How do the Internet call waiting systems work?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on November 6, 2000

Question

How do the Internet call waiting systems work?

-Chip

Answer

This question was answered on November 6, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


Call waiting is a handy feature that will alert us of another caller while we are using the phone Most homes that have a single phone line must turn this feature off (*70) while accessing the Internet, because the tone that alerts you of a call can potentially knock you off-line This results in a busy signal for anyone that happens to be calling while you are on-line.

In the past, the most common solution to this problem was to pay the phone company for voice messaging services With this service, they would take the call when you were on-line and record it on their system You would then be notified that you had messages waiting by a rapid-fire dial tone the next time you picked up the phone This system did not alert you of a call at the time that it came in and relied on the “chance” method of getting messages in a timely manner In addition, this rapid-fire dial tone caused many an Internet user problems getting back on-line, because the computer’s modem could not acquire a solid dial tone (Clearing the messages or turning off the notification cures this problem.)

The need for a better solution has spawned a number of low-cost and free solutions that will notify you on your computer screen when someone is trying to call you during a surfing session and allow you to take the call or respond in some manner via your computer.

To take advantage of this new genre of services, you must install software on your computer and activate certain features on your phone line These services are generally referred to as CFB (Call Forwarding Busy) or CFNA (Call Forwarding No Answer) and a small monthly charge (usually around a dollar or so) will be incurred from your phone company Caller ID services must also be activated in order for the computer based services to identify callers.

The basic concept is to alert you of a call while you are on-line and give you several options for dealing with the caller including responding via a pre-determined message, send to another number (like a cell phone), take message or take the call and temporarily interrupt the Internet connection

The “free” companies put ad banners in your interface and charge for “enhanced” services For instance, the “Take Call” feature which allows you to pick up the phone and take a call in the middle of your surfing session may result in a per call or per minute charge because you are using the companies telecommunications system Responding to the caller with “I will call you right back” will be more cost effective and is offered by all of the systems.

Another side benefit to these services is that they can act as your primary answering machine, which is generally cheaper than the phone company solution and allows you to check your messages from the web or any telephone.

Here are is list of sites that are providing this service:

<a href="http://www.buzme.com "><font color="#003399">www.buzme.com </font></a> - Free ad sponsored service with optional pay service - $4.95 a month

<a href="http://www.callwave.com "><font color="#003399">www.callwave.com</font></a> - Free ad sponsored service – (very heavy on the ads!)

<a href="http://www.pagoo.com/cc.asp"><font color="#003399">www.pagoo.com</font></a> - extensive functionality - 30 day free trial - $3.95 a month

<a href="http://www.whoisit.com"><font color="#003399">www.whoisit.com</font></a> - Free basic service with pay-per-use advanced features

<a href="http://www.extremevoice.com"><font color="#003399">www.extremevoice.com</font></a>- Free lite version (can’t take calls) or $4.95 a month full version

Be sure the read the fine print and privacy statements for any of the services that you may want to use and remember, you must activate additional phone company based services in order to even test the products.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on November 6, 2000

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