Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hybrid VoIP/POTS phone shows potential

by Shawn Conaway on News.com

Mixing seemingly unrelated pieces and parts together can often yield exciting results. Take the guy who added a forked straw and a pair of beer cans to a baseball cap: Genius!

The new RTXPortal phone has potential to be one of those exciting results. Like Emeril Lagasse combining ingredients in the kitchen, RTX combined some ideas and BANG: A VoIP/landline hybrid phone is born.

According to RTX, the new phone is the first hybrid, Web-enabled cordless phone. It has myriad features, like a color screen that displays customizable Web content with news, local traffic, weather reports, buddy lists, calendar alarms, and instant messages. The ability to import a personal address book is particularly nice because you won't have to transcribe all your phone numbers as you might with many standard cell phones.

The implementation could be better. Saving cash with a small business or household VoIP phone is great, but you can't go more than 1,000 feet away from your home without the phone dropping calls. But RTX may have chosen to exploit the small business and home niche because if the phone supported cellular, it would be a BlackBerry.

A phone line and a broadband connection are needed to make the unit fully-functional. To use it, just hook up the PORTALphone base station to both a POTS (plain old telephone service) and to a broadband Internet connection. The PORTALphone supports up to six cordless handsets using SIP-based VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and standard landline telephony. You won't get all the benefits of the phone if you're like the many telecom customers who have traded their POTS line for a cell phone.

The phone can handle up to three simultaneous VoIP calls. It became generally available in the U.S. on Tuesday.

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