Have you not even heard the expression VoIP or Voice over internet protocol. It provides the ability to make phone calls over the internet at very low cost or even free. But what is it all about and how do you use it?
VoIP has several different ways in which it can be utilized. The first method is known as a softphone which basically means you download some software from a provider like Skype or VoipStunt, connect up a headset, set up the account and away you go. In other articles I have written I have provided comparisons of several providers including Skype, VoipStunt and Vonage.
The second method of making phone calls over the internet is by having an account with a VoIP provider such as Vonage or Skype (or Engin in Australia) and utilizing a piece of hardware known as an ATA or Analog Telephone Adaptor. This connects to your internet connection through an Ethernet connection to your ADSL or cable modem and allows connection of a standard telephone being normal, cordless or DECT. Often you can also connect a fax.
Methods of Operation
There are varying methods of operation. You may only wish to make outgoing calls through VoIP which means you will not need a ‘normal’ type phone number. If you wish to receive incoming calls from landline telephones, ie the caller isn’t calling over the internet using VoIP, you will need to have that service ability with your provider and a number to go with it.
It is possible that you can retain your fixed line and have both VoIP and normal PSTN to the ATA which will mean both will ring at the same time. Additionally if there is a blackout or power failure you can still connect to the PSTN.
You will need to review your providers conditions to work out costs of calling outside of the VoIP network. In many cases this can still be free or very low cost indeed, including overseas calls. Often there is a flat rate for local and long distance calls but again this varies from Voip provider to provider. As mentioned earlier, previous articles I have written compare some of the services offered by the larger VoIP players.
There is an issue to consider around emergency calls. Skype and VoipStunt openly include in their terms and conditions that they do not provide access to emergency services calls. For this reason they are realistically utilized as a second phone service. However certainly in Australia, Engin provide access to emergency services through the triple zero 000 emergency number. Many people now have mobile phones so access to emergency services is much more available anyway.
From earlier in the article you can see that equipment needed and relevant costs can vary from a headset, to an ATA or analog telephone adaptor. These are not overly expensive and often available for free or cheap when joining a VoIP provider. A google search or visit to eBay will provide ability to get updated on current costs however it does not cost a fortune to commence accessing cheap or free phone calls.
This article has looks at the absolute basics of VoIP and how to get started. Further articles, information about VoIP products can be accessed by reading previous articles I have written.
The Author has an Associate Diploma in Electronic Engineering. For further information, books or VoIP items, please visit All About Voice Over Internet Protocol .