Tools Of The Trade: Linksys PAP2 broadband phone adaptor

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Internet telephony is the new big thing. As many as one in 10 Europeans have already made a phone call using voice over internet protocol (VoIP), and that figure is likely to grow as more households and businesses use broadband connections to make low-cost, or even free, calls.

The Vonage internet telephony service is not free, but costs £9.99 a month for unlimited calls to landlines in the UK and Ireland. It also works through hardware adaptors that connect regular phones to the broadband link, instead of relying on a PC and software.

Vonage offers two hardware options: a router and a phone adaptor, both made by Linksys. The adaptor, the PAP2, is offered free to Vonage subscribers and is a good option for anyone who can't, or would rather not, change their broadband router. As long as your existing hardware has a spare ethernet socket, it is simply a matter of plugging in the PAP2, plugging in an analogue handset and waiting a few minutes for the device to connect to the Vonage network.

The process is simple and quick and there is no need to use a computer: it is possible to set up the PAP2's more advanced features through the phone handset and a voice- response menu. Most users will not even need to do this, however, as the PAP2 works fine out of the box.

The PAP2 offers a good way to add additional phone lines in an office or at home. Each device can handle two lines, or support phone and fax.

As the PAP2 is an adaptor, it is also tolerant about where it sits on the network. Routers like to be plugged straight into the modem, but the PAP2 could connect directly to the router through an ethernet socket elsewhere in the building, or to a spare ethernet port on a wireless (WiFi) access point. You could even take it travelling, and still receive calls on a UK Vonage number overseas.

Its simplicity does have drawbacks for travellers, however. It cannot be used to connect a computer to the internet, unlike some other VoIP adaptors, and it only works directly with a wired connection, so there is no wireless option. Using the PAP2 in a hotel, for example, would mean carrying a router to share the connection between a PC and the PAP2, as well as packing a phone.

As a result, the regular traveller will probably find a software-based VoIP service more convenient. But for anyone who needs one or two extra phone lines and does not want to interfere with their existing internet hardware, the PAP2 and Vonage service is both easy to use and good value.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5.

PROS: easy to set up; works with existing internet connection equipment.

CONS: no PC port so of limited use to travellers; no wireless option.

PRICE: free; Vonage service from £9.99 a month.