Choosing A VOIP Provider

By: Ron King

There are 2 basic VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) provideroptions: free services or paid providers that charge a monthlyfee. Making that choice depends on how you plan to use VOIP.

If you just want to chat with friends and family over theInternet, a free service may be adequate. If you're looking fora true alternative to normal phone service, however, consider aVOIP service with a paid package deal.

Package Choices

There are so many choices. To determine which is the bestservice for your money, you must decide which services you need,and whether you want to quit your existing telephone servicecompletely. Most VOIP providers offer package plans with freecalls to a designated geographical area. Nearly all providersoffer free call waiting, call display, and conference callservices.

Even though the basic package for a similar fee is the same withmost providers, there is a great rivalry between VOIP serviceproviders, with each striving to offer services that set themapart from their competitors. To make the right choice, you'llhave to check several packages to find the best for your needs.

For example, if you make a lot of overseas calls, a package thatincludes international calls makes sense. Or if you receive mostof your calls from a specific city, get a package that offers aspecific phone number that allows people to call you at thatlocal rate.

Service and reliability are other critical factors whenselecting a VOIP provider. This information is available fromreviews on the internet or by asking your friends whichproviders they use. One suggestion is to find a provideroffering a money-back guarantee.

Find out how much bandwidth is required for a particular VOIPservice. If the information is not available from the company'sweb site, send an e-mail to verify that your broadbandconnection is suitable for their VOIP service. Usually 128 kbpson the upload side is sufficient.

Problems

Emergency calls are 1 of the technical drawbacks with VOIP,because it's hard to determine your physical location on VOIPcalls. 911 calls may not be routed to the correct call center,and if they are, operators can't establish your location if youare unable to communicate. The Federal CommunicationsCommission, in the United States, is demanding that VOIP serviceproviders find a solution.

Providing phone service during a power outage is anothertechnical problem. Since VOIP requires electrical current tooperate modems, in a power outage the VOIP phone line goes dead.One solution is to use a computer with a battery backup. Anotheris an electrical generator to provides emergency householdelectricity.

Finally, you may want to retain your existing phone serviceafter signing up for VOIP. Not all providers offer this service,so if it's important, verify that ability in advance.

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