Why VoIP – Learn about VoIP

Why VoIP?

VoIP is convenient, cheap, and comes with great features. If you are paying for landline phone service or traditional PBX service, you should consider VoIP phone service. If you have a high-speed Internet connection, you are the perfect candidate for VoIP phone service.

VoIP phone service has come a long way in a very short time and is growing in popularity among both residential and business consumers. Reducing costs is a top priority for many consumers, especially in today's global economic climate.

Of course, you should see what it's all about. VoIP comes in a few different shapes and sizes, so it's important to know what's best for you. Read below for more detailed information on VoIP phone service.

Learn About VoIP

How Does VoIP Work - Graphical illustration of how VoIP works.
VoIP 101 - A detailed look at the technology behind VoIP.
Top 5 Reasons to Switch to VoIP - Top 5 reasons with details on why to switch to VoIP.
VoIP Speed Test - Find out how many VoIP lines your internet connection will support. Fun test.

Questions and Answers

INTRODUCTION

Can you quickly explain what VoIP is?
How does one place or receives a VoIP phone call?
Can I call any phone or just VoIP phones?
How is the voice clarity?
Do I need a computer to call?
What differences are there between making a local call and a long-distance call?
Can you give me a technical overview of VoIP?

BENEFITS

What can a VoIP phone do that a landline phone cannot?
What are the disadvantages of a VoIP phone?
Does it come with 911?
Can I keep my number?
Can I get a number of an area code other than mine?
Can I take my number with me when I travel?
Can I try a service for a limited period?
What are other useful features?
How secure are VoIP calls?

GETTING STARTED

How do I get VoIP working for me?
Do I need to be a computer expert?
What kind of equipment do I need?
Will I have to buy the equipment myself?
How fast does my internet connection need to be?
Can I use my computer during a call and does it have to be turned on all day?
How do I get started?
Where can I find more info?

INTRODUCTION

Can you quickly explain what VoIP is?
  VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP phone service, sometimes referred to as broadband phone service or digital phone service, is a phone service that operates by using your high-speed Internet connection. There are two types of VoIP services: phone-based and computer-based. These services allow you to make phone calls using either your regular phone or a computer headset with a microphone. As opposed to a traditional landline, VoIP uses your phone or computer to call the number. The call is sent over the Internet, instead of over copper wires running out of your house.
How does one place or receive a VoIP phone call?
  With a phone-based service, you use VoIP the same way you use a regular landline: by picking up the phone to answer it or dialing a number to place a call. With a computer-based service, you can make or answer the call by using a headset with a microphone plugged into your computer.
Can I call any phone or just VoIP phones?
  Most providers allow you to call any phone number in the world, whether that number be a local, long-distance, mobile phone, or international number. However, some computer-based providers may limit you to other subscribers to that service (Commonly known as “User to User”). For your convenience, we list only those providers who allow their customers to call the regular phone network. A cool feature that most VoIP providers offer is “Conference Calling” or “Three-way Calling.” You can call multiple numbers at once!
How is the voice clarity?
  The quality of VoIP voice has dramatically improved over the past few years; it is now at or above the quality of a landline phone. However, voice clarity can differ from provider to provider and usually depends on the speed and quality of your broadband connection. Before signing up, you may wish to consult other VoIP users by visiting our forums or checking user reviews for specific providers to see how they match up.
Do I need a computer to call?
  No, you do not need a computer for phone-based VoIP services. An adapter (often provided free of charge by the VoIP provider) connects the phone to a high-speed internet connection. With a computer, one can manage and use different features offered by the provider. But again, it isn't necessary.
What differences are there between making a local call and a long-distance call?
  In terms of technology or how you dial the number, there are no differences. Call charges, however, vary from plan to plan. Rates for long-distance calls are usually quite low. Furthermore, many VoIP providers offer unlimited long-distance plans — so the long-distance call is free!
Can you give me a technical overview of VoIP?
  As the name implies, Voice over IP refers to calls that traverse networks using Internet Protocol (IP). The voice stream is broken down into packets, compressed, and sent toward its final destination by various routes (as opposed to establishing a single, 'permanent' connection for the duration of the call as with a traditional phone line), depending on the most efficient path (this varies from call to call). At the other end, the packets are reassembled, decompressed, and converted back into a voice stream by various hardware and software elements, depending on the nature of the call and its final destination. For a more detailed technical overview of VoIP technology, please see our article: VoIP 101.

