can you hear me now?

One of the dilemmas Tom and I faced moving to a foreign country was how to stay connected to family and friends. We rely heavily on email; to that end our computer is ‘on’ most of the time.

Here in Merida, and on and around the peninsula we rely on cellphones, we don’t have a wired landline. Most of the time this is just fine, sometimes it would be nice to have one, but we just can’t justify the added expense of both the landline, AND cellphones. And we sure like to be able to make calls when out and about, plus it’s comforting to know help is just a call away if needed.

Our 2nd year here we purchased a Vonage phone system which gave us a USofA phone number; a Colorado exchange as that’s from where we thought most of our calls would come. Vonage is one of those VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocal) systems; there are many. It relies on an internet connection but doesn’t require your computer to be on. In our case we have a phone, a phone adapter, and a router to be able to connect both the phone and the computer to our cable modem. Over the years we have had to replace several adapters AND several routers. You can buy routers with built in phone adapters; we’ve replaced a few of them as well. These electronics are not cheap, and in most cases can not be purchased here in Mexico as VOIP phones are not sold here. Some sort of control exerted by phone system overlords….

Just recently we started experiencing issues once again with our Vonage phone. We started the standard routine of troubleshooting and found that the phone adapter this time is fine. There is apparently and suddenly some inability in communication between the phone adapter and the wireless router. The wireless router we have now is through CableMas who is our cable service provider. Seemed to make sense to use their equipment and then they bear the responsibility for maintenance and replacement as needed. We pulled out one of our old wireless routers and continued with our troubleshooting. It is indeed the CableMas wireless router.

I haven’t called CableMas yet but really need to as our current AND temporary system is complicated. Each time we want to use our ‘system’ the process is this, turn on the powerstrip that powers the router, phone adapter, and cable modem. We turn all these things off and on at the powerstrip to conserve energy; even turned off all those chargers and adapters pull current, and electricity is quite expensive down here, not to mention the horrible powersurges we have. Anyway, after those things all start powering up you have to press the reset button on the old router then wait again while all the pieces and parts connect and talk to each other. THEN you can turn on the computer, which happens to be connected to a separate and different powerstrip.

With the Old Linksys router connected our wireless network went missing. I think the network is still there, but only configured through the CableMas router. So currently both laptops need to be cabled to the router. Which means instead of me sitting at the dining room table connected wirelessly I am at a small tray table near enough to the router for the cable to reach.

And now to get on with my story – We have the lowest level of Vonage service, I think it’s $12US for 300minutes of talk time and add to that all the taxes and fees and we pay just a bit over 20USD per month. Well and add to that the cost of all those replacement electrical components…We rarely, if ever use more than about 100 minutes of time, most of out calls are Vonage to Vonage and with friends here in Merida! No cost against our minutes for calls Vonage to Vonage.

We’ve tried to get family and friends to connect using SKYPE, but they resist. We have SKYPE, and we’ve purchased minutes so that we can use SKYPE to make calls. We did this the last time we were having Vonage issues. The only down side is we don’t have a US number on which we can receive calls. With SKYPE we can purchase/rent a number for about 6USD per year, plus a plan which I think is what I’m going to do and ditch the Vonage. We can then receive calls; the only downside, if it is one is that the computer has to be on and we would have to be at the computer to talk. You can purchase phones and adapters for use with SKYPE, and yada yada, but that seems like exactly what we have now…more electronics to fail…

The computer Tom uses has built in speakers, microphone, and webcam, the one I use has speakers only so I’ll need to get a headset with microphone. Seems do-able.

Some people we know maintain their USofA cellphones and add an International plan to keep in touch with family and friends NOB, makes sense if you travel back and forth alot, I guess. We don’t. We live here fulltime and travel a bit around Mexico, but not so often to the USofA, so what to do, what to do….The Vonage is just so darn convenient, but dang the frustration and expense of all this equipment…


About Debi in Merida

I moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado USA to Merida, Yucatan, MX in January 2006. I love to read, garden, travel, and hang out with friends.
This entry was posted in Skype, Telcel, VOIP, Vonage. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to can you hear me now?

  1. We have used Broadvoice for about 4 years. It goes through the computer, uses a regular phone, and you need a “box” that you order from them. We pay $29.95 a month for unlimited minutes to 19 countries, without additional charge. It sounds like a land line. You can use any American phone number on it. It gives you two lines and you can adjust the ring, etc. etc.

  2. Donna G says:

    When we are in mexico I use magic Jack which is 90.00 US for 5 years with unlimited long distance. i have been using it for 3 years and it works great. Please check it out.

