Voip Office Telecommunications Conference Call Notebook
Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, is a means of making phone calls over the Internet. Essentially, it converts your voice into a digital signal that can travel through the Internet like any other type of data. If the phone youíre calling is a standard voice phone, the digital signal gets converted back to sound at the other end.
There are several ways to use VoIP. You can use a special VoIP-enabled phone, or you can hook up your regular phone to a digital adapter. You can also make calls directly from your computer to someone elseís with a microphone and a set of headphones.
All these methods also require a broadband Internet connection, which could be a problem for some people. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over 94% of Americans ìhave accessî to fixed-line broadband Internet service (defined as 25 Mbps for downloading and 3 Mbps for uploading). However, Pew Research reports that only about 75% of Americans actually have broadband Internet service at home.
The most common way to get VoIP service at home is through your Internet or cable TV provider. In fact, thereís a good chance that what you think of as your landline right now is this type of VoIP service. According to CBS, less than 20% of American households are still hooked up to ìtrueî landlines ñ the old-school copper wires that used to be the only type of telephone connection. More than half of all households with landlines are actually using VoIP through a cable or fiber-optic connection.
A 2020 report in PC Magazine says that home users who already have cable or Internet TV service can usually get VoIP through their cable provider as part of a bundle that includes phone service, TV, and Internet. However, you can often get more features by signing up for a separate VoIP service that you can add on to your existing Internet service. These services generally include caller ID, call waiting, voicemail, three-way calling, and enhanced 911 support. Most of them also come with an adapter for your phone, so you donít need any special equipment.
Here are some of the choices available for home VoIP service.
Ooma Telo. Ooma Telo calls itself ìa revolutionary device that frees you from expensive home phone bills forever.î Itís certainly one of the most affordable and easiest-to-understand VoIP options on the market. The Ooma Telo device costs just $99.99 (one-time) with shipping included, and the unlimited home phone service it enables carries no monthly charge. Users pay only monthly taxes and fees where applicable.
Vonage. Vonage is one of the oldest VoIP providers. Its Vonage North America plan provides unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for less than the cost of an unlimited mobile phone plan. You can also get a worldwide calling plan for a few dollars extra. Thereís no charge to sign up, and you can keep your own telephone and phone number. And if youíre not happy with the service, you can cancel within 30 days and get your money back. In a 2018 review of telephone services, Consumer Reports gave Vonage an overall rating of 80%, with good marks for quality, reliability, and customer support. However, Vonage gets mixed reviews from users at GetVoIP, particularly in regard to reliability and customer service.
AXvoice. AXvoice claims to offer the most affordable home VoIP service to the U.S. and Canada. It has three plans to choice from: unlimited calling, a limited plan with 200 minutes per month, and a pay-as-you go service with a per-minute fee. All plans come with features such as voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, and the chance to keep your phone number, but AXvoiceís money-back guarantee is good for only 15 days. This service gets mixe reviews at GetVoIP, with many complaints about customer service.
VoIPLy. VoIPLy boasts that itís the No. 1 residential VoIP service in America. It provides unlimited calling to over 50 countries for less than half the cost of Vonage North America. There are no setup fees and 24/7 customer support. VoIPLy gets ratings of about 4.2 stars out of 5 on GetVoIP, with high marks for reliability, voice quality, features, and customer support.
PhonePower. With PhonePower, there are three ways to sign up for unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada: prepay for a full year, sign up for a two-year contract, or get no-contract service by the month. Depending on which option you choose, your monthly rate could be anywhere from 20% to 50% of the cost of an unlimited mobile plan. PhonePower also offers several international plans that vary in price depending on how many countries you can call without limits. All plans come with a free cloned second line (allowing you to make two calls at once on a single line), the option to keep your current number, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, PhonePowerís ratings at GetVoIP are only about 3 stars out of 5, with iffy reviews for quality, reliability, and support.
VOIPo. If you pay up front for a two-year contract, residential service from VOIPo is just about the cheapest way to get unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada. The service also includes 60 minutes of free international calls per month, plus a variety of features. These include caller ID, call waiting, the option to keep your phone number, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, reviewers at GetVoIP give the service only so-so ratings, particularly for call quality and reliability.
1-VoIP. Month-to-month VoIP service from 1-VoIP is a bit pricier than most providersí, both for unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada and for worldwide calling. However, you can cut the price by about half if you prepay for one year in advance. The service comes with over 40 features, including a voicemail-to-email service, virtual faxing, and robocall blocking from Nomorobo. Users at GetVoIP give it 4.5 stars, with high marks across the board for quality, reliability, support, features, installation, and price.
Skype. Microsoftís Skype is a software program that lets you make calls from your computer. You can make video calls with the aid of a webcam or audio-only calls with a headset. Skypeís free chat feature lets you make video calls to any other computer that has Skype installed, but you can also use the program to make and receive calls to a regular phone. You pay just a few dollars per month for unlimited calling in the U.S. and about twice as much for calls to all of North America. You can also choose a pay-as-you-go option called World Skype Credit to make calls worldwide.
Google Voice. Another software-based option is Google Voice. It lets you make and receive voice calls from your Android or iOS device or your computer for free. Itís free to sign up and free to place calls and send texts within the U.S. For international calling, you must add credits to your account to pay for it; per-minute rates vary by country. You can port an existing phone number to the service or request a new one. Special perks include emailed transcripts and recordings of all voicemails, easy call blocking, and call forwarding to any device (or more than one).