October 30, 2005

VOIP versus Digital Phone

We recently moved, which meant losing the nice flat-fee telephone package that Sprint has ceased to offer. Uninterested in a return to the old $500 per month phone bills from SBC/AT&T, we turned to our ISP, TimeWarner.

On a side note, I'd recently discussed VOIP (telephone service over Internet lines) with an associate who has VOIP via his DSL provider but said he was not "in love with it yet". The problem was that it was set up so that Internet service was "first" (first call on the services, one supposes) — meaning that, if he were on the phone and tried to send a large file via email, his phone reception would break up somewhat. He suggested that we tell our service provider that the phone ought to take precedence.

As it turns out, what TimeWarner offers is not VOIP at all. I haven't looked into the technology in any more depth than to discover that it's digital phone but, aside from apparently being a different technology, what this seems to mean is that there is no sharing of the phone/Web service, no either/or scenario as would occur with DSL.

Once the TimeWarner guys set up their modem, the television, Internet and phone services come through the cable, and any phone jack in the house works. Pretty convenient. Cost-effective, too.

I'll also say that the sound is at least as good as regular telephone service. It does seem a little clearer (less noise) … but at least I can say it's not worse. :)

8 Comments to "VOIP versus Digital Phone"

  1. Rachel McKenna says:

    Dear Ms. Vigil,

    I work for a different cable company up in Canada and was very pleased to hear you're happy with your phone. I was looking through the internet as I often do, just curious what people think. I deal with the front and back end work, customers and source related issues alike.

    I don't know if you're interested in this information, but I wanted to help clarify for you or anyone reading this note the actual differences and why your friend was not crazy about it and you were, if that's okay ;c)

    There are actually 3 kinds of "VOIP". Very very very big differences. True "VOIP" are companies that send you this neat little IP phone, and are dirt cheap. Problem 1 – they rely on the internet to run, and you're right, the don't allot "bandwidth" so the internet takes first priority. It's not ACTUALLY with an ISP, but you can use it with any kind of internet you'd like (save dial-up!). The problem is that, it's almost like the phones you hookup to your computer to talk, so it relies soley on your internet connection. The main issue I see with this is that although you can take your number anywhere in the world with you – that's it's own downfall. Taking your number anywhere you'd like, means if you have an emergency they have no idea where you are. You are typically forwarded to a call centre with contacts or directs you to your 911 service. But if they can't hear or understand you, they can't help you. Kinda scary, actually.

    Most Cable providers work differently. I speak on behalf of "Digital Phone". The main differences are, there are usually battery backups for power outages. Downfall: if the hydro box (seperate from that powering your house) also goes down, powering your cable lines, you have no phone. If you blow a fuse are are down on your street, you should have phone. Common misconception. Secondly, your modem is locked down, meaning 911 automatically goes to your 911! Even if you can't speak, you can get help! And someimes if you have no dial tone even you can get to 911. This occurs if you've had a power outage and the 8 hours of battery backup is low. It'll save enough juice for an emergency call. Also, it has it's own bandwidth, completely seperate from your internet. So if you run lots and lots of files on your computer, or have a ton of viruses, etc, you won't ever see it reflected on your phone line! DSL if it's from your ISP also typically works this way, as it basically is run through the phone line.

    Hope it clarifies some things for you, and always keep in mind that even with any kind of phone, digital, regular plain old telephone, whatever you have, the best idea is to have a cell phone or some other alternative around as a lifeline ;c)

  2. Diane Vigil says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Rachel. That's very helpful.

    Yes, I have had the experience where the phone line goes out for a while. Or once the phone, Internet and cable TV went out (a very boring time for me!). It's extremely rare that any of it goes out, even temporarily — but, as you say, it's good to have an alternative (like a cell phone). You never know how dependent you are on these things until the service is interrupted. :)

  3. Michael says:

    I just got my new Time Warner Cable Digital Phone today 10/2/08. It's very very clear. Me and the wife were using Verizon, and our bill was like $80 a month.
    I would like to know though just what kind of VoIP TWC use's. I was trying to set up a softphone called X-Lite.. All I could get was a dial tone.. :) Here's my Email that I use on posting nords like this.. If any one knows what kind of Protocol TWC use's for their digital phone you may e-mail me at <email address deleted>.

    =====
    Michael, I edited your email address out, as posting it on websites will just garner loads of spam for you.

    And, in any case, it benefits everyone to be able to read all answers. If you'd like to keep up with the comments, just use the email subscription at the bottom of the comment boxes.

    ~Diane

  4. Diane Vigil says:

    My understanding is that TimeWarner uses digital phone which, it was explained to me by a TW tech, is different than VOIP.

    Perhaps TW support can help you with the softphone. For anyone else, here's a definition of softphone.

    Although, Michael, if you've got TW's digital phone service, couldn't you just use a regular phone? Or are you doing something more fancy than that? :)

  5. Vic says:

    I have had Cable service digital phone from Time Warner and Comcast, fiber optic one from AT&T Uverse (not all at the same address of-course) the best VoIP/Digital service I have used is from VONAGE. Their voice quality is as good as a land line. When I move I just have to take the phone adapter with me and plug it in @ the new location and I have a dial tone right away. I have taken it with me when I got posted overseas too. I can call home just like I would if I was within U.S and my family can call me whenever they fell like from their home or cell phone and not be charged international charges. Its a Wonderful service.

  6. Diane Vigil says:

    I agree — that is quite wonderful.

    We also have a Vonage account. However, there's one issue: if you happen to be uploading something while you're on the phone, your voice will break up until you stop uploading. For that reason, since I'm a web designer and am often uploading stuff, that's a problem. So we use the Vonage account as a second line.

    I will say that the feature where people can leave a voicemail message and Vonage emails the file to you (it plays in Windows Media Player on my computer) is also quite wonderful.

  7. Vic says:

    True that can happen when the bandwidth is not able to support both you online activity and the phone @ the same time. You can try reducing the bandwidth (you might have already done this)in your online account under FEATURES inside "Bandwidth Saver" keep it down all the way to 30 but due to the requirement of your profession your online activity has a big bandwidth requirement you can try upgrading your internet speeds (again you might already have the fastest available in your area).

  8. Diane Vigil says:

    Those are good tips. We have pretty high speeds here. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately), I need to have services that don't require me to make a choice between uploading and talking on the phone.

    Since the TimeWarner digital phone is not affected by uploading/downloading, that works well for us.

    Of course, when you move out of the area, you can't take the TimeWarner telephone number with you, so that's a not-so-good effect.

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