Two approaches to VoIP - Skype vs. Vonage

Feature Comparison

Lower cost is nice, but if a VoIP service doesn't have the features you need, it won't be a bargain.

Table 3
compares the features available with the two services. The Skype features include those in basic Skype, plus SkypeOut and SkypeIn. The Vonage features are the base set found in all of their plans.

General Vonage Skype
Analog telephone device provided Yes No. Optional
Incoming call rate centers covered,
(i.e. local number availability)
>2000 in US >1500 in US
Protocol(s) supported SIP Skype proprietary
Codec(s) supported G.711, G.726, G.723 iLBC
Encrypted calls No Yes
Local Number Portability (LNP) Yes Yes
Basic Features Vonage Skype
Call forwarding Yes No
International Call Forwarding No No
Caller ID by number Yes Limited
Caller ID by name Yes Limited
Call-waiting Yes Yes
Call-waiting caller ID Yes Limited
Disable call waiting Yes Yes
Distinctive Ringing No Yes
Repeat dialing Yes No
Return Dial Yes No
Three-way calling Yes Yes (4-way supported)
Advanced Features Vonage Skype
Call Transfer Yes No
Simultaneous ringing Yes No
Sequential ringing Yes No
Softphone Support Yes (extra charge) Yes
Fax support Yes (extra charge) No
Voice Mail Vonage Skype
Voicemail available? Yes Yes
Retrieve from telephone handset Yes No
Retrieve via web interface Yes Yes
Receive via email Yes via Voicemail Attachment feature No
Web Management Vonage Skype
Modify basic/advanced features Yes Yes
Detailed call logs Yes Yes
Order/cancel features/services Yes Yes
Set default Codec used Yes No
Online address book Yes Yes
Click to call Yes Yes, from Contacts list
Web interface compatible with non IE browsers Yes Yes
Special Calling Vonage Skype
911 Emergency Calling Yes No
411 Information $0.99 per call No
Free in-network calls Yes Yes
Customer service Vonage Skype
Technical support via telephone Yes No
Technical support via email Yes Yes, via online form
Account management by telephone Yes No
Table 3: Feature Comparison

There are a few things worth mentioning that aren't included in the comparison chart, or that might not be readily apparent. The first is that there are currently no computer-free Skype options. So while options exist to use regular phones with Skype, all require USB connection to a computer running Skype. There are stand-alone Skype phones that have been announced by Motorola and BenQ, but they rely on a Wi-Fi connection and are smartphone / PDA-based.

Another consideration might be how each service handles emergency 911 calls. A recent ruling by the FCC (PDF link) mandated that VoIP service providers deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator as a standard part of the service. While Vonage is clearly moving to comply, it's not clear whether Skype will head in that direction, at least not to the extent that "replacement service" VoIP providers must.

On a more positive note for Skype is that all of Skype's messaging, both text and voice, is encrypted with 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). But VoIP encryption is a sticky subject, particularly in the U.S. due to its security concerns. So Vonage and most other commercial VoIP services are steering clear of it right now and run their networks without encryption.

Finally, note that Vonage lacks any of Skype's IM features, including the ability to see the status of someone you want to call and file transfer capability.

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