Sunday, November 19, 2006

Vonage/Sunrocket Killer

Yesterday I was talking to couple of people at a party and like most desis they were going gaga over the prospect of saving money. The long and short of this story is that they were planning to use Vonage/Sunrocket to make calls to India and saving a lot of money. This is something I have been working on for sometime now and wanted to share with these friends and others who are reading these blog some ideas where you can avoid the Vonage/Sunrocket route and still save even more money. However like any other open-source, new technology you have to try it urself to realise its value

Having said that lets discuss why does somebody use VOnage/Sunrocket....
1. Obviously to save some hard earned dough and the opportunity for u to talk to ur parents and loved ones for hours together and giving ur mom the chance to check on her beloved at ungodly hours
2 It is a quick and easy solution , where you do not require a computer and a tech savvy indivudual to run it and also u do not have to schedule ur phone rituals around the whims of the Indian power gods
However for all these ease of use , the price is not exactly pocket change - from most research that I have done on the Indian broadband (dis)service u have to have the unlimited plan to make the phone calls make sense - any lesser plans and ur moms secret dosa recipe will sound like the Korean version of Oldboy. So lets jot down the cost involved for a Vonage service :-
  • unlimited data plan, price is Rs 900 per month ~ $20/month
  • Cost of Vonage: The cheapest plan comes to $15 + tax ~ $20 per month.
Total cost with Vonage : $40 per month.
This is an ongoing expense - when u are visiting India or when ur parents/in-laws/loved ones are skiing the Swiss Alps u have to pay the same $40 fee.

However the biggest problem with Vonage is ur tied to one phone number. If you call four numbers regularly u have to replicate the same system 4 times - ur cost $40*4 = $160/mo. This the main reason why I chose to debunk the Vonage/Sunrocket model and started tweaking with other VOIP options

There are 3 distinct options which I am going to enumerate, each being a little more difficult to set up than the one following it
1. The AU600 option.
In this option u do the following set up

- Your make a call from ur home phone - call intercepted by AU600 - routed to Skype on your computer(in US) ---> Calls Skype on destination computer (in India) ---> Call intercepted by AU600 ---> Forwards call to any telephone number

- Similarly friends in India call the telephone number that is tied to the AU600 in India ---> Call intercepted by AU600 ---> Connects to Skype on local computer ----> Forwards the call to any Skype account.- intercepted by AU600 - routed to your designated phone number in the US

- Of course, when AU600 intercepts a call, it prompts for a passcode. No passcode, no forwarding of calls.
The steps involved for this setup
1. You will need 2 AU600 box, one for India and one for US.
2. The PC @ both the side should be running Skype all the time.
3. You can configure US Skype to transfer the calls thru AU600 to any number in the US
4. You can configure India Skype to transfer the call to any landline number in India
Costs involved - the AU600 costs $40 so one time investment of $80.
YOu can buy the AU600 here - Buy AU600 here
The set up is also very nicely explained in the attached manual.
Because this set up is thru SKYPE u have to have the computer on all the time but because it is thru SKYPE this set up's voice quality is superb even in cheaper broadband plans. But I am still assuming you will be using the unlimited plan which is $20. So for a $20 expense you will get a skype getaway using which you can call any number. If its within your local area the additional expense will Re1/min.

2. The second option is using SPA3000 in India. This is a little more complicated in setting up but for this u do not require a computer so this way the Power gods are left to their own devices
For this setup u do the following
You need to set up an SPA3000 in India configured with a free incoming US phone number( read notes below) . YOu will also need to configure a Pap2 here in the US with the same service. When you will call India just dial the US number from anywhere, the SPA3000 will forward the call to the landline number attached to it and one will and get a dial-tone to that number in India and then you can dial any number.You can also setup the SPA3000 in a way that if anyone calls a landline number tied to the SPA3000 it forwards the call to another FWD number which is configured on the PAP2 tied to your home computer here in the US. All this is seamless. No intervention , no PC needed.
Options for services which have free incoming US number
1. Stanaphone
2. Voicestick
3. FWD( Free World Dialup) + some other service which provides a free DID and SIP forwarding.
The best place to get an SPA3000 or SPA3102 is you can pick and choose...I also saw the 3102 on
Once u have a Pap2 configured with the same service as this SPA3000 in India, there are no other expenses besides the montly broadband expenses. Plus u do not need a computer for all this

3. The most robust way to do this is using Asterix server and SPA3000. But thats a little complicated and need good Linux experience. I will keep that information for later days so that one can digest this information

And if you guys do not want to go thru any of these options and want to stick to something like please try stanacard. The rates are very good and the call quality exceptional and if you follow this link they will double your credit upto $20. So if you buy credits worth $20 you will be credited another $20 in your account. Here's the link
Free $20 bonus at Stanacard

More in my next post

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