As you may know from following Mr. Gadget, I think Internet Telephony is ready for prime time.  Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, as it’s known, is getting better and better, and this new video offering from Packet8 (parent company 8×8, Inc.) is an example of what can be done, even beyond standard phone calling.

First, you will need broadband Internet service, either DSL or a Cable Modem from your cable TV company, providing the high-speed Internet experience that is so common today.  Once you’ve got the speed, you can do more, which I have been testing in the form of this video service.  What better way to keep in touch than with sound and video that really works well.  I just plugged it in to my broadband router!  No other equipment is needed.

The phone can be used with or without the video functionality.  With a good, solid high-speed connection, it looks like true video quality, at up to a full 30 frames per second, but in my tests, this is the exception and not the rule.  In order to get that true “video” quality, your broadband would have to be industrial-strength. However, it is very watchable over my 3Mbps SBC DSL.  Of course, it also depends upon the other end’s connection speed, as the service defaults to the LOWEST of the two.

The phone also features audio and video inputs so a second camera and the supplied conference microphone can be used.  Speakerphone quality is very good, too! You can even plug in and play tapes from a camcorder, images from a digital camera or VCR to the person with one of these on the other end.   Think of the possibilities. This is powerful stuff!  Just look at all you get and all you can do.  Now, think about how you could use a pair of these with relatives in far off places, almost anywhere in the world.

You may use your Packet8 Video Phone as a replacement to your existing phone service or as a second line.  You can even keep your old phone number.  Included are all the features you would get from your regular phone company, and more.

In my testing, I first had to get a problem with my broadband fixed.  It was a mess and very slow, but finally SBC stepped up to the plate and fixed it.  Now, the Packet8 video phones work great.  Video and sound are spectacular!  This service is excellent.

Obviously, it takes two to tango. Recently, the price of entry has come waaaaaay down!  Each phone is now just $99 and unlimited local and long distance voice-only calls to any number in the U.S and Canada is only $19.95, both of which, I think, are fabulous for what you get!  Calls to another Packet8 Video Phone anywhere in the world are FREE!

How can YOU use a Packet8 Video Phone?  Here are some thought starters for you to ponder.  It’s the next best thing to being there, with family and friends every day and on special occasions.   For businesses, it’s the least expensive, most cost-effective way to have face-to-face meetings with clients and co-workers worldwide, and for telecommuting as well as presenting pre-recorded materials.  There are even surveillance applications.

Here is one way I have been enjoying my pair:  I set up my cousins who live about 7500 miles away with one of these.  They unboxed it, plugged in the power cord (with the plug adapter I sent – the voltage adapter handles up to 240 volts), connected the Ethernet cable to their broadband, and in about one minute, they had dial tone and called me!  That, dear friends, was awesome!  Not only hearing them but seeing them all was heart warming and thrilling. And, as an added bonus, they now have a phone with a LOCAL southern California area code for their U.S. friends to call, and they can call anywhere back home for FREE!  That’s saving them over $100 per month, and sometimes much more.  The long distance rates to call other local countries is also cheaper from that phone than from their own home phone.

So, now is the perfect time to think color, think video, and think ridiculously cheap for an Internet-based videophone that in all my most recent tests works just great.

More information is here.

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