I’ve been thinking about it literally for years, and I don’t know what finally made me do it, but I finally signed up for VOIP service. I chose Vonage, just because they seemed biggest, best known, and least likely to simply vanish overnight like Sunrocket did a couple years ago.
I’ve been pretty happy with my home network set up, particularly with DD-WRT providing lots of nifty stuff on my gateway router. So I didn’t want to screw with that by adding VOIP. Fortunately, while Vonage prefers the adapter between the cable modem and the router, they do support putting the phone adapter behind the router.
The shipping confirmation email from Vonage very helpfully included the MAC address of the VOIP adapter, so I was able to get my router configured way ahead of time.
I started by giving the adapter a static DHCP lease. This is trivial to set up in DD-WRT. Administration -> Services:
I am not really doing any advanced firewalling on the router, so I didn’t have to do anything special for outgoing connections. But Vonage requires incoming ports 10000-20000 forwarded to the adapter. That is also trivial to set up in DD-WRT. Applications & Gaming -> Port Range Forwarding:
With this setup, I plugged in the adapter and it just worked(tm).
The most important thing to me was 911 service. Vonage offers E911 in my neighborhood. I called up the regular police phone number and was told the only to test is to just dial 911. I don’t know if it’s this way everywhere, so you’d better not take my word for it.
It was actually sort of freaky to dial 911. You just immediately say “This is not an emergency, I’m testing my VOIP”. The emergency dispatcher’s system had already popped up with my name and address, just as promised by Vonage.
A POTS line works fine during a power outage, but what about VOIP? I have my cable modem, routers and voip adapter all on a UPS. Coincidentally, I was working at the house about a week earlier, when there was a power hit long enough to freak out my TiVo and other devices in the house. But my Comcast broadband stayed up through it, so I feel pretty good about my ability to use the phone during an outage. Again, I have no idea if this is common, so don’t come running to me if yours doesn’t work that way.
The last thing I was interested in testing was if I could get voice traffic prioritized on the WAN connection. DD-WRT has some handy Quality of Service settings, and there are a variety of pages out on teh interwebs with instructions for setting it up. In the end, I just took some conservative guesses, exempting the VOIP adapter from throttling and setting bittorrent to bulk. Applications & Gaming -> QoS:
I then downloaded an Ubuntu ISO image, getting 200-300KBps down; a bit slower than normal, but for me, still a totally acceptable transfer rate. The voice quality was still good.
So everything looked good, but I was still interested in testing the quality and usability for a bit before committing to port our phone number from Qwest to Vonage. If you port at signup it’s free, but costs an extra $10 to do later, but I figured the testing was worth it.
I now have the cordless phone system on the VOIP, and put an answering machine on the old number’s line. So incoming calls are inconvenient, but outgoing calls would most often be over VOIP.
We lived with that for a couple days, and everything was just fine, so I kicked off the number porting process. The number port went right through, and it’s scheduled, but I have no idea why there’s a 10 day lead time for the switch even after all the approvals have gone through. I’m guessing that’s Qwest’s fault.