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A Look at Internet Voice Technology (VoIP) for Residential
Over the years, the technology has made remarkable progress. Telephony's improved data compression rate, better sound quality, and the availability of residential broadband has given consumers more affordable solutions with even more features than you might have currently. Today, there are a number of available service providers with most offering the equipment for free along with pricing packages that can reduce your phone bills by up to 50% or more.
How It Works
Internet Voice, commonly known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), uses your broadband Internet connection to make and receive phone calls instead of your regular phone line. It works by converting your phone calls to data packets and sends the information over your Internet connection, like email, and is received on the other end just like a regular phone call.
What's the advantage? Using your Internet connection instead of your phone line is less expensive. You can call anywhere, anytime for less and still get features like Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Caller ID, 3-way Calling, and so much more.
One common misconception about VoIP is that it's a bandwidth hog, when, in fact, voice is a very efficient type of traffic. As a rule of thumb, 14 Kbps of bandwidth per call is ideal. This includes the compressed voice packet and the IP overhead. While your broadband connection will range from 768 Kbps - 1.5 Mbps, this is negligible and not worth concerning yourself over.
If you're considering replacing your traditional telephone service with Internet Voice, there are some things you should consider when looking at the various providers.
Some Internet Voice services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power; Additional steps may be required for setting up 911 calls where you will need to register an address for location identification; or
DSL users cannot completely eliminate their land line because the broadband runs through this connection; or They may or may not offer white page listings.
Let's Talk Features
VoIP service providers offer different packages to fit your specific needs. Actual usage, desired features, and potential expansion capabilities will be the determining factors when selecting a package. The basic plans most VoIP providers offer include:
Low-cost Basic with Limited Usage
You're almost certain to save money switching to VoIP. Not only is the monthly service itself generally less expensive than your current phone company's monthly service, the features you get with VoIP are much more extensive and are, most of the time, offered for free. Features like:
Web Based Administration - Allows you to configure your phone settings and log all your calls in real time.
Caller ID - Standard with all VoIP service providers.
Voice Mail - Replaces your answering machine and lets you listen to voice messages on-line.
Call forwarding - Forward calls to your cell, office, or any other number after a predetermined number of rings.
Portability - Take your phone adapter anywhere around the world, use your same phone number, and call anytime, anywhere in the US for free, and vice-versa
Software Phone - this application can be installed on any PC and will function exactly the same way as any VoIP phone
An Internet connection - While VoIP works with a regular 56kbps dial-up connection, it is highly recommended you use a Cable or DSL broadband connection.
A Computer - The only reason you will need a computer (PC or Mac) is to configure the phone adaptor to work with your broadband service provider. Once this is done, you will not need to do this again.
A Digital Phone Adapter - DPA's, also referred to as phone adapters, are provided mostly free of charge. This is similar to your Cable/DSL router that converts the signal to use a regular phone or fax unit.
A Telephone - There are also options for plugging in multiple phones to a single DPA unit.
A VoIP Service provider - There are several available. Here are a few you might want to check out:
4. AT&T CallVantage
Get More Info
VoIP-Info.org - This web site covers everything related to VoIP - software, hardware, service providers, reviews, configurations, standards, tips & tricks and everything else related to voice over IP networks, IP telephony and Internet Telephony.
FCC - The Federal Communications Commission provides a list of Frequently Asked Questions for those looking to switch to VoIP.
VoIP User Forum - An independent information guide to Internet Telephony
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