Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP for short) is quite possibly becoming the hottest new consumer and business technology in the world today. What once happened in the recording industry is happening today in telecommunications. The world is “going digital” all over again!
What is VoIP?
It’s not necessary to understand the engineering behind the technology; a few basic concepts are enough. VoIP is a digital technology for making telephone calls using a high-speed Internet connection instead of a traditional land line.
For home and small business VoIP set-up, the only new equipment required is a small adapter. Your voice passes through a standard telephone into the adapter where it is converted into digital form. Some VoIP service companies provide the adapter at no additional charge.
VoIP is not as new as some people think. The technology was being developed and tested in the 1970’s. Technical advances, regulatory action (e.g. phone number portability requirements) and widespread access to broadband Internet have made VoIP a preferred alternative to landline service for millions of homes and businesses today.
Why Go Digital Now?
“VoIP services certainly enable voice communications between two or more people, just as the traditional telephone network does, but that is where the similarity ends.” — Michael Powell, former FCC Chairman
The first reason for going digital is economic. Some providers can save households up to 50% or more over comparable landline service. When international calling is in play, the savings can become even greater. The second is the added value. Because some providers include many useful, time-saving and personalization calling features at no extra cost, people no longer have to downgrade their calling experience because of budgetary concerns. Third is the portability feature. Unlike landlines, VoIP phone numbers are not associated with a physical location. Your phone number goes with the VoIP adapter. For example, if you take your VoIP adapter to your winter home, your calls will follow whenever someone dials your number. Finally, the digital revolution makes video calling a reality. The quality is good and the service affordable. People are using it at home, in schools, at work and in hotels when they travel. Most people have not yet experienced a video call. Even so, this is expected to be the next “hot ticket” in the coming months.
What Can I Expect?
Even with the lower-end broadband speeds, VoIP quality can be good to excellent. If the quality of the Internet service is good and the VoIP provider has a quality service, the digital call will likely be clearer and more consistent than a typical cellular experience. There will be a slight delay (not everyone notices it) that is roughly the same as with a cellular call.
What Else Should I Know About VoIP?
There are a few things to know about VoIP, none of which should be “deal killers.” Having an awareness will eliminate any surprises, make the conversion smoother and ensure the overall digital experience is enjoyable.
- VoIP quality is not good over a satellite Internet connection. Cable and DSL are the best options. In carefully chosen situations I’ve had success with VoIP over a WiMax connection. My recommendation: Try it. Choose a VoIP company with a no-risk return policy and/or a try-before-you-buy sales approach.
- E911 requires a customer to update his address when the VoIP adapter (i.e. service location) changes. Emergency personnel will respond to the location provided by the customer.
- People who have experienced Internet outages may express concern about VoIP’s dependency on the Internet. At least one VoIP provider has a solution. Its a feature that automatically reroutes inbound calls to an alternate number of your choice such as a cell phone or a back-up landline whenever Internet service is down.
- Check with your security company to find out if your alarm system is compatible with VoIP.
- Depending on where you live, transferring your landline phone number to your new VoIP service can take several weeks. Consult with your VoIP provider to streamline this process, which is known as “porting your number.”
As good as VoIP is today, it is still being improved. A less than satisfactory experience as recent as one year ago should not deter anyone from giving VoIP another try today, possibly with a different provider. The benefits are too numerous to stay on a landline any longer than necessary.
Your comments are welcome.
© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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