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VoIP provider Vonage suffers outage

Some customers can't place calls for about an hour, underscoring risk of switching from a landline phone network.

Net phone service provider Vonage confirmed that it suffered its first outage in 18 months on Monday, blaming problems at partner Global Crossing.

But a Global Crossing representative said the company had investigated but found no problems involving "outages or routing issues on the Global Crossing network."

Customers could still receive calls, but a small percentage of Vonage's 200,000 total subscribers couldn't make outbound calls from around 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. PDT, at which time the problem was fixed, according to a Vonage representative.

The outage didn't sit well with at least one Vonage customer. Jay Ackerman was thinking about doing exactly what the company wants: dropping his traditional landline for Vonage's voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based service. Now, he said in an e-mail to CNET, he's not so sure.

"We discussed getting rid of our landline this weekend," he wrote after his phone service was restored. "We'll be holding off on that idea for now."

Vonage's Web site was knocked off the Internet during that time as well, because Global Crossing also hosts the site, according to a Vonage representative. Global Crossing had no immediate comment.

VoIP calls use the Internet rather than the heavily taxed traditional phone network. As a result, unlimited dialing plans are sometimes 80 percent cheaper than traditionally placed calls.

Although minor, the outage is a black eye for an industry that has worked hard to show that it's equal in reliability to the regular phone network. The incident underscores the risks of switching from the landline phone network, which, after a century of tinkering, claims 99.9 percent reliability.

VoIP requires a broadband connection; calls don't dial directly to 911; and if power to a home or office is lost, so is phone service.

Yet industry watcher Gartner believes that there will be a growing appetite for such services. The researcher predicts that VoIP will replace about 17 percent of North American phone lines by 2008.