Thursday, August 31, 2006

Using Vonage Overseas

I recently moved out of the United States and I needed to take care of two things in regards to my phone situation. I needed a way to retain my US phone number that I have been using for the past 10 years, and I needed a way for friends and relatives to call me without paying an arm and a leg. The best solution that I found was to use Vonage's Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service.

Vonage is an internet-based telephone service that allows you to get low cost phone service over an existing broadband connection. Basically, you connect a Vonage adapter to your existing router and then you plug a regular phone into their box. The adapter connects over the internet to one of their phone switches, which relays the audio to and from your phone.

Getting a traditional Vonage set up in a foreign country is a bit of a pain. If you follow the terms and conditions of their service, using their service is not allowed. I really don't think it's because they have a problem with people using their service in a foreign country. I think it is primarily because they don't want to have to deal with issues related to this set up from a customer service point of view.

I already had Vonage service in the US, so I figured it would be pretty easy to set up overseas. I contacted Vonage customer support and inquired about the voltage requirements of their adapter. My Vonage box has a 110 watt adapter, and my host country uses 220. Vonage does not have a 220 watt version of their device, so the customer support person suggested that I get a step down transformer. You can get these at Frys or Radio Shack for around $40. I got one, but it was much larger than I expected.

I was skeptical about getting this set up to work. I heard too many stories about fellow ex-patriates plugging in their 110 watt equipment and frying it beyond repair (even when using a step-down transformer).

Here's how to set it up:
  • Make sure your router is up and running and that you can connect to the internet from a connected computer.
  • Make sure you have a DHCP server running somewhere on the network. This is usually enabled by default on the router. This will allow your Vonage adapter to pick up an IP address and connect to the Vonage service.
  • Connect your step-down transformer to the wall, using the appropriate plug adapter (e.g. US to UK adapter). Make sure the main power is turned off.
  • Plug the Vonage device's AC adapter into the transformer.
  • Connect the Vonage adapter to your main router with a network cable. If the Vonage adapter is also a router, you can connect the "WAN" or "Internet" connection on the Vonage adpater to any regular port on your main router. You can also connect a regular port on your router to a regular port on the Vonage device if you have a crossover cable.
  • Plug your phone into the Vonage adapter's "Phone 1" port. In my case, I bought a UK phone, so I had to also use a UK to US phone adapter.
That's it! It's as easy as 1-2-3!

This set up is not a whole lot more complicated than a traditional Vonage set up. The only additional components are the US->UK plug adapter, the step-down transformer, and the UK->US phone adapter. After setting it up, however, I realized that this was much more complicated than it needed to be.

After setting up this monstrocity, I decided to go with Vonage's other product, the WiFi UTStarcom F1000. This is a WiFi enabled phone, which has a 220/110 watt charger, so I would be able to cut a lot out of the picture, including the Linksys adapter. After I recieve it, I'll be sure to post a review.


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