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The VoIP Connection FAQ

Question
·  What is VoIP?
·  Why consider using VoIP?
·  If I use VoIP can I get rid of my regular phone service?
·  What are the different kinds of VoIP service?
·  How much network bandwidth do I need for VoIP?
·  Who is the best VoIP Provider?
 
·  What is VoIP?
 

VoIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol.  It is broadly used to describe any hardware, software, or service which supports the ability to convert conventional telephone network traffic into a format that allows it to be transported and delivered using a generalized data network (i.e. the Internet).  VoIP has been used in the telecom industry for many years, and it has recently become a practical reality for the general public to take advantage of the technology.

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·  Why consider using VoIP?
 

VoIP allows users to access a telephone network directly without utilizing a traditional local carrier such as Bell South or SBC. This offers the potential for significant cost savings in a number of different ways.  Because the local carrier is no longer needed, a significant source of costs, taxes and fees is eliminated. Several services, such as Free World Dialup and IAXTel,  offer totally free calling to other phones within their network. Of course, it is often necessary, especially for a business, to access the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).  Because they operate in a market free from monopolies and government regulation, VoIP service providers can access the PSTN through any number of wholesale suppliers, and can usually offer the very best rates for local, national and international calls. Some offer calling plans with unlimited local and long distance at very attractive rates.

VoIP also offers a number of very interesting functionalities, many for little or no extra cost.  Among them:

  • Multiple phone numbers in multiple area codes "aliased" to the same incoming number
  • Connect separate locations or offices without utilizing the public phone system
  • PBX type features such as extension directories and voicemail without hardware on premise

One of the forces propelling the VoIP revolution forward has been the widespread acceptance of interoperability standards and Open Source initiatives. Just as in the computer world, this has sped adoption and technical progress. Unlike the closed, proprietary phone systems commonly used with traditional phone service, the new generation of VoIP phone equipment is highly interoperable and configurable. In fact, because it is based on IP standards, much of the technology is familiar to traditional IT personnel. In addition to the reduced risk of obsolescence, the ability to engineer systems by combining best-of-breed solutions and the ability to scale and evolve them, makes VoIP technology a much wiser investment than traditional phone equipment.

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·  If I use VoIP, can I get rid of my regular phone service?


The answer is usually yes, but there are a few caveats:

  • If your internet service is interrupted, you will lose your phone service
  • Unless you make special provisions, if your electrical service is interrupted you will lose your phone service
  • You may or may not have 911 service
  • Depending on your implementation, the voice quality may not be as good  as traditional service
  • If you have DSL broadband, you will probably have to keep a traditional phone line
  • You may not be able to get a phone number with your local area code
  • Heavy traffic or problems with your local network or the internet could cause your service to degrade
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·  What are the different kinds of VoIP service?

Computer-to-computer: This is most pervasive form of VoIP today. This type of call connects two computers equipped with headsets or similar peripherals. Some examples are Microsoft Windows Messenger, Skype and Free World Dialup. This approach can be a terrific solution, especially if access to the PSTN is not required. Startup and ongoing service cost is usually very low or free.

Computer-to-phone: Similar to Computer-to-Computer, but with the added ability to call from the computer to PSTN phone numbers. This is a popular solution for saving money on International calls, since providers are often able to provide very advantageous rates. As with computer-to-computer, startup cost is very low or free. Ongoing service can vary depending on features and usage.  One popular provider of this type of service is GloPhone.

Phone-to-Phone: This type of service uses a hardware adaptor to connect a traditional telephone to a VoIP network, which is in turn connected to the PSTN. This service offers many benefits and has relatively low startup costs, usually less than $100 per phone. Service plans will vary, but features are impressive and pricing is very competitive. The only significant downside to this approach is the "closed" nature of the service network. Network access is typically restricted to supported adaptors, and adaptors cannot usually be reprogrammed to connect to competitive services. Popular providers of this type of service include Vonage, Broadvoice, and Packet8.

Device-to-Phone: The most generalized and flexible of the available VoIP services. This type of service allows the user to connect any device supporting a standard VoIP protocol such as SIP or IAX to the VoIP network. This will typically be the preferred solution for businesses and others who have multiple phones or require advanced PBX functionality. Available service will vary with the provider, but usually includes the ability to access the PSTN. Startup costs can vary widely, depending on the sophistication and size of the system. Supported devices might include any or all of the following:

  • IP telephones
  • Phone adaptors
  • Computers running software phones
  • IP PBX such as Zultys or Asterisk

Popular providers of this type of service include Broadvoice, VoicePulse and Go2Call.

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·  How much network bandwidth do I need for VoIP?

Some providers do support making calls over dial-up connections, but generally speaking a broadband connection such as cable modem, DSL, or T1 is desirable.  You can use The VoIP Bandwidth Bandwidth Calculator to test your connection and estimate how many VoIP phone lines your connection can support based on the bandwidth requirements of popular providers.  If you need more bandwidth than you currently have, visit The VoIP Connection Bandwidth Store for guaranteed lowest prices on bandwidth products.

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·  Who is the best VoIP Provider?

This is probably the single most often asked question with regard to VoIP.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  Obviously, you should avoid providers that lack the financial resources and infrastructure to provide you with reliable service on an ongoing basis. This is not always an easy task. In addition, service offerings vary widely, and the various differences may not be obvious or evident to the untrained eye. Finally, different situations require different approaches and features. A small business will have needs that are substantially different from a residence. A calling plan that is perfect for a regional business might be totally inappropriate for a company that does the majority of its business overseas.

You can visit The VoIP Connection Buyers Guide for assistance in selecting a provider that can meet your needs, or call us at 321.989.6728 for assistance.  We're happy to help.

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