Tools of the Trade: The Netgear voice router and Sipgate voiceover internet service

Competition between internet telephony services is driving call costs down to new levels. The services, aimed mostly at households and small businesses with broadband, can undercut the traditional carriers, such as BT and the cable companies, because they use the internet instead of a dedicated infra-structure.

Sipgate is an internet telephony service run by German company Indigo Networks. The service was first launched in the UK last autumn but Sipgate has been adding new hardware partners.

The Netgear TA612V router is the latest addition. The hardware supports two phone lines, and also provides firewall functions for connected computers. Unusually for a low-cost device, the Netgear router prioritises voice traffic, so that call quality does not suffer if the local network is congested.

Calls between Sipgate subscribers are free. Those to UK landlines cost 1.19 pence per minute, to the US 1.5 pence and to Germany 1.7 pence. Call time is cheaper if bought in bulk: 1,000 minutes a month costs £5.99.

There is no minimum subscription or monthly call allowance, making Sipgate cheap to set up and try out. The service also works with software-based phones, although heavy users will soon want to invest in dedicated hardware.

Setting up the Netgear router is a straightforward process. Sipgate recommends connecting the TA612V directly to a cable or DSL modem, and then connecting the computer to the router.

This will give the best quality, but in practice the hardware is happy enough with alternative network configurations. Netgear and Sipgate do recommend a minimum connection speed of 200kbps, however.

The quality for both Sipgate to landline and Sipgate to Sipgate calls is reasonable. There is a difference between conventional landline and Sipgate calls, but it is not enough to be a barrier to using the system.

The service also has the advantage of being "location independent": plug in the router at another site, and the same (geographical) phone number will ring there.

This makes the Netgear and Sipgate solution a good option for anyone who wants to add a second line at home, not least because there is no line rental and no charge for setting up the account or number. As long as you have enough bandwidth, the only additional costs are those for outbound calls. Sipgate's suggested phone, based on X-Lite software, also works well, although a good-quality headset is a useful add-on for softphone users.

Together, the Netgear voice router and Sipgate service make for a strong package. Sipgate does not have all the features, or the brand recognition, of Skype. But the ability to work with hardware routers and phones, rather than just software, makes it a more practical option for day-to-day business use. Call quality is not perfect, but at Sipgate's current prices, it is good enough.


Pros: straightforward set-up, reliable, low cost.

Cons: call quality still not perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Price: Netgear router £79; calls from 1.19 pence per minute.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before