BENEFITS

What can a VoIP phone do that a landline phone cannot?
  A VoIP or broadband phone service can help you save up to 90% of your monthly phone bill. VoIP providers offer many features which are covered in the monthly fee, such as voicemail, caller ID, three-way calling, and call waiting. Many providers offer unlimited long-distance with their plans, which saves customers the trouble of having to purchase long-distance phone cards. Furthermore, most providers offer unlimited calling to other subscribers of the same service, allowing you to talk to those users for as long as you wish at no additional cost. VoIP service is best suited for you if you can relate with any of the following comments:
- "I have a high speed internet connection and would like to lower my phone bills."
- "I make expensive long-distance or international calls and would like to reduce those costs."
- "I run a small business and phone bills make significant part of my overhead."
- "I like the convenience of taking my number with me as I travel anywhere in the world."
- "I'd like to utilize attractive features such as conference calling, choice of any area code, voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, etc."
- "I'm frustrated with excessive taxes and long-distance company monopolies."
- "I live outside the U.S. but I need a local NYC number for my business."
What are the disadvantages of VoIP phone service?
  Some VoIP services do not work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power. Also, some providers do not give you the option to list your number amongst the white pages of your phonebook.
Does it come with 911?
  Although most providers offer "Enhanced 911" (E911), it may be difficult for some VoIP services to seamlessly connect with the 911 dispatch center or identify the location of callers using VoIP. If you are troubled by this, you may wish to consider VoIP as an additional phone service instead of an alternative to a traditional phone line.
Can I keep my number?
  Most providers allow number portability, so you can use the same number you had with your traditional phone provider.
Can I get a number of an area code other than mine?
  Yes, your VoIP provider may permit you to select an area code different from the area in which you live. This means, if you live in Austin and get a New York number, you will NOT incur long-distance charges while calling a New York number, regardless of where you call from. It does means that your "local" calls, in Austin , will be charged long distance and that your friends in Austin will incur long-distance charges when they call your New York Number.
Additionally, most providers offer virtual numbers (sometimes known as “extra numbers”). With this feature you can obtain a number from a different area code in addition to your current area code. If you have relatives living in another area code, they can dial the local number to reach you, which saves them the cost of long-distance charges.
Can I take my number with me when I travel?
  Yes, most providers allow you to use your VoIP service wherever you travel as long as you have a high-speed Internet connection and a VoIP phone adapter. In this case, calling works just as if you were dialing from your home or business — without incuring additional charges.
Can I try a service for a limited period?
  Yes, many providers offer a no conditions, 30-day money back guarantee so you can try a service without a risk to see if it meets your needs.
What are other useful features?
  VoIP services offer many features. We have identified about 70 different features, some of which are redundant. Note that by clicking on the name of each feature, the site will bring up a small window which provides the definition of that feature. To view which features are available under your desired plan, click on the link for your plans “Details” and then scroll down to “Advanced features.”
How secure are VoIP calls?
  So far, documented instances of VoIP security breaches have been few and far between. Also, recently-introduced encryption for VoIP subscriber units has laid to rest many VoIP security questions. For more information see our articles: VoIP Security and FUD, and VoIP Encryption.

GETTING STARTED

How do I get VoIP working for me?
  There are two kinds of VoIP service providers: those that offer phone-based services, such as Vonage and SunRocket, and those that offer computer-based services, such as Skype. Each phone-based provider has different phone plans that are suited to meet different requirements. Since most computer-based services are limited to their own subscriber base (their basic service does not let you call any phone which doesn’t subscribe to the same service), we predominantly offer listing of phone-based VoIP plans. You can compare different plans available for your area and select the one that suits your needs best.
Do I need to be a computer expert?
  For phone-based services, you do not need to be computer savvy. Even computer-based services are not too difficult to set up.
What kind of equipment do I need?
  A broadband (high-speed Internet) connection is required. This can be a cable modem or a high-speed service such as DSL or a Local Area Network (LAN). To place a call into the regular (PSTN) phone network, you will need a VoIP service provider. The VoIP service provider will send you an adapter that you can plug into your Internet connection and then you can plug your regular analog phone into the adapter. Alternatively, you can hook up a relatively inexpensive microphone to your computer and send your voice through your computer and its high-speed Internet connection.
Will I have to buy the equipment myself?
  The equipment is often provided free of charge by the VoIP service provider. Such equipment is usually to be returned in the event you cancel the plan. Some providers also give you the option of keeping the equipment by letting you purchase it during sign-up. If you are interested to own your own equipment, we have recommended equipment that will fit your needs.
How fast does my internet connection need to be?
  The average DSL or cable connection is usually sufficient. Few providers offer service to dial-up internet customers. VoIP service with dial-up is not advised, due to poor voice quality and reliability. We recommend you check your connection speed here to determine the quality of your connection. Check out our VoIP Speed Tester
Can I use my computer during a call and does it have to be turned on all day?
  You can use the computer; depending on your service provider, a router may be required. Your computer need not be turned on if you are making calls with a phone and adapter or a special VoIP phone, but your broadband Internet connection must to be active. As an added note, you can use your computer and surf the internet while talking on the phone without affecting voice quality.
How do I get started?
  You first need to determine which plans are available in your area and then select one you like best. You can start a search for plans from our homepage.
Where can I find more info?
  If you have questions about using this site, please view our Site FAQ (which immediately follows this article). In addition to our many articles on VoIP, you may view user reviews of different providers to learn about the experiences of those users or you can pose a question in one of our forums.

