How Do I Hook Up... my digital phone service (Vonage)? Newsletter Signup
April 12th, 2008 by Joe Chianese

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Hook up Vonage and other Digital Phone Service

The first thing you should be aware of when setting up VoIP in your home is a telephone adapter. Also known as a TA, a telephone adapter acts to convert the traditional analog voice signal (your voice) digital signal over the internet. Eventually, it pops up at a gateway that is connected to the traditional PSTN network. The signal is then converted back to analog by the gateway so it can traverse the copper wires and end up coming out someone's analog phone. This chain of events happens in reverse for audio coming from an analog source to a digital phone service. In short, you end up sending a digital signal out when you make a call over the internet that will eventually be converted to analog. On the flip side, if you receive a digital voice signal over the internet, it will be converted back to analog by your TA so that you hear a voice when you pick up your phone.

Regardless of how VoIP works, you just need to be able to make it work for you, right? Right. So let's get everything connected.

Hooking up Vonage

I'm intimately familiar with Vonage service. Naturally, that's what I'm going to help you hook up. Other voice services are very similar. If you get it from your cable or DSL provider, your TA will actually be integrated into your cable or DSL modem, whereas Vonage sends you a separate terminal adapter (NOT to be confused with a modem).

Depending on which terminal adapter you receive from Vonage, it may be a standalone unit that only serves the purpose of converting your voice signal between digital and analog, or it could be a multi-purpose unit that may also be a broadband router. By standalone, I mean you would plug it into your cable or DSL modem (or into a router). If you get a router model, you'll actually be able to hook a computer up to it (or four, depending on your model - some also have wireless capability for connecting your computers to the internet).

The scope of this How-To is going to cover just what's needed to connect VoIP, so hooking up computers to a router and things of that nature will not be explained in depth here.

Connect the Vonage Adapter

If you are ready to get connected, go ahead and grab your TA.

I'll assume your TA is not also a modem (thinking Vonage).

You're going to want to connect an ethernet cable from the WAN or internet port on your TA (typically colored blue). Ethernet cables are similar to phone cables but wider at the end. The other end of this ethernet cable needs to go to a router or a cable/DSL modem, depending on what you already have connected. If you have multiple computers connected to the internet, you're most likely using a router (to add more confusion: sometimes, your modem is also a router and will have 4 ports on it). The cable/DSL modem would be connected to it with an ethernet cable. Routers usually have 3 or 4 additional ethernet ports for connecting computers. You need to connect the ethernet cable from your TA to one of these ports on your router. Doesn't matter which one.

After you've done that, you can plug in the TA's power adapter and give it a few minutes to get set up. Once five minutes have gone by, connect a phone to the phone port labeled "Phone 1," which is typically the port your number is assigned to. Its important to realize that most terminal adapters (especially from Vonage) will only have 2 phone jacks on them - Phone 1 and Phone 2. Phone 2 will only have a dial tone if you have a second line of service with your VoIP provider. That means two telephone numbers, two lines of service. Otherwise, it won't do you any good!

Check and see if you have a dial tone. If all went well, you're ready to make calls! Note that the LED's on your device indicate whether or not it is online. Typically, the POWER light needs to be steady, as does Phone 1 (or Phone 2 as well if you have 2 lines). Ethernet and Internet may blink or stay steady at times but that's OK.

Connecting More than One Phone and Using Phone Jacks

VoIP is great, but not so much if you're limited to just one phone jack, right? Understandable. The easiest way around this would be a cordless phone system. You can buy a cordless base with one or two included handsets for about $50. Extra handsets usually run around $20-$30. A lot of these systems allow for up to 10 additional handsets. With this method, you just plug the base station into your TA and you're good to go - the expanded handsets just need a power outlet.

Otherwise, you'll want to use your home's existing wiring so that you can plug a phone into any phone jack in your house and use your VoIP service. That's what I did. Its not too difficult, but there are a few steps involved and dangers to avoid.

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