  3. Felipe says:

    I've used Skype for a couple of years to call above the Rio Bravo. I use the simplest layout. If I need to make a call, rare, I just plug in the headset to the computer. I have a U.S. number that takes messages in the, again rare, event somebody calls me. It will take messages no matter if the computer is on or not, and I can return the call. I use it almost exclusively for business matters like talking to a bank, etc. For my simple needs, it works great.

    In Mexico, I tote the cheapest TelCel jobbie available, buying time as needed which is, again, rare. I'm not a very communicative fellow. But I love Skype and the Mexican cheapo cell phone.

  4. suk says:

    Deb, Majic jack is answer. When y come to visit us, walter will be explain, he is the tech guy my house. Can't wait to see u. Walter took motorcycle trips for 2 weeks by himself during that time I am working my ass off, we are extremely busy but I made schedule just right for your visit anyway, he is in somewhere lousiana so he will be home tomorrow. I am so happy for him, what a guy with riding bike100F. Love, miss y & tom

  5. Nancy says:

    Hi Debi,

    Paul and I use Skype but there is a way around the “computer has to be on all the time” situation… if you have an ipod touch. Put the skype app on there, log in,and it works just like a regular phone.

    The first time it rang I was so surprised! Works like a charm though I wouldn't want to do a video call on it – they would see every pore on my face!

    We have the Skype US phone number option so we can put the number on our US bank account etc.

  6. Dan in NC says:

    Debbie, I am with Steve and Jonna – the Magicjack works great on my cheapo laptop, both when I visit SMA, and the UK or France. Since the”dongle” is powered off the USB port – no problems with the local power company! $20 bucks a year seems fairly reasonable to me! Since it is a US phone number, I usually schedule my calls thru email, then do the dialing myself – saving my friends even local calling co$ts!
    Dan in NC

  7. Barry and Jonna – Thanks for your input – it will help others looking for answers. Our problem isn't Cablemas, it works GREAT very few and minimal outages. I think our issues is caused by CFE and the power surges – you've both been here you know how our lights fade and brighten…Plays havoc with the electronics. We tried voltage regulators once and they kept powering off due to the surges, useless. We've tried talking to CFE, and they suggest we contact the neighbors to BUY a transformer….
    ah well – ….

  8. Jonna says:

    We're happy with Magic Jack after 3 years. You can connect any wireless phone to it, it doesn't need a special phone. The downside is that it has to stay connected to a computer and that computer has to be on for it to receive calls.

    We use an old laptop dedicated to it and that works for us. The cost works too, about $20 a year. I haven't had any problems with the sound quality however, that seems to depend more on the phone you connect to it than the service. We have 2 wireless phones connected to it and if they are out of range, it's a problem. These rock walls don't make it easy to use wireless devices.

    Also I use it a lot to call businesses or govt agencies in the US and that means 'push 2 for english' type requests, it is often easier for it to record those single digits after the phone is answered if you use the keyboard instead of the phone. It's all a tradeoff and what works for some would not work for others.

    We have Infinitum for internet and it includes 100 minutes to the US per month. We rarely use it and it wouldn't give folks in the US a local number to call us.

    Doesn't Cablemas now include a free landline phone with some foreign minutes in their internet package? I thought I saw that on an ad.

  9. Barry says:

    We use Telmex DSL for our internet access. Specifically we have Infinitum Acerques (1 meg DSL) which costs $260 mx per month. The modem that they provide at no extra cost has both wireless and Cat 5 connectivity. We use the wireless interface and are able to carry our laptop anywhere in the house and out onto the patio. We've tried both MagicJack and Skype with our DSL. MagicJack breaks up a lot, so we seldom use it anymore. Skype works wonderfully, both audio and video. I don't know if you could get Telmex DSL without a landline, but it might be worth a try.

  10. @~eric – there are lots of options, depends on how much research you want to do. majic jack, as steve mentions is another. I know several people with it and am slightly less than impressed with the sound quality. We've had good results with SKYPE to phones, although quite limited in our experience because we typically do have the Vonage.
    buena suerte!

    @steve, thanks for your input – every little bit helps!

  11. Steve Cotton says:

    I am not a big telephone user (maybe one call every other week to The States), so, I am not certain this helps much. But I have used MagicJack for over two years now. And it works great for me. I don't use the telephone connection. I just use the computer interface. No additional hassle. If a call comes in while I am not on the computer, it takes a message just like an answering machine.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi Debbie,

    We're researching this presently, for our first winter in Merida. It's so frustrating! My prepaid Go Phone is with AT&T, which I'm told works in Mexico, but at $1.10 per minute due to “roaming.” I can't seem to find a cheap plan that will enable easy contact for family to reach us.

    Thanks for addressing the issue. From your experience, I won't bother looking at Vonage.


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