Site FAQ

SEARCHING FOR PLANS

How do I start a search?
I'm confused between two area codes and not sure which would apply.
I don't know the Area Code of a city.
I do not live in the US or Canada; how do I search for plans in my country?
My country is not listed or has very few plans.
I live outside the US but I would like to have a US number.

COMPARING PLANS

What are some things I should know while trying to choose a plan?
How do I compare plans side by side?
Where can I read reviews of service providers?
What are the different kinds of plans?
What are required features?

SIGNUP

How do I signup for a plan?
I want to know more but I can't find that information, what should I do?
What is the primary difference between 911 and E-911?
What is Broadband?

SEARCHING FOR PLANS

How do I start a search?
  You may start a search simply by entering your three digit area code into the search box on our homepage.
I'm confused between two area codes and not sure which would apply.
  Here is a listing of US and Canada area codes by number: http://www.cs.ucsd.edu/users/bsy/area.html . This should provide you with the information you need to make an appropriate decision.
I don't know the Area Code of a city.
  You can search for area codes by city name or zip code by following this link. You will also have the option of viewing those locations on a map: http://www.fonefinder.net
I do not live in the US or Canada; how do I search for plans in my country?
  Just click on the "Live outside U.S. & Canada?" button and select your country from the drop-down list.
My country is not listed or has very few plans.
  We have listed VoIP plans for several countries and will continue to add new countries from time to time. If your country is not listed, please let us know by writing to support@voipreview.org. Additionally, you may wish to consider computer-based VoIP services that are available worldwide, such as Skype.
I live outside the US but I would like to have a US number.
  To do this, simply enter the area code from your chosen city to view the plans which are available. The following link will provide help if you are unsure of the area code for your selected cities: http://www.fonefinder.net

COMPARING PLANS

What are some things I should know while trying to choose a plan?
  Naturally, that depends primarily upon your preferences. If price is your most important concern, you should choose the least expensive plan. If voice clarity or the reliability of the service are more important, read through the reviews to learn what other users have to say about the different providers. We suggest that you compare different plans, ask questions in the VoIP forum, go to the provider's site, and then sign up when you are ready.
How do I compare plans side by side?
  After entering an area code on our compare table (you can then select a specific city within that area code) you will be presented with a list of plans available for that location. You can then organize it by the most important category for you.
Where can I read reviews of VoIP service providers?
  Click on our “VoIP Providers Reviews” tab on the top of our homepage to read or write a review.
What are the different kinds of plans?
  In general, there are six types of VoIP plans. The names are self-explanatory: Home, Business, International Calls, PC-to-Phone, PC-to-PC, and Cable Phone Service.
What are required features?
  We list the essential features available for the plans on each provider's detail page. You can then check for the features that are most important to you. However, please note that each plan offers only a certain number of these features.

SIGNUP

How do I signup for a plan?
Visit the provider's website. For some, it's as easy as clicking on their logo. If you use our submission form on the home page, we can put you in touch with some of the better VoIP providers on the market today.
I want to know more but I can't find that information, what should I do?.
  We suggest reading user reviews or posting a question in one of our VoIP review forums. If you have a general VoIP question, see our VoIP FAQ.
What is the primary difference between 911 and E-911?.
  With basic 911, a 911 call will be delivered to an emergency receptionist. E911 goes one step further and automatically delivers that emergency contact the address and phone number of the caller.
What is Broadband?.
  Broadband is another term for high-speed Internet access. You can get broadband access via DSL, cable modem, T1 or T3 networking, or an ISDN line.