Netgear TA612V Broadband Voice Adapter review
This is shaping up to be the year when VoIP (Voice over IP) finally hits the mainstream. Instead of having to fiddle with irritating USB handsets attached to your PC, we’re at last seeing devices that plug straight into your broadband connection, so you can hook up any phone you like – great if you’ve got an old DECT handset. The latest to offer integrated VoIP is Netgear with the Broadband Voice Adapter, aka the TA612V.
The Netgear is designed to work in tandem with sipgate’s service. Just note that with no switch built-in, you’ll need to add another router or switch to share the connection between PCs. The rear of the device incorporates just four ports: a WAN port for your broadband modem, a LAN port for downstream devices and two RJ-11 phone connections, although there aren’t any markings to tell you which ports are which.
Fortunately, the instruction pamphlet is quite clear and explains how to hook up the TA612V to a single PC or a router. There’s no ADSL modem built-in, though, and if your existing wireless router has ADSL onboard you’ll be unable to use it with the Netgear. You’ll also have to diverge slightly from the suggested system if you need to use MAC address authentication with a cable modem, plugging the latter in last after you’ve set up spoofing on the TA612V. For an Ethernet ADSL modem, PPPoE authentication is supported.
Once the router itself has been set up, and your Internet connection is working again, your next step is to register for a sipgate account. Netgear has its own special area on the sipgate website (www.sipgate.co.uk), so when you’ve logged into your new account you simply need to enter the MAC address from the bottom of the TA612V to get things configured. The Online Wizard sets everything up for you, so the router will pick up the SIP settings automatically next time it’s rebooted. The process also credits you with 555 minutes of local calls. It takes quite a while, though, leaving us to wonder if something had malfunctioned. Sensibly, Netgear has included a warning card in the box, which says not to unplug anything while this is taking place.
Once it’s up and running, there’s little to distinguish the quality of the TA612V’s phone calls from a standard landline. The router itself has a fairly comprehensive set of features, including Quality of Service bandwidth allocation. However, this isn’t enabled by default and there’s insufficient online help for the novice to set it up. The stateful packet inspection firewall incorporates website blocking by keyword and service restriction, plus the usual port forwarding, triggering and DMZ capabilities. It can even send error notifications via email.
The best thing about the TA612V is that it’s designed to sit between your broadband modem and existing router, unlike most other VoIP products we’ve looked at so far. So if you already have a fully featured wireless broadband router, you can still use it and enjoy all the benefits of cheap telephony over the Internet, as long as your router doesn’t also house your ADSL modem.
It’s not perfect, but this time Netgear gets the balance just about right. With sipgate’s excellent service to back it up, the TA612V makes a great way to bring VoIP cost savings to your small office or home.