If you haven’t heard of IP telephony, you’ve probably been hiding in a cave for the past couple of years. It looks like talking over the Internet is the communication method of the new millennium if the current explosion of Voice over IP (VoIP) products is anything to go by. VoIP does however have its downsides for the general consumer as you either need a very expensive handset or you have to use a headset connected to a PC.
For many of us, the PC/Headset route isn’t really a problem, but with the convenience of cordless phones now more common than not, it feels awkward to be tied down to one place when you talk to another person. Enter the Actiontec Internet Phone Wizard, the solution to this problem; well at least that’s what Actiontec want us to believe.
The Actiontec Internet Phone Wizard looks a little like an old fashioned dial-up modem. But don’t let the looks put you off, as this is the least important part of the Internet Phone Wizard and you can always hide it away. It connects to your PC via a standard USB interface and you don’t even need USB 2.0 as it will happily work on older USB 1.1 hardware. There’s also no need for a power adapter as this little box draws its power from the USB port, which reduces cable clutter to a degree.
Next you plug the Internet Phone Wizard in to your phone line and your phone in to it – UK adapters are supplied in the box, so it should work with any standard phone. Before you plug it into a USB port on your PC you have to install the drivers from the CD as well as the plug-in for Skype. This assumes that you already have Skype installed. It’s impossible to review the Internet Phone Wizard without mentioning Skype as the one doesn’t work without the other. In Skype you have to select the Internet Phone Wizard instead of your soundcard as the audio in and out device and then you’re ready to go.
The clever thing here is that you can still use your normal telephone to make and receive calls while you’re also using Skype. Skype has recently added “paid for” services that allow you to accept incoming calls and make outgoing calls. The incoming calls are only available in a few countries as yet, so make sure you check out the list before you presume it will work. This can however be handy for a business that needs a local number abroad for its customers, since they would only be charged the cost of a local call rather than an international call.
Skype’s call rates are also quite competitive, so you might actually be able to save money on your calls, not only by calling other Skype users, but also by calling landlines. As you can assign speed-dials in Skype, the Internet Phone Wizard allows you to use these in combination with your telephone handset. This means that you don’t have to be next to your PC to dial your Skype contacts. To place a call via Skype you press the # key twice to switch the mode of the phone and then the speed-dial for your Skype contact.