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Introduction

AOL TotalTalk

AOL TotalTalk
Summary Broadband VOIP service from AOL. You do not need to be an AOL member
Update None
Pros • Easy to use web-based admin interface
Cons • No bandwidth use adjustment
• Unusable QoS feature in supplied router

Voice over IP (VoIP) is hot these days; it seems like a bit of a forgone conclusion that eventually all calls will travel over a TCP/IP network. I've toyed with VoIP using Skype and audio iChat on my laptop, but there's still something more appealing about having a real phone in your hand. Even at home, I feel a bit like a lunatic having a conservation with my computer.

And if that's not bad enough, I recall the time I found an open access point in the baggage claim area of Seattle's airport. Thinking I'd check in with my family while waiting for my luggage, I made an audio iChat call. So there I was in the noisy terminal, alternating between yelling at my laptop and holding the laptop speaker to my ear so I could hear - it wasn't a pretty sight. I was lucky the sky marshals didn't take me away for a little chat of their own...

A VoIP service that lets me use a standard phone and acts like a real phone service wouldn't have made my airport experience any better, but it might be a good fit into my house, while also shaving a few bucks off my monthly phone bill. In this review, I'll take a look at a VoIP offering from AOL that comes bundled with a combined router and access point from Netgear that allows use of a standard telephone. First I'll look at the router, then I'll try out the VoIP service.

Physically, NETGEAR's WGR615V resembles their other wireless router offerings - it's a slim silver box with rounded corners and a single antenna - but looking a bit closer reveals some differences. Two of the status LEDs on the front are labeled with telephone icons, and along with four Ethernet ports on the back, there were two RJ-11 ports (Figure 1). Another difference was a DB-9 connector covered with a plastic cap and a sticker : "Warning do not use". Oooo, that's interesting, I thought. I'll have to come back to that later.

NETGEAR WGR615V back panel

Figure 1: NETGEAR WGR615V back panel
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