© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Voice over Internet Protocol, or more commonly, VOIP, is a communications method of using the Internet to make and receive phone calls in much the same manner as traditional landlines offer. The difference is that you are using your Internet connection as your telephone connection to one of many providers of VOIP while using and not eliminating the phones already in your home. While VOIP is quite often used in business applications, this article will be concentrating more on residential use.
First you must decide what your needs are. Do you primarily make domestic calls or do you have family and friends in foreign countries? Perhaps you’ve rarely called outside the USA because of the cost factor, but would if affordable or even free? There are many providers of the VOIP service, but they’re not all the same when it comes to reliability, connection quality, cost, customer service, and optional convenience extras. They will all provide a special modem, but ask if it’s included or if you must purchase and/or fulfill a contract to be not charged for it.
(TIP: The speed of your Internet service plays a role in how many VOIP phone lines, not phones, you can have. This is why a business needs to evaluate if they should switch all lines to VOIP or perhaps limit themselves to one or two lines for long distance calls.)
There are two service providers that I highly recommend. The first is your local cable company. They probably already provide your Internet so the addition of VOIP can become part of a bundle offering at a minimal additional cost. They also offer in-house installation and 24/7 technical support. The down side could be limitations to “domestic calling only” without adding additional costs. Extended service areas are usually sold as an upsell and in blocks of minutes. Additional feature offerings vary and may be subject to additional charges too if they are even available.
(TIP: Some fax machines, especially older ones, may not work well with VOIP. Check with the manufacturer of the fax machine about compatibility. These days more people are using EFax thus making this a non-issue.)
(TIP: To maintain service when power outages occur it’s wise to add a small, inexpensive battery backup, UPS. Connecting your VOIP modem, Internet modem and router will keep you up and running during most power outages. Naturally, you should also connect the base stationmaster of your cordless phone system so they are operational too.)
(TIP: Connection to your prewired home phone system is simple. There normally is a master jack where your in-house phone system connects to the traditional landline provider. Disconnecting this and then connecting the VOIP modem activates all your home’s phones. Connections are all made with a common cable featuring RJ-11 plugs.)
(TIP: 911 calls may not register your location at the 911 call center.)
The second provider I recommend is Vonage. They provide the modem at no cost if you maintain the service with them. While they do not offer in-home technical service, they do offer 24/7 live technical support via phone, live chat or email with the installation being simple and quick. Since most technical issues are with your Internet service provider, problems with Vonage are minimal or non-existent. The communications quality and reliability is outstanding and what other providers consider optional cost extras Vonage includes. As new features become available they usually include them at no additional cost. One of the outstanding features is “Extensions”. Extensions is an App that works with most smartphones and allows you to make worldwide calls, save your domestic plan minutes and receive calls. Plus it includes caller ID while using your Vonage account. It puts your home phone on your smartphone worldwide at no additional cost. It also gives you the ability to accept calls from your home phone or to see who just called you there. Since you smartphone works on either a cell data plan or wi-fi, the possibilities are endless. Vonage allows two smartphones to use this app at no additional cost.
(TIP: When traveling out of the country you should avoid using the data side of your smartphone, as costs can be very high. Instead, hotspots, available in most cities and airports, work well at little or no cost. Also, the Vonage modem can be taken with you when you’re traveling providing phone service wherever you may be and with all the features. It’s great for vacation homes too! You can setup a Vonage account in other countries too.)
(TIP: Should you experience no apparent connection when using the Extension feature for outgoing calls on your smartphone, try airplane mode and turn on wi-fi. If that still does not work reverse these steps. Some wi-fi hotspots filter calling apps from working.)
VOIP is the way telecommunications is going. The day of the traditional phone company is quickly disappearing. Many have already abandoned such service in place of a mobile phone. However, there are many advantages of maintaining non-cell service as well and VOIP is a great cost saving choice.
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Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, make any legality of use claims, or endorse any of the products he reviews. His opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various news sources available to the author.