Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology increasing in popularity among consumers, thanks in no small part to the increased use of broadband internet technology. VoIP allows you to use your existing broadband internet connection to make telephone calls instead of using a standard phone line. Some VoIP companies only allow you to call other people that also have the same setup as you. However, the better companies allow you to call anyone you want, regardless of what type of phone they're using on their end. That includes long distance and international calls and can even include many of the add-on features you have to pay extra for when using your regular phone-features like call waiting, caller ID, call block, call forwarding, voicemail, etc.
What's even better is that now, you don't even have to sit at your computer (which was the case in the past). With many VoIP services, you can purchase a special adapter that will allow you to use your regular phone with the VoIP service. And if that's not an option, you can purchase special VoIP-compatible phones, either online or through your local electronics store, that look and feel just like your regular phone but that work through your broadband internet connection.
What Kind Of Equipment Do You Need
First, you'll need to have a broadband internet connection. This can be any high speed Internet connection such as those offered through the cable company via cable modems or phone company via DSL or fiber optics. Unfortunately, dial-up connections don't have the capacity to support VoIP calls, so this requirement is a must-have. You'll also need either an inexpensive microphone to hook up to your computer (if you want to make calls from your computer) or a phone that's compatible with your VoIP provider's service (to make calls from a “normal" phone).
Overall Cost Compared to Your Current Phone Service
The cost varies depending on the service plan you get and the service provider, kind of like mobile phone services vary. But in general, expect to pay around $15 - $20 per month, which will usually include a certain number of minutes and and most of the other add-on features like call waiting, caller ID and such. For a little more ($25 - $35), you will probably be able get the same type of plan but with unlimited minutes.
Some companies charge for a long distance call to a number outside your calling area, similar to existing telephone service while others permit you to call anywhere at a flat rate for a fixed number of minutes. Since this is just a rough estimate, be sure to check with some recommended VoIP providers and compare their costs and the features they offer.
Choosing Your Own Phone Number or Keeping an Existing One
Some VoIP providers may allow you to choose your phone number. If not, some may offer you the chance to use an area code different from the area in which you live. That way, you won't pay any long distance charges if you call a number that's in your chosen area code, regarless of if you actually live in that area code or somewhere else. But it also means that people who call you may incur long distance charges depending on their area code and service, so you should take into account your typical calling patterns when making this decision. You can also transfer an existing phone number if you'd like to keep the number you already have.
Advantages of VoIP
Because VoIP is digital, it may offer features and services that are not available with a traditional phone. In addition, if you already have a high speed internet connection, it may be cheaper to switch to VoIP, allowing you to have the same features you have with your regular phone service but at reduced cost. You may also be able to use your VoIP service whenever you travel, as long as you have a high speed Internet connection and a computer you can make calls from, allowing you to remain in contact when abroad as if you were actually at home. Finally, with many VoIP companies, you can talk for as long as you want with any person in the world (as long as they're connected to the Internet).
Next Steps to Get Started Using VoIP
If you're interested in getting more information on VoIP or checking out various services, you can do much of your research right on the Internet. Most of the larger companies have websites and often times run specials to attract new customers. This can be a great way to try out VoIP to see if it's something you'd like to hold on to. There are also several sites online that provide information and recommendations on various VoIP providers.
Get more tips for using VoIP service and find money-saving links to top-rated VoIP providers by visiting our VoIP buyers guide at BuyersGuideToVoIP.com .