Remember the good old kitchen wall-phone, misdialing the operator for help, and writing phone numbers in a little black book or getting your hair tangled in a phone cord?
Those days are almost all but gone. The truth is, a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that more than 50% of American homeowners and renters have ditched their landlines. That was unthinkable even a decade ago, but it’s starting to make a lot of sense. Read on to learn why..
1. What Is VOIP?
Generally speaking VoIP stands for "Voice Over Internet Protocol". In a traditional phone system, copper wires run from your house to a nearby concentrator that digitizes your voice. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), calls are routed over your home Internet system. Your voice is first converted to data and then reassembled into high-quality sound. There are numerous advantages to making the switch.
Landlines require professional installation. Unless you have unusually complex needs, VoIP is a do-it-yourself job, thus easy to install .
Since calls don’t have to travel through physical phone lines or undersea cables, costs for service and overhead are significantly less. Many residential cord-cutters reduce their phone bills by up to 50 percent saving money each month
Using landlines, few add-ons are available, and you’re charged extra for them by your provider. VoIP packages include features like voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, conference calling (great for businesses!), call blocking, enhanced 911, and encryption for one reasonable price.
2. How Easy Is VoIP to Use?
If you have no trouble using a regular phone, you’ll have no trouble using VoIP.
The most basic requirement for service is high-speed Internet. For the best access and sound quality, experts recommend an upload speed of 3Mbps or faster. Before setting up, test your broadband before switching to VoIP as an upgrade may be in order.
Do your homework on providers and services. There are plans for all lifestyles and budgets, but customer service is also an important consideration. Search VoIP companies on consumer protection websites. Read reviews written by people who have been customers for a while; rock-bottom prices aren’t necessarily a bargain in the long run. Typically, there are multiple plan options to choose from: Pay-as-you-go/Prepaid, Metered by the minute, month-to-month and longer period contracts (mostly 12 months)
Depending on what features you need, you could pay as little as $5 a month or as much as $40. If you don’t tack on functions that you’ll never use, you should be able to find a nice plan in the $15 to $25 range. Many providers charge a one-time fee ranging anywhere from $10 to $40 if you opt to keep your existing phone number.
3. Do I Need New Phone Equipment?
As for equipment, VoIP requires either one of the following: IP Phone - Hardware that looks and functions much like an ordinary phone. There are two options for IP phones: one that connects directly to a router or modem or one that connects wirelessly. The alternative is a Softphone : A softphone is software that operates like a telephone. It requires a broadband Internet connection. If you use it with a computer, the computer must be equipped with a microphone and speakers. You may need a special headset to enhance sound quality. Softphones also run on tablets and smartphones as an app.
If you’re determined to keep your landline, you’ll need an analog telephone adaptor. These adaptors enable conventional phones to access the VoIP network.
Most residential systems are plug-and-play. Once you’ve received your equipment, they take just minutes to set up. Good providers usually have online tutorials or offer support by phone or chat if you have questions.
Some companies require you to purchase their equipment while others build the cost into monthly service charges.
Mobile VoIP operates through apps, and there are hundreds to choose from. The service is much cheaper than landline service, and calls are unlimited - even on international long distance.
How to Find the Best Deals on VOIP Packages
If you have stable Internet service, there’s nothing to stop you from switching to VoIP. Since the market is incredibly competitive, there’s no better time to act. Most providers are willing to tailor plans and negotiate prices, so call around. Check websites for sign-up bonuses and limited-time offers. Coupon sites often have VoIP discounts as well.
Use the search box on technology sites like pcmag.com and wired.com to find price comparisons. Voip-info.org and voipreview.org are also valuable resources for up-to-date reviews and tips on how to save.
Author for local newspapers and national magazines in the greater midwestern area, loves sailing with his wife Deb.