Traditional landline phone technology is becoming dated. It’s no surprise, then, that standard telephone companies have been losing customers who either switch exclusively to wireless cell phone plans, or who use alternative connections such as digital or VoIP broadband.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Also called broadband phone service, VoIP utilizes a high speed cable or DSL Internet connection to transmit sound. Although free computer-to-computer calling can be made online, various VoIP calling plans enable Internet subscribers to place and receive calls with a regular phone.
This means that VoIP phone service can effectively replace traditional landline service for residential and business customers.
How Does VoIP Phone Service Work?
VoIP phone service works by converting sound into data before sending it over the Internet, and then converting the data back into sound on the receiving end. Paid VoIP calling plans require that a standard touch tone phone be connected to a special adapter, which in turn is connected to the Internet.
Because only a portion of available Internet bandwidth is allocated for VoIP phone calls, normal Internet service is not interrupted. Slower DSL connections may affect voice quality, but most VoIP customers notice no difference between landline and VoIP calls.
Advantages of VoIP Phone Service – Portability and Affordable Calling
Portability might be the most significant advantage of VoIP phone service. A VoIP phone adapter can be taken almost anywhere in the world where there is high speed broadband Internet service, and used from that location to place and receive calls. There’s no need to change the phone number when moving unless a different area code is desired.
Affordable long distance and international calling is another key advantage of VoIP phone service. For a flat monthly fee, many basic plans offer unlimited domestic calls. Unlimited international calling may be available as an add-on feature.
Using VoIP Service Overseas
Affordability and portability combined offer special advantage to expatriates, students studying abroad, frequent travelers, international businesses and others who wish to remain connected by phone to their families and home countries. For example, an adapter with a U.S.- or Canada-based phone number can be brought to Europe, Africa, South America or elsewhere to make and receive North American phone calls without either party incurring international charges.
Similarly, one U.S.-based VoIP number can connect to another U.S.-based VoIP number as a domestic call, no matter where in the world the two adapters may be located. There are countries which do block VoIP, however, so check with an Internet provider in the destination country.
Choosing a VoIP Plan and VoIP Provider
The number of VoIP phone companies is growing – Vonage, Sunrocket, and Broadvoice are some of the more established services – and a variety of VoIP plans are available to residents and businesses. Basic plans often feature unlimited calls within North America, overseas calls to select countries, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, voice mail, and emergency 911 calling. Optional features might include international calling plans, fax numbers, second lines, virtual numbers, and visual voice mail.
When selecting a broadband phone company, compare features and costs among competitors, and look both online and in consumer electronic stores for promotions on adapters, combined adapter/routers, and calling plans. Also check on the availability of Verizon’s new FiOS service, which utilizes fiber optics Internet technology to offer VoIP service.
Lastly, read reviews and try to get consumer feedback before deciding not only on a provider and calling plan, but also to determine whether VoIP phone service will replace or simply supplement a traditional telephone landline.