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What's new? Vonage? Who?

I won't bother arguing which is the best VOIP provider. The best provider is the one with the price, reliability, and features that you are happiest with.

All that aside, Vonage is a popular VOIP provider in Canada and the US. Their popularity is well earned. Part of Vonage's success is that they have focused on making it incredibly easy to sign up and use their service.

Vonage Setup: Get Started with Vonage in Five Easy Steps

How do you sign up? You can get started with Vonage in five easy steps. Linksys PAP2 Internet Telephone Adapter
  1. Get Your Vonage "kit"
  2. Sign up with a credit card on the Vonage web site
  3. Plug in your Vonage Kit
  4. Vonage Trouble Shooting Tips
  5. Settings

Step 1: Get Your Vonage Kit

There are a few places you can get your Vonage Kit. Wander into your local Radio Shack, Office Depot, Best Buy, or other local retail hotspot affiliated with Vonage and pick up a retail Vonage "kit".

After my *hassles with Bell Canada* I wanted to get another line going ASAP and didn't want to wait around. I picked up the Vonage Linksys PAP2 kit at my local Office Depot store.

Pet Peeve Alert

Unfortunately, many retail stores seem to train sales staff to wear blinders. At least that's my theory to explain why they don't seem to be able to see the customers franticly waving their hands trying to get some service. Those that do acknowledge your existence may not know any more about the products than you do.

So to minimize the hassle go find the Vonage kit yourself.

Find the Kit

Keep your eyes peeled for a for a "Linksys PAP2" box on a display table at the front of the store. Often they promote the Vonage adapter with an instant or mail in rebate. If the "Linksys PAP2" isn't on the display table look for the PAP2 box in the networking and router section of the store.

There may be other Vonage adapters, but the PAP2 is the only one I have actually seen myself. How do you know you have the right box? It should like the picture above and in the fine print it will say Vonage about a hundred times.

What about ordering the Vonage Kit online?

Yes, you can also order your Vonage kit online for those of you who don't want to leave the safety and comfort of the great indoors. In theory you'll get everything dropped at your doorstep a few days later.

What's in the Vonage Kit?

What's in the kit? You are really buying a Linksys PAP2 internet telephone adapter with all the trimmings. It comes with the following:

  • Linksys PAP2 Phone Adapter with 2-Ports for VOIP
  • One network cable
  • power adapter (in two pieces)
  • User's Guide
  • Documentation (Quick Installation Guide, Vonage Service Materials, User Guide)
  • Registration card

What's not in the Vonage Kit?

If you got the Linksys PAP2 kit you need to have a router. You still need a regular plain old telephone set. If you want caller id to work then you need a phone with caller id support (obviously).

What if I Don't Have a Router?

You could buy a Vonage kit with an integrated router instead of the PAP2. Or you can pick up a router. Routers are inexpensive. Pick one with an appropriate number of network ports and a warm comfy brand name you like best.

TECH NOTE: The PAP2 is Locked!

What's in a Name? The PAP2 is a re-branded Sepura product. Cisco licensed the technology from Sepura. Cisco owns Linksys and passed on the technology to Linksys. Cisco just bought Sepura so who knows what's next.

Tweaker Warning: Locked! So the PAP2 is equal to a Sepura? Nope. Your "Vonage" PAP2 router is LOCKED to the Vonage service! So you are unable to use this device with any other VOIP provider, or directly tweak it up to your own *Asterisk Phone System* for use as a local or remote phone extension.

Darn! It would have been nice to have easy access to a cheap off the shelf gizmo. Linksys supposedly sells an unlocked "NA" version of the router, but I have yet to see that sold anywhere.

2. Sign up with a credit card on the Vonage web site

I surfed over to Vonage's web site. Paranoia in hand I made sure I typed the web address correctly and that I was on a secure page before tossing my credit digits into the digital jungle.

I bought the most expensive business package. A whopping $69.00 + TAX per month. $80 after tax. This Includes:

  • Unlimited FREE calls to Canada and the US
  • A second FAX number with unlimited incoming fax and 500 minutes outgoing fax (additional outgoing at $0.049/minute)
  • Free forwarding of calls to anywhere in Canada and the US
  • Free voicemail (web/email)
  • Free transferring of calls to anywhere in Canada and the US
  • Ability to ring another line after X rings if you don't answer
  • An automatic 'call here if my Vonage line is down' feature
  • And 911 Emergency Calling support

3. Plug in your Vonage Kit

First plug in your Vonage router into the power outlet. Right about now you will realize that your power plug is in two pieces. Maybe someone at Linksys wanted to make one plug that would work with both North American and other outlets. However, you only get the connector for North America. Oh well. No big deal.

I plugged my PAP2 gizmo into the router. Attached a phone and waited. Be careful not to unplug the PAP2 for the first 10 minutes that you have it plugged in. When the PAP2 is first connected it downloads a firmware update over the web. If it's unplugged during this process "bad things" are rumoured to happen.

Everything went well for me. No bad voodoo. I plugged it in and a few minutes later my phone was working. I got a nice fresh dial tone courtesy of Vonage.

4. Vonage Trouble Shooting Tips

  • When you sign up be sure to write down your Vonage account number, login, and password and keep it somewhere safe!
  • Check your email after you signed up to make sure your credit card info was good. I was bitten by the keyboard gremlins and mistyped my credit card info. If his happens to you just log in and re-enter your credit card info.
  • Sign on to Vonage and check the status of your order.
  • Make sure DHCP is enabled on your router. Most routers should have DCP enabled by default. If not, just turn it on.
  • Make sure your router doesn't have any funky port forwarding or firewall settings that interfere with the PAP2 VOIP ports
  • The PAP2 router has two ports. Make sure your phone is plugged into the first port.

5. Settings

Log in to your account on the Vonage web site. Set up your call forwarding and network availability number. If your Vonage number is busy or not accessible you want to have these pointing to a regular land line or your cell phone.

You should also log in and configure your 911 emergency dialing. However there are a few issues with VOIP and 911 service. These issues aren't just Vonage issues but are issues with VOIP phone service providers in general.

Start Saving on long distance calls

Vonage is definitely cheaper than your local phone company. Now go pat yourself on the back and enjoy the savings. The call transfer feature can be used to help someone else get a free call as well.

We liked this idea so much we made it an option in our *Asterisk Phone system* for our offsite staff to use

In Conclusion

I picked up my Linksys PAP2, signed up online for an account. I had my new line up and running in under an hour. And that included driving around to pick up the Linksys PAP2 adapter and having to fix my sign up to correctly type in my credit card information. I blame the keyboard gremlins for the typos.

Vonage and Asterisk Integration

Two problems! First, the PAP2 is locked. Second, Vonage doesn't provide the information on directly hooking up our Asterisk phone system to Vonage as a SIP trunk.

To avoid these problems we had to do a bit of a hack. The "line 1" on the PAP2 box goes right into an incoming port on the Digium TDM22B card in the phone system. Essentially Vonage converts my line to SIP...sends it to the PAP2...which turns it back to analog...and then the Digium card turns it back to digital again. This seems to work well enough.

Vonage and Asterisk SIP

Others have claimed to get the Vonage "soft phone" working with Asterisk as a sip Trunk. However, the Vonage soft phone only has 500 minutes/month included. After the 500 minutes you start being charged $0.049/minute — even for local calls. At $12.99 a month the soft phone is an interesting option, but may not be practical in many cases.

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