Landline or VoIP?

Submitted on Fri, 2011-07-08 14:38

Landline versus VoIP: Which Is Better?

VoIP is traditionally marketed as an affordable alternative to a traditional landline. But how does VoIP match up with your landline? How does each type of service benefit you, the consumer?

In this article, we look at the differences between a landline and VoIP.

What is a Landline?

A landline phone is a traditional telephone that connects one phone to another with an actual, physical phone line.

What is VoIP?

VoIP uses a traditional phone or an IP phone to connect your phone to another phone using Internet Protocol.

How a landline phone works

A landline uses the phone jack in your wall to connect to a local phone network. Once connected to that local network, the landline connects to the final destination by hopping along phone networks until the phone call gets to the final destination.

Since a landline actually creates a physical connection to the final call destination, a landline has good sound quality. This technology makes a landline very reliable (landlines are self-powered, so landlines work during a power outage). Landlines have complete 911 coverage because a landline pinpoints your physical location on a map.

Landlines cost more because landlines use a lot of infrastructure (lines, towers, phone jacks, long distance company networks, etc.). Landlines are also built around local phone networks, which means you have to have a long distance phone company in order to make long distance calls with a landline. These companies charge very high long distance rates.

Landlines are hardware which makes it hard to innovate with a landline. However, since landlines are hardware, landline phone service is a standalone service. You don't need anything else to make your landline work (other than a phone).

How VoIP Works

We have an article on how VoIP works. But we'll summarize here.

VoIP uses Internet Protocol to make phone calls. Basically, a VoIP phone converts the sound of your voice into data, using a specific coding method. The VoIP service then sends the call to the target destination, where the call reverts back to the sound of your voice.

You do need a high speed Internet connection to connect your VoIP phone to your VoIP service provider. (Once you get your call to the VoIP service provider, they take over and route the call). Each VoIP call takes around 80 kbps (kilobytes per second) for the call to sound clear. With enough bandwidth, VoIP calls are very clear. You should not use VoIP with 56K dial-up internet (it is not fast enough) but cable and DSL Internet service are okay.

VoIP is not a standalone service (you need high speed Internet). Also, since VoIP uses Internet service to connect calls, you have to have working Internet in order to make calls; VoIP usually doesn't work during a power outage. If you have a battery-powered backup system for your Internet modem or router, you will still probably be able to use your VoIP phone (since Internet is usually distributed through these pieces of hardware, when the power goes out, they go down too).

Finally, VoIP does not hardwire itself into the 911 system. VoIP providers must offer E911 service (enhanced 911) to primary phone lines; this connects your VoIP phone to emergency operators.

However, with VoIP, innovation is much easier than it is with a landline. That's because VoIP uses the latest technology and many software solutions. VoIP solves the power outage problem with call forwarding; in the event of a power outage, calls are forwarded to a cell phone or landline backup.

VoIP is also considerably less expensive than a landline. VoIP costs between $10 and $20 a month for unlimited local and long distance calling; a landline can cost between $20 and $40 for local calling. Usually, long distance landline calls cost extra with a landline, but VoIP companies do not charge for long distance calling.