I am late when it comes to VoIP – or perhaps too early. I used an early VoIP solution based on H.323 years ago (let’s just say it was before 2000) over a dial-up connection and the experience was not good enough to make me want to use a VoIP solution for my daily needs. On top of that not many of my friends had the software and there was no affordable service to allow calls from a computer to PSTN.
Enters Skype. The service has appeal, and lots of people use it. I mean, millions of people are registered, and millions are online at any time. And this includes friends and family members.
Skype includes the SkypeOut, a prepaid service that allows users to place calls from a PC to any PSTN terminal (fixed or mobile), and SkypeIn, a service that assigns a phone number to a user’s account. Granted, not the first one to offer this kind of service (Stanaphone is an example of other service), but it is proving one of the most popular.
But still, I could not accept having to be tied to a PC to place or receive phone calls. The solution came as the Cordless DUALPhone, made by RTX Products, a Danish company.
This is a cordless handset based on the DECT standard, and it will work with a standard fixed line – in New Zealand it actually comes with the Telepermit stamp from Telecom New Zealand, a seal of approval required to allow handsets to be connected to the local network.
It will also work with your Skype account, when connected to a PC USB port, and will allow access to most of the functionality (calls to other PC, SkypeOut and SkypeIn, Status change) available from the client running on that computer.
The software installation is simple, and is basically the drivers. Talking to the local distributor I was told to download the latest program from the DUALPhone website, which was quick and easy.
Physical installation is also very easy, mainly three steps: plug power cord, plug landline cord, plug USB adapter.
Once the USB adapter is connected, the DUALPhone program on your PC will identify the firmware running on the phone and on its base station and update these as required.
A note: the DUALPhone program does not need to be running. It is actually just an interface used to configure basic settings like Country Code and to check the firmware version on the handset, with everything else running behind the scenes.
Using the phone is very simple. The backlit B/W LCD shows current date, time and status. It also show other messages – for example when someone in your Skype list comes on-line it will show name and status on this LCD – even if you have the handset with you in another room, or anywhere providing you are in the range of the cordless base station.
To place a call using the fixed phone line we need only to enter the number and press the [Green] button. Or select a name from the phonebook, which can store 200 names.
To place a call using Skype, we press the [Green PC] button (yes, it has two green buttons). This will show the list of Skype contacts currently on-line. Scroll through the list using the up and down arrows and click OK to initiate a Skype call.
Placing a SkypeOut call is easy too: enter the number, but instead of using the [Green] button, we press the [Green PC] button. The call will then be connected through the SkypeOut service.
Voice quality in both cases is very good. The landline is perfectly good, similar to the quality I have on my current Panasonic DECT. The Skype quality will depend of course on your connection conditions, etc – in my case I use Skype on 10mbps cable-modem connection and the voice quality is good – even when downloading large files in the middle of a call.
The phone also offers other features we expect from a cordless, including a page button. The base station can be associated with multiple phones.
Calls are announced with distinct ringtones – different sounds for landline and Skype calls. The phone also provides Caller ID support (which must be enabled by your landline operator of course).
The phone is actually so good that I decided to purchase SkypeOut credits based on the quality of calls and ease of use. An interesting solution, and certainly something I will be using frequently.
Use it like a standard phone
Cordless with good range: 50m indoors, 300m outdoors
Change Skype status directly on handset
Lists on-line Skype contacts directly on handset
Phonebook should really synchronise with Microsoft Outlook or other PIM