What is VoIP?
Chances are you’ve heard of VoIP, or “voice over Internet.” If not, you will soon, as major phone companies are now trying to get in on the action. Why? VoIP allows users to make phone calls using their high-speed Internet connection. This essentially translates into “free” long distance, or, depending on set-up, unlimited long distance for a low set price for the service. When using VoIP, the traditional phone company is left completely out of the loop–literally. The concept is much the same as email; for the price of an Internet connection and provider, you can send unlimited email messages.
VoIP is an affordable method for long distance calling, and depending on where you live, you may be able to transfer you current phone number to a VoIP system. VoIP is easy to use, and depending on the service and method you choose, installation can be as easy as downloading software or attaching an adaptor to your computer. For the most part, sounds exactly the same as with a traditional telephone line. If you are using VoIP and the other person is not, they will not know the difference.
Some areas do not yet have this availability, but it is still possible to transfer long distance only to VoIP–it just means that you’ll have a separate number for long distance calling. This may be a slight inconvenience, but the savings may offset the cost–it all depends on your needs. Also, some users report hearing an echo when using VoIP. There can also be a slight delay at the beginning of the call.
One primary issue regarding VoIP is the ability to dial out for emergencies. Some providers work to place 911 calls (by configuring your service), and some do not. If you will be replacing your landline or mobile completely with VoIP, this is something you will want to research before choosing a provider and service.
Is VoIP Right for Me?
Deciding to choose VoIP depends on your needs. If you make a large number of long distance calls, it may be well worth looking into. VoIP services are often much less expensive than traditional providers. When comparing VoIP to cell phone programs, it again depends on needs. Most VoIP packages are considerably less than cell phone unlimited calling plans, but of course, VoIP is not as flexible (yet) as far as portability and other features you may not want to give up on your cell plan.
How Do I Get Set-up for VoIP?
Technical requirements for VoIP depend on the service and method you choose to use. There are three types of VoIP options.
o ATA stands for analog telephone adaptor, and it’s very simple to use. You connect it to your computer or Internet connection, plug in a regular phone, and you’re ready to go! Providers such as Vonage and AT&T CallAdvantage use this option.
o IP phones are special phones that look like traditional phones, but they connect with an Ethernet connector. A similar phone in the works is one that operates with Wi-Fi, which means that when you take your laptop to the local coffee bar to access wireless Internet, you could also make a long distance call.
o Computer-to-computer is an easy way to use VoIP and long distance calls are free; you only pay for the software. To use this method, you will need to download and install the software and be equipped with a microphone, speakers, a sound card and a high-speed Internet connection such as DSL or cable. Aside from the software, the only fees are those for your monthly ISP.
You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection to use VoIP, such as DSL or Cable.
Most VoIP options are easy to install. Providers of ATA, for example, will usually send you the adaptor you need when you sign up for the service. If you have a standard Internet set-up, you should be able to easily install the adaptor and software yourself, and be on your way. The process is very simple and straightforward, and once installed, the service is immediate (no waiting 3-5 business days for your phone service!). Connecting an IP phone is equally easy, and computer-to-computer simply requires the downloading and installing of software.