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VoIP firm ties rebate deal to Wi-Fi router

Vonage and Cisco's Linksys have a new bundle: an 802.11g router and any of three Vonage plans.

Internet phone provider Vonage has teamed with Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, to spur the use of Net phone technology over the next generation of wireless networking gear.

Vonage now offers a $50 mail-in rebate on the Linksys WRT54GP2, which among other things is a wireless access point that connects at 54mbps, as well as an adapter for making Internet calls over a traditional home phone. The rebate is only available after 90 days of Vonage service. The Linksys device also contains a switch and a router for sharing Net access among four devices.

The Linksys device costs about $130 before the rebate. Vonage service plans start at $15 per month for unlimited local calling. Unlimited local and long-distance service costs $30 a month and is the company's most popular plan. Vonage has 250,000 subscribers.

This is the first time Vonage has partnered to market its Net phone service alongside wireless networking equipment that uses 802.11g, a standard that is compatible with and five times faster than its cousin, the widely adopted 802.11b standard. The move offers little surprise: 802.11g is expected to supplant 802.11b. Meanwhile, Vonage and other providers of Internet phone services say that, as the speed of any network increases, so does the quality of the Internet phone-calling experience.

Net phone plans are typically cheaper than those offered through the local phone company. That's because Internet phone calls don't travel over the heavily taxed and regulated traditional phone networks; rather, they are broken into bits of data and addressed using Internet Protocol, the backbone of the Internet. Many providers, such as Vonage, provide service that uses the Internet, which can degrade the calls' quality. The other variety of provider sends calls over privately owned IP networks.

Also Monday, Vonage competitor CallVantage said its plans and hardware are now available through