What is Internet Phone?
Internet Phone is another word for "VoIP" (Voice over Internet Protocol) or "Internet calling". Internet Phone is a great way for people to save money on their monthly phone bill. You can get Internet phone service for both your business phone and your home phone.
With Internet phone, you use your high speed Internet connection to make phone calls. Internet phone is also called digital phone service or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP, for short).
How Does Internet Phone Work?
Using an Internet phone is just like using a regular phone: the phone numbers, dial tone, and phone area codes are all the same.
The difference between traditional phone service and Internet phone service is how the Internet phone service connects you to the world: Internet phone uses the Internet to connect your phone calls to the public phone network. First, your Internet phone has to convert your voice into data; if you're interested in how VoIP works, you can read more about the mechanics of VoIP.
Instead of physically connecting two points (which is what the oldest phone networks do, literally), Internet phone uses large banks of computers in data centers to transfer the sound of your voice from computer to computer. This is an extremely efficient process that improves as computer technology improves.
|Provider||Plan Details||Long Dist.||Monthly Fees||Setup Fees||User Rating|
How does Internet Phone benefit me?
There are couple ways that you will benefit you when choose an Internet phone from a new VoIP provider. The two major benefits are:
- Internet Phone saves money.
- Internet Phone has cheaper, better features.
Basically the big benefit of Internet phone is that it saves you money.
Obviously, you need to have Internet to use Internet phone; your Internet also needs to be fast enough. You can use our Internet Speed Test to see if your Internet is fast enough for Internet phone.
Internet Phone Saves Money
Compare prices for traditional phone service with the prices offered by VoIP service providers if you don't believe us; compared to traditional phone service, VoIP will save you money.
|Provider||Monthly Fees||Long Distance Rate||Additional Notes|
|$8.32||0¢/min||2 months free after 10 months paid; monthly fee calculated assuming 12 months of service.|
|$6.21||0¢/min||$6.21 a month with 24 month prepay; total prepay $149.|
|$6.99||0¢/min||250 minutes for free. Additional minutes 4 cents each. Annual unlimited plan costs $17.88/month.|
Big Telecom Phone Offers
|Provider||Monthly Fees||Long Distance Rate||Additional Notes|
||$24.95||5¢/min||$24.95 for the first 6 months. Presumably, the rate increases after the 6-month introductory period.|
Time Warner Cable
||$29.99||0¢/min||Price for unlimited calling for 12 months. No price posted after 12 months (Unlimited California calling $39.95)|
||$17.99||0¢/min||No posted long distance rates. Rate only includes local calling. Rate requires Cox High Speed Internet or Cox TV service.|
||$14.95||0¢/min||Rate requires subscribing to all 3 optimum services (Internet, TV, phone); otherwise, Optimum Voice costs $34.95 per month. Unlimited long distance.|
We also had a really difficult time finding the correct prices for the big telecom providers when we were compiling this chart. For the most part, prices are from Southern California (where our offices are located).
If you visit each of the provider's websites or click the details button, you'll be able to see that the VoIP providers offer unlimited calling – and that's nationwide unlimited calling (the only exception to the left is phone.com; their 'limited'calling plan is $10 a month for 250 minutes with no extra cost for long distance calls).
Usually, when Internet phone service says unlimited calling, they mean that you get unlimited long distance calls (both local and long distance are free). They also usually offer you a generous number of minutes per month (around 3000). Sometimes, they don't put a limit on the number of minutes you can use each month. This policy of limiting minutes is known as the "Fair Use Limit" and Internet phone service providers put it in place to protect their networks from crashing due to unexpected excessive use.
Compare the VoIP provider's prices to the traditional phone companies. The traditional telecom companies charge as much for a local calling plan as ViaTalk or ITP charge for a nationwide calling plan. The traditional telecom companies also charge per minute for each long distance call.
So, the Internet phone services give you more flexibility for less money than traditional phone service providers. It's a good deal.
How is Internet Phone so cheap?
Internet phone is much cheaper than traditional phone service for a couple reasons.
The main reason is low overhead: VoIP works with computers, for the most part, which are becoming cheaper and cheaper. Also, most VoIP companies are startups, clawing for market share, so they charge lower prices.
Internet Phone has better, cheaper features
The 4 big telecom companies listed earlier may offer the features offered by Internet phone providers. However, each of the big telecom companies will charge you for each feature; most VoIP providers include features in their subscription price.
For example, Time Warner charges you $5 a month for voicemail; voicemail is free with all the Internet phone providers listed above.
This pattern continues for most of the features listed for each Internet phone service provider. The Internet phone provider offers a feature for free; you pay extra for that feature with the traditional phone company.
When shouldn't you choose Internet phone?
There are a few instances when a traditional telephone company is better than Internet phone.
- You do not have high speed Internet
- Your power goes out
- You have an alarm system
The first reason is self-explanatory. If your Internet connection isn't fast enough, you won't have good quality calls.
If the power goes out, your Internet connection may not work. This is because Internet is usually distributed by modems and routers, which use an external power source. VoIP providers can fix this disadvantage of VoIP with a battery-powered backup.
Also, most VoIP systems don't work with burglar alarms. If you need to have a burglar alarm, you need to have a landline phone or a VoIP provider that can support alarm systems (these are not common).
In most cases, Internet phone is better than traditional phone companies. It's cheaper, easier to use, and has many more features.