VoIP Clients and Broadband Phone Service
VoIP Clients and Broadband Phone Service
I do a lot of snooping around on question and answer sites like Yahoo Answers to find out what kind of questions people are asking about broadband phone service. Even with all of the advertising, and TV commercials, people seem to have heard of VoIP, but are still unsure of what exactly it is, and how or if it can benefit them. Most people understand VoIP’s potential for saving money on phone calls, but are unaware of the many different ways to use it.
What is VoIP?
The term VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. Some pronounce it like a word, voyp, while others, including myself, pronounce it just like it’s spelled, Vee-oh-I-pee. VoIP is a protocol that converts voice signals into a digital format that can be transferred over the Internet. Keep in mind that VoIP is not a service. It is a means of converting voice signals to a usable format for relaying voice messages over the Internet. For all intents and purposes it is a technical term. I felt a need to clarify that since most people do believe it is a service. For any form of VoIP to work you need a broadband Internet connection like DSL or cable.
Using VoIP with a Client
To use VoIP with a computer you can use a free downloadable client, and either a headset with built in microphone, or computer speakers and microphone. Most people have heard of Skype, a very popular VoIP client that makes it possible to make free calls from your computer to other computers or Skype users. MSN or Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger do the same thing! When you’re using Yahoo and MSN to voice chat you are using VoIP. You can also use these services to make calls to cell phones, or landline phones, but normally for a fee. In general only computer calls are free.
While making calls using a VoIP client is either cheap or free, it does have its limitations, with the biggest one being not everyone has Skype, MSN, or Yahoo messenger. Your contacts have to be online for you to call them, or for them to call you. It is possible to get a phone number for your client so people can call you from their home telephone, or cell phone, but it is not free, and you will need to be at your computer to accept the call. Even if you have voicemail, or offline messages it is still going to cost something.
Using VoIP with Broadband Phone Service
You can use VoIP to make and receive phone calls all over the world the same way you would with a landline telephone. To do this you’ll need a broadband Internet connection like cable or DSL, a broadband phone service provider like Vonage or Packet8, and a broadband phone router that you can plug a normal telephone into, or a special broadband telephone.
When you use a router you can only plug one telephone into it. This creates a problem for people who need other phones connected to the line throughout the house. The solution to this is an expandable base broadband telephone. Expandable base broadband phones have the VoIP router built into the main phone, or base, and can connect to multiple wireless handsets throughout the home, eliminating the need for multiple outlets.
Replacing Your Landline with Broadband Phone
Often times you can keep your existing phone number when you switch to broadband phone. Many people use broadband telephone to replace their landline, but there are limitations here as well. If you lose power, or your Internet connection, you lose your phone service. 911 is also different from landline phone service since 911 over most broadband phone services call to the nearest emergency center, which may not even be in your area code. You also need to provide the information for your location via software or online account settings from your provider for 911 service to work. If you take your phone to another location, or move and forget to update your address, emergency services could possibly go to the wrong place when you call 911.
Benefits of Broadband Phone Service
Broadband phone service is much cheaper than traditional landline especially with unlimited calling plans. Unlike using a VoIP client, you get a real phone number, and use a real telephone for making and receiving your calls. Most broadband phone providers offer all of the calling features like call waiting, voicemail, or caller ID for free. Most landline companies charge a fee for these extra features, or you only get a few as part of your plan. Your phone can work from anywhere you have a broadband Internet connection. Yes, if you wanted to, you could take it with you.
There are a few enhanced features that are not available with other types of phone service, like virtual phone numbers. With virtual phone numbers you can get a phone number outside of your area code. One of the most common uses for this is getting a virtual number in an area code where a friend or family member lives. This way if they call you it is like a local phone call to them, and you’re not charged anything over your monthly fee for the virtual number, or your normal calling plan fees. I.e. If you have an unlimited calling plan you don’t get charged for the call if it’s within your calling region.
You can be online, and make a call at the same time; However, the quality of your phone calls over VoIP whether using a client, or broadband telephone can depend on a number of factors. Since you’re using your Internet connection for your calls, the speed of that connection can effect your call quality. Generally the higher your speed, the better call quality you’ll experience. If you’re using your Internet connection for other things while your on your call like uploads, or downloads, this can decrease your call quality. If you’re using a VoIP client, applications that take up a lot of system resources such as online games, or other media can also decrease your call quality. Factors such as wireless connections, or other people using the same Internet connection can also play a role.
Quality is more often effected when using a client vs a phone since with a client you’re actually using your computer and its resources. Generally broadband phone service phone calls are just as good if not better than traditional landline calls, but if you do experience an issue with quality, it may be one of the aforementioned scenarios, and is often easily corrected.
VoIP clients are available anywhere you have a computer, and broadband Internet connection. Broadband telephone service is available anywhere you have a broadband connection, but that doesn’t mean a phone number for your area is available from all providers. You can get a phone number for any area code covered by your provider regardless of where you live, so if you ever check availability, and your area code or town is not listed, try a surrounding local town that would normally be a local call, or just try a different provider to see if they have your area code.