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.

THE VERDICT

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.

Contact: www.sipgate.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us