Monday, July 11, 2005



I took the covered wagon from Minneapolis up to Fargo, North Dakota (it was a DC9 actually, a bit late and very hot as it was 90 °F and sunny).

After visiting Walmart - 8pm on a Sunday - BestBuy, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot and finally Radio Shack (Tandy as was in the UK) I accumulated enough bits of wire to power and connect my BT Broadband Voice box (Cisco ATA186). I am connecting the laptop wirelessly to the hotel hi-speed internet and a crossover ethernet cable connects to the ATA186. The laptop is on an external IP address and the ATA gets a 192.168.0.x address from the laptop. I took a photo but seem to need yet another bit of wire to get it onto the laptop - there is no GPRS signal for the Treo600 to email me the photo it took. Watch this space. Picture here shows laptop on left connected by crossover cable to ATA in centre with hotel phone on right. Can't get the in-line image upload to work :(

The system works a treat, I accidentally called someone in the UK at 03:30 (woops) but then saved an arm and a leg by collecting my mobile voicemail at BT's offpeak Orange rate of 11.4p/minute rather than making a roaming Orange call at £1/min or whatever.

This was my first "hotspot" experiment - how to hook a dumb ATA up to a service that requires authentication via a web page. The laptop handled the authentication and hid the ATA from the hotspot - but how would you do this with an 802.11b SIP phone ??

I phoned across town via the UK to my friend in Fargo who has cable internet and a Vonage VoIP service (2 lines) with no analogue phoneline. There was a marginal delay but not the sort that makes conversation difficult. His ATA is the Linksys PAP2 but locked down to the Vonage service.

In Best Buy there were several routers or ATAs on offer with bundled VoIP service. Generally you get a mail-in rebate or account credit equal to the hardware cost when you sign up for the service. The kit included ATAs and routers with VoIP phone ports in both wired and wireless flavours.

Clearly the market focus is on getting cable internet users (the vast majority) to use VoIP in preference to analogue PSTN phone lines. The monthly cost is much lower and a bundle of services like voicemail are included for free.


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