MOST BUILDERS COULD NOT care less about how voice traffic travels over the Internet. All they know is that many of their customers are asking if their new homes can run voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)—the new service that lets people make lower-cost local, long distance, and international calls over the Internet. But the sticking point is that many customers also want home security, and most security services still require a wired phone line.

Now, a new partnership between wireless security company and VoIP provider Vonage gives builders a way to offer VoIP service and home security in one bundled package. Since communicates with a central monitoring station over a wireless connection, no wired phone line is needed, which frees home buyers to opt for VoIP-only service.

Builders started offering the new service through their security dealers this spring. With the basic plan, Vonage customers get three months of service free. After that, rates for the service run from $24.95 to $39.95 per month.

Vonage's two basic residential calling plans are $14.99 per month for 500 minutes of local and long distance service in the United States and Canada and $24.99 per month for unlimited local and long distance. Rates for international calls vary, with some as inexpensive as three cents a minute for the United Kingdom and six cents a minute for Beijing.

Rusty Sollberger, owner of Atlanta-based Artisan Home Builders Group, is one builder who is offering the Vonage/ package through his security dealer. Sollberger, who built 12 homes last year and plans to build 45 this year, started partnering with a little less than a year ago when he was looking for a way to secure his houses before a phone line was installed. Typically, he puts in the system once the roof, windows, and doors are on. He then turns it over to the home buyers when they take possession.

“ lets me bring a security system to a house that does not have a phone yet,” Sollberger says, adding that being able to support VoIP lets him stay one step ahead of his more tech-savvy home buyers.

“The whole thing with VoIP just fell in our lap,” says Steve Trundle, CEO of, who explains that the two technologies are not dependent on one another. “We don't use a VoIP phone to communicate,” says Trundle. “We use wireless radio.” This means that if the broadband connection goes down, the security system still works. If the power goes out, the security system has a built-in backup battery that lasts for 24 hours. On the VoIP side, Vonage recommends that home buyers install an uninterruptible power supply to protect themselves in the event of a power outage.


Keep in mind, the Vonage/ offering is still very new. Some builders are moving forward a bit more gingerly than Artisan Home Builders. Pete Beucke, a senior vice president with Lennar Corp. in the San Francisco Bay area, says Lennar is not actively promoting VoIP but does offer as standard as part of its partnership with Best Buy.

“Having allows the flexibility with the customer so they can go with VoIP,” Beucke says. “As time passes and technology changes, we want to make sure we're creating that flexibility for our customers.” For now, he adds, Lennar salespeople talk about VoIP only when a customer asks about it.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.