Is My Home Ready for Voice over IP (VoIP) Telephony?Chuck Smith
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is finally reaching out to thousands of average homes to offer huge savings in telephone costs. Already popular with the corporate world, VoIP, sometimes called Internet Telephony, IP telephony, or Internet phone, uses your computer's broadband connection - not traditional phones lines - to make long distance, inter-state or local calls.
A VoIP phone system works by converting your voice into data, transmitting it over the Internet, and then converting it back into a voice stream so that it can be played on any telephone in the world - almost in the same way your computer transmits email over the Internet.
Less expensive than traditional phones, and convenient -- you just use your computer or a VoIP-ready phone and a broadband Internet connection to make your calls -- VoIP makes for good economic sense. Around for a decade now, VoIP has overcome teething problems to come of age, using advances in PC and IP technology to provide voice quality telephone calls at low Internet rates.
International and state-to-state calls, expensive on conventional phone systems, are available at lower prices on VoIP. Finding this cost saving and its voice quality attractive, more home users and businesses are choosing to opt for VoIP.
But, to work well, VoIP needs a good bandwidth connection, such as broadband cable or DSL. Freely accessible nowadays -- 22% of Americans use broadband right now and the numbers are rising each day -- analysts estimate that 50% of Americans will use VoIP in the next two to three years.
The Ins and Outs of VoIP
To use VoIP, you need a broadband connection (either cable or DSL), a regular phone or computer microphone, and a special VoIP router adaptor to connect your phone to the Internet. And, you'll also need the services of a VoIP service provider, such as Vonage or Skype. Depending on the service you use, you can either use the telephone connected to the VoIP router, or call directly from your computer using your computer's microphone and speaker.
Your call connects to your VoIP service provider, and they route the call to the phone number you dialed, converting the VoIP data into a plain old telephone call before reaching its destination. This is how you connect to any telephone in the world, regardless of whether the person you are calling is using VoIP or plain old telephone service.
There are a number of different companies that offer VoIP services. But make sure they provide good voice quality and reliable support, and comply with Industry Standards. Ask potential service providers about the security controls they use to ensure your data and identity is safe and not open to hackers or virus attacks. You can test several trial downloads before you choose your VoIP service provider, and you can always visit user forums on the Internet to check out the kind of problems that customers experience with these service providers.
Right now, VoIP is fairly inexpensive, averaging around $15 - $65 per month. This is because the VoIP industry enjoys special tax breaks and other privileges. These privileges may be withdrawn in the future, though lobbyists are trying hard not to let that happen. In any case, VoIP is likely to become less expensive as more people turn to it in the future.
In addition, there are a number of free VoIP service providers (who usually have some paid upgraded services) that will allow you to make free VoIP calls among the users of their network. For example, if you sign up for the free Skype service, you can connect with any other Skype user and talk for free.
VoIP - the Pluses and Minuses
Apart from the ease of use, people choose VoIP because it is inexpensive, letting them "phone-trot" any wherever they want to without having to worry about the length of a call, how often you call, or the cost when the bill arrives. Additionally, with some VoIP services, there are no fixed monthly charges to pay, like a regular phone.
On the other hand, if your Internet connection is down, your Internet phone is inoperable as well. And, slow IP connections can hamper VoIP transmissions, causing problems like echoes, delayed response times or voice failure. It's the sort of thing that happens when you find it difficult to connect to the Web, or can't download a file, only it affects VoIP more.
Still, with the advances made in VoIP technology over the past year or so, and the growing momentum with consumers, VoIP is definitely worth looking into for your home. There's even a site that will let you test whether your home broadband connection is ready for VoIP. Just go to www.TestYourVoIP.com and test your home broadband connection in less than 5 minutes for free.
So take a chance and look into VoIP. You may be surprised at how much money you can save every month on phone services -- and you can brag about your technical savvy to friends, co-workers, and neighbors!