Receive phone calls while using dial-up Internet connection?, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

A little while back, a reader named Larry K. asked me if it was possible to answer phone calls while still maintaining a dial-up Internet connection.

Receive phone calls while using dial-up Internet connection?


" I use dial-up Internet, which is the *only* service available in my remote location. I am on call at my work, and my son will be home from University soon. Is there software / hardware / or some type of service available which can alert me of an incoming phone call when I'm online? I really don't want to purchase another phone line. "

When I initially published this question, I was also preparing to leave for vacation. My hope was to write a follow-up article after the break, but my hard drive crashed and I needed time to get re-organized. The good news is that I've received nearly 300 suggestions on this topic from our Readers! I was so overwhelmed with the response, that I've dedicate this entire newsletter to answering Larry's question.

I hope you all find it useful!

Without further adieu, here's a breakdown from the suggestions I received for Receiving phone calls while using a dial-up Internet connection:

  • 6% [18 users] recommended using v.92 56k modem + Call Waiting
  • 13% [38 users] recommended a Hardware Switch Board (Radio Shack)
  • 21% [62 users] recommended a Call Answering / Forwarding / Management Service (phone company)
  • 59% [176 users] recommended using an Internet-based Call Waiting Phone Alert Service

Now, let me briefly explain each of the findings.

Option #1: a v.92 56k modem + Call Waiting

Most of the newer dial-up 56k modems come equipped with a chipset standard, called the "v.92 standard". Infopackets Reader Joe B. explained how it all works:

" v.92 modems come with the option to place the Internet connection 'on hold', so that the user can take an incoming call. The catch is that the Internet Service Provider must also offer the v.92 service [and you need Call Waiting from your local phone company] in order for it to work. "

Cost: $25 ~ 50 for a decent v.92 modem + Call Waiting.

Option #2: a Hardware Switch Board

I made this suggestion Part 1 of this article, but couldn't remember the product name or if there were any restrictions. Luckily, Annie H. sent me this description of the Emerson Switchboard:

" Share one phone line for phone calls, fax and the internet: The Emerson Switchboard temporarily splits your phone signal into three separate lines (Computer, Phone, Fax). There's no software needed and no installation. The catch: Calls cannot last more than 20-30 seconds. It also requires Call Waiting from your local phone company. "

There were also many other Infopackets Readers who suggested a product called Catch-A-Call, which has similar restrictions. I believe either product can be purchased from a local electronics store, such as Radio Shack (or online).

Cost: about $40 ~ $50.

Option #3: Call Answering / Managing service offered by a local phone company

In this scenario, the call is either answered by the a telephone company's "answering machine" (Voice Mail) or forwarded (via Call Forward) to another phone, such as a Cell Phone.

Cost: about $5 per month, depending on your local phone company.

Option #4: Internet-based Call Waiting Phone Alert Services

This recommendation was the most popular, totaling 59% of all responses received. Internet Call Waiting Phone Alert Services will display a Window and show that there is an incoming call. Features vary, depending on service provider.

In a nutshell, here's how it works:

  • You are connected to the Internet via Dial-Up modem (phone).
  • There is an incoming call.
  • The Caller's identity is collected and forwarded to a central computer which is connected to the Internet.
  • The central computer forwards Caller ID to you via the Internet, and alerts you of an incoming call.
  • Depending on the service provider, a call can be answered, ignored, forwarded, or even sent a text-to-speech message on your behalf.

Side Note: All services require Call Forward On Busy from your local phone company. Based on feedback from readers, this cost may vary from around $.75 to $1.50 a month.

Out of the responses received in this category, the following companies were noted:

  • 2% [7 users] recommended Pagoo
  • 3% [8 users] recommended BuzzMe / RingCentral
  • 54% [161 users] recommended CallWave

Cost and Feature comparison breakdown

Continued in Part 3:

Receive phone calls while using dial-up Internet connection?, Part 3

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