cost of a long distance call in Canada, rather than an international call.
A bit of background reading found that Vonage isn’t compatible with Sky boxes, so we couldn’t get rid of the BT line even if we were able to (the broadband connection goes over the BT line). Also a concern was that none of the Vonage hardware actually offers the fallback to a normal phone line that routers such as the Speedtouch 716 (emergency calls are still somewhat of an issue with VoIP, and of course unlike a normal phone, it won’t work if there is a power cut) which would have been a show stopper. However I found that since the Vonage configuration allows us to forward calls to our numbers to any other number, we could forward the calls on our Vonage numbers to our normal BT line at no extra cost, allowing us to carry on making use of the extensions in the house, stay within our Sky agreement, but still have a Canadian number. The only restriction would be that we would have to make outgoing calls on the Vonage phone rather than any of the others.
So with all of the issues addressed, we took the plunge, and now have an additional line with a Reading number, plus a Medicine Hat number in Canada. Beth’s parents gave the new number a try, and found that as well as saving them money, the call quality was much improved to, Beth’s Dad said it sounded like Beth was in the next room rather than thousands of miles away. The one irony though is that since we could only get Canadian numbers from a limited number of ranges in large towns and cities (Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer or Medicine Hat near Beth’s parents) it is still a non-local call for Beth’s parents to reach our Medicine Hat number. Indeed such are the confusions of phone costs, and the level of UK competition in the market now that their call from Jenner to Medicine Hat using the regular phone company still costs slightly more per minute than if we called them on our long distance provider from the UK! (Calls to Canada on both Vonage and Call18866 who we have been using up to now are only 2p per minute.)