Sometimes it is possible to see a trend coming so far ahead you are actually tapping your feet waiting for it to arrive and overtake everything. Voice over IP (VoIP) is such a development.
The concept behind VoIP is so simple it just smacks you in the face and screams out to be adopted: high quality calls over broadband internet. It is a technology that eliminates geography based costs - much like the Internet makes it irrelevant where a website is hosted – and brings the world one step closer together. (Hippy peace signs at the ready please)
The problem is making it simpler to use and more integrated into our lives and to this end we welcome the arrival of Actiontec’s Internet Phone Wizard. The IPW (?) is a small hardware device that enables regular phones to make and receive VoIP calls. Simple? Yes, but it is still the first time it has been done.
Of course, you can create a similar effect by buying a dedicated VoIP router. As we've tested before, there’s nothing wrong with them, but they are still pricey and nobody wants to bin a perfectly good router to get one. Then there are the VoIP handsets, again they’re fine, but we’d rather avoid the hassle of different handsets for different lines.
What’s more, the beauty of the IPW is that it allows the same phone to make regular and VoIP calls. Just plug the box into your PC and home phone, connect via Skype and your off. Should a regular call come in while you are nattering, just press the # key twice to put the first call on hold and pick up the second.
To make a regular phone call to someone who doesn’t have access to the Internet or hasn’t yet jumped on the Skype bandwagon, you can use the IPW to make a SkypeOut call to any phone anywhere in the world. Better still, SkypeOut charges at local rates, even if you’re calling overseas.
Actiontec guarantees that all calls are as clear as regular connections and assures us that no network configuration, change in firewall or router settings, or external power supply is required (all power comes from the USB port).
If the IPW can deliver on what it promises, then I gotta say we’re rather excited by it. We’ve arranged to get one into the labs for testing, so expect a full write up soon.
If you can’t wait you’ll be able to pick one up now from Actiontec’s UK website InternetPhoneWizard for just £39.95 including VAT, but really why would you buy anything without a TrustedReviews seal of approval first? :)