Common Questions About VoIP

By: Amber Lowery

Unless you live in a bubble, you have probably been hearing allot of buzz lately about something called Voice Over IP (VoIP). Perhaps you have heard that you can use VoIP to get cheap or free long distance calling, even Internationally. The good news is that this is true!

VoIP, which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol is an exciting synergy between computers and telephony, but don't let that scare you. VoIP is just as easy to use as any ordinary telephone. So, you have heard the buzz and perhaps you are curious about taking the plunge and getting set up with VoIP service. Being so new, VoIP is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Help is here! In this article we will answer several common questions most people have about VoIP Service and help clear up the confusion about the technology and how it can work for you.

What Exactly is VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)? VoIP is a new technology that makes use of your broadband connection to route your telephone calls over the internet, rather than using the traditional analog telephone lines. This has proven to be a very efficient and cost effective way to place phone calls to anywhere in the world.

Who Can I call? This depends upon your service provider. There are a few different flavors of Voice Over IP Service. Most of the larger VoIP service providers you see advertised to the consumer market (such as Vonage, BlueSky, etc..) work just like your existing phone and enable you to call any phone, anywhere.

What's It Going To Cost? The cost for this service varies depending on the provider and the service plan you select. Currently, most service providers have plans that cost in the $10 - $25 monthly, which is considerably cheaper than ordinary phone service. Keep in mind that this service includes long distance calls. Usually, you can choose from several plans that vary in cost depending on the level of usage you desire. Most companies also offer an unlimited plan that includes unlimited long distance calls.

You will also be plesantly surprised to find that many services such as caller id, call forwarding, call waiting, three way calling, and even voice mail features often come standard with most VoIP plans. Another great benefit is that as it currently stands (in January 2006), the Government does not apply a tax to your VoIP service, unlike the additional taxes and fees that are applied to your standard phone bill. This can amount to a substantial savings alone, but this may only be a temporary benefit. As VoIP gains in popularity, it is more than likely that the Government will find a way to tax that as well.

Do I Need "Special Stuff"? This depends on the provider, once again. One thing that you must have is an always on broadband internet connection. This means DSL or Cable Internet, for home users. Depending on whom you get service with, you will likely have to connect just regular phone to an adapter, or maybe purchase a special phone to use with the service. Check for specials before you sign up, sometimes the equipment is given away for free to encourage you to sign up. Regardless, the investment in hardware for home users of VoIP is very minimal, if it costs you at all.

Can I call 911? You need to check with the provider to ensure that they do indeed provide this functionality. That said, in May 2005, the US Government ordered all interconnected VoIP Providers to provide 911 functionality to their subscribers.

Sounds... Too Good, What's the Catch? Well, there is a minor catch which is that if your internet goes out, so does your phone. This isn't usually too big of a problem, however as most modern broadband ISPs do a great job of maintaining reliable service.

Where Do I Find VoIP Providers? Usually, it is not important that you find a local provider just as long as the provider you choose is based in the same country. Therefore, the internet is a very valuable resource for finding and comparing VoIP providers.

Which one Do I choose? The VoIP provider that you choose is a personal choice, as they all tend to work slightly differently. What sounds the most feasible for your setup and usage requirements is the best choice for you. Do keep in mind that this is a rapidly maturing technology and that changes are occurring all the time. You will want to choose a company that you feel will be able to provide you reliable service in the future.

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