The Advantages of Internet Telephoning (and a Few Disadvantages)

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has quickly advanced from being a novelty to a full-fledged force in the communications marketplace. Weary from paying huge phone bills, households and businesses now enjoy the dramatic savings of Internet telephone. It’s not unusual to see residential phone bills cut by $20 to $50 or more per month by switching from traditional phone lines to VoIP, which transmits your voice calls via the Internet, the same way your email is sent. While a normal telephone service transforms your voice into electronic signals, which your phone converts to sound, while VoIP technology digitizes your voice as just another bit of data. Now the major phone companies, as well as cable operators provide VoIP services, offering inexpensive local and long distance plans. Most of these providers also include an array of features similar to those offered by traditional carriers, such as caller ID, call waiting and voice mail as well as additional features such as the ability to use your home or business phone number no matter where you travel.

Creating a Virtual Office
This transportability is one of VoIP’s most powerful advantages. Using VoIP, you can actually make local calls using your home telephone number, even if you’re on the other side of the globe. Landline carriers cannot offer this benefit. All you have to do is bring your VoIP adapter with you on your travels, connect to a cable or DSL model, plug in your phone, and you your voice will be transmitted via broadband access. Imagine being able to set up a virtual office anywhere in the world, while still using your regular business phone number!

VoIP Service – How it Stacks up with Traditional Landlines.

A Consumer Reports VoIP customer survey reveals that a majority (approximately 57-percent) of those questioned said that VoIP voice clarity is at least as good as what they’ve experienced over landlines. The remaining 43-percent reported that landlines provided better voice quality. The majority of those surveyed said that VoIP quality is superior to their cellular phones.

The Consumer Report survey also shows that cost reduction was the primary reason people are switching from landlines to Voice Over Internet Protocol. About 80-percent of those polled saved at least $20 a month using VoIP – 34-percent saved at least $40 a month. While international calling is not covered by flat-rate plans, they are much less expensive than landline calls. VoIP calling is so inexpensive because it’s not subject to all the taxes, surcharges and regulatory fees that increase your landline and cellular bills. But beware; the feds are weighing their options, so you might see some taxes and regulations on the horizon. Although the advantages of VoIP over landline service make it an attractive alternative for millions of consumers, it does have its disadvantages. You need a broadband Internet connection to use VoIP. You also need some basic computer know-how to install VoIP. Additionally, your VoIP phone service won’t work when you lose power or Internet access. And VoIP phones may be vulnerable to the threat of viruses and hackers (so far, this has not occurred, but the risk exists). Perhaps the biggest obstacle you’ll face when you use VoIP is difficulty obtaining emergency services via 9-1-1. Because VoIP providers aren’t required by regulation to offer 9-1-1 options, many don’t.

Following is a brief rundown of VoIP’s pros and cons:

VoIP Plusses

    Reduced Costs.

Unlimited calling plans are as inexpensive as $25 a month, and you’ll often see promotional deals that cost even less. Although flat-rate plans don’t cover international calls, the per-minute rates are usually much cheaper than what you’ll pay with a landline. Services like Lingo and Vonage have recently added international countries as part of their unlimited calling plans.

    You Can Use Your Customary Number Anywhere

Move your home phone number to VOIP service, then when you need – pack your VOIP adapter in your backpack and off you go around the world. Anywhere you can plug in, you can call home and make/receive calls (plug in to the Internet, that is). No need to change area codes!

    Additional Services

Because VoIP is an Internet-based service, it doesn’t have as many restrictions as your traditional phone line. For example, most providers allow you to e-mail voice messages as sound files.

VoIP Drawbacks

    You Need a Broadband Connection to Use VoIP

If you don’t already have cable of broadband service and wind up purchasing a plan primarily for VoIP, this will likely cancel out what you’re saving in monthly VoIP service. (A greater than 50% penetration of broadband makes it accessible to a majority of households and some services are designed specifically to work with dial-up.)

    Your VoIP Phone Doesn’t Work in Power Outages or When You Lose Internet Access

Similar to a cordless telephone, your VoIP service won’t work when the power’s out. However, you can buy a battery that offers four to six hours of talk time. But if you lose Internet access you’re out of luck.

    9-1-1 Service Differences

New FCC regulations require VoIP providers to offer 9-1-1 services. Unfortunately, some providers have been slow to deliver this critical service. However, the vast majority does offer 9-1-1 service. Remember, though, if your power is out and you don’t have battery backup, and if your Internet service is interrupted, you won’t be able to dial 9-1-1 on your VoIP phone. (Ed: Note that some VOIP companies have partnered with the local telephone company to ensure 9-1-1 access on your local telephone circuit, even after it has been disconnected. Check individual providers for details.)

So Should You or Shouldn’t You Switch to VoIP?

The advantages of VoIP seem to outweigh its drawbacks. Decreased costs, portability and increased services are the primary benefits of this new technology. Cellular phones are aplenty in homes these days, so having a backup is usually “at hand” when power outages do occur.

Related Links

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