Mobile VoIP allows you to connect to your VoIP network through your cell phone. Usually, mobile VoIP uses 3G networks or Wi-Fi Internet to make the VoIP call.
The best part of mobile VoIP? Mobile VoIP is almost always free because it is usually included with your subscription price with a VoIP provider. Mobile VoIP is especially useful for its low international calling rates.
How Mobile VoIP Works
There are several methods to turn a mobile phone into a VoIP device; in almost all instances, you will end up using a program that uses a session initiation protocol (SIP) to route your calls through the Internet. SIP is the standard protocol for VoIP. An alternative protocol is UMA, or Unlicensed Mobile Access Generic Access Network, which was developed specifically for mobile networks and Internet telephony.
For the most part, mobile VoIP apps use softswitch software and SIP to code and deliver phone calls over IP.
Softswitch Mobile VoIP
"Softswitch" refers to the software that the phone companies and VoIP providers both use to route calls. With the mobile VoIP software that VoIP providers offer, you get a more compact version of that softswitch software. This software either directs you to the person you are calling, if they're on the same software network. Otherwise, the software redirects you to the mobile VoIP provider's own softswitch, which eventually sends the call through the public network to the person you are calling.
In this case, you would not have to pay for the first call (since the call says on the same network and the call doesn’t really have to do anything) but you would have to pay for the second call (since you access the local phone network).
What You Pay
You pay nothing extra to use mobile VoIP if you have VoIP service and cell phone service with data. You save money because you pay VoIP prices for your minutes (which are usually unlimited). If you are calling on your VoIP network, those VoIP minutes that you're using are probably free - if they’re not, get a new VoIP network. If you call someone else on the same VoIP network, that should also be free.
Prices for international calls depend on your VoIP service. You will either pay a low per-minute rate or have minutes included for select destinations.
What do I need for mobile VoIP to work?
- wireless Internet
- a smartphone
- a mobile VoIP app
Believe it or not, wireless Internet is the biggest limitation for mobile VoIP. There are two choices: Wi-Fi hotspots, which are generally free, and 3G and 4G networks, which are not.
Wi-Fi hotspots are free but small; you can't take them with you. However, using the wireless network at your office alongside your mobile VoIP apps mean that you can get VoIP calls for free. Since Wi-Fi hotspots are based on a local wireless network (complete with wireless Internet), they don't have issues with call quality.
3G and 4G networks are not free but they are larger and more mobile. Furthermore, 3G networks do not always offer a consistent connection speed. 4G networks, which are faster and slowly becoming more prevalent, will make connection speeds more consistent for mobile VoIP.
You will need an Internet-ready smartphone to use mobile VoIP. You will also need a data plan to use VoIP.
Mobile VoIP App
You need to make sure you have a VoIP provider - or access to a VoIP provider - that has a mobile VoIP app.
We say access to a mobile VoIP app because not all VoIP providers offer their own, proprietary mobile VoIP application. Furthermore, some instances of mobile VoIP use softphones on a computer. Instead of using a cell phone, the software 'turns' your computer into a phone. Some VoIP providers have partnerships with other companies that create proprietary mobile VoIP apps, which you can then use with the first company's VoIP service. Learn about the different types of mobile VoIP providers here.