By Sandra Stammberger
What is VoIP phone service?
VoIP phone services let you replace your traditional landline
phone with one that connects over the Internet. Today, your
phone works on what is called the Public Switched Telephone
Network (PSTN), a private network that reaches into your home
through the standard phone jacks in the wall.
With VoIP services, your phone connects to the Internet over
your cable or DSL modem. To do this, VoIP service providers
bundle a small device, called a telephony adapter that plugs
into the broadband modem and translates the electrical pulses
from your phone into IP packets that travel over the Internet.
The way you use your phone is the same, even though the
What makes it so popular?
What made VoIp phone service gain so much attention is MONEY.
Internet telephony is cheap. A local and long distance
package can cost as little as $19.95 a month. You wonít find
mainstream, traditional calling plans that meet these rates.
What do you need?
To set up your VoIP, you just first need a reliable broadband
Internet connection. If your cable or DSL service cuts out
occasionally, you need to stay away from VoIP services. Every
time your Internet access hiccups, so will your phone service.
Second, you will need to install the telephony adapter (TA),
which comes with the service. Using a standard phone jack, you
can plug your existing home phone into the TA, and then plug
the TA into your cable or DSL modem using a standard network
Who should you sign up with?
To answer the question of to whom you should sign up with,
providers offer limited national coverage, so the first order
business is to hunt down a provider that offers local area
and phone numbers in your location. For example, Iím a big fun
of AT&Tís CallVantage, but the service lacks 802 area codes
Vermont. So I will use Vonage.
You should also consider up-front cost in the form of
activation fees and penalties for disconnecting a service. For
instance, Lingo, Packet 8, and VoiceWing, all charge $40 to
if you cancel the service within the first 12 months.
How do you know who is reliable?
Brand names like AT&T CallVantage and the new Verizon
probably offer the best assurance that the service won't
disappear. But there's a parade of VoIP startups, ranging from
the well-established Vonage and long-running Packet 8
to up-and-coming offerings like Lingo, VoicePulse, and
If it's assurance you want, go with the biggest. And right
the biggest are Vonage and CallVantage.
Another thing to consider is what happens if the VoIP provider
goes out of business. Traditional telephone service is highly
regulated, but VoIP providers are popping up all over the
in a laissez-faire marketplace. Should your provider go under,
it's quite likely you'll lose access to your phone number (in
addition to your phone service). There simply isn't a
for recovering from such an issue yet.
What's the best way to switch?
If you're able to, adopt VoIP for a second line, a home office
or kids' phone, for example. That way you won't be in deep
trouble should the service go south on you. And you'll get a
very good feel for all the quirks that Internet phone services
can bring. If you are happy with the second line after three
months or so, it's probably safe to switch your primary line
About The Author: Sandra Stammberger is the owner of VOIP
Her website offer information on available technologies and
software/hardware product reviews. www.voip-2006.com