VoIP phones - a 'sound' alternative
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This is an alternative technology that transmits a phone's voice signals digitally over the internet, as opposed to using a wired telecom network. Since the internet is not 'owned' by anyone and its usage is virtually free, costs of such a phone service are drastically lower than traditional landline phones. VoIP service is also referred to as broadband service.
Keep in mind the following points, while considering a VoIP or broadband service:
- To use a VoIP service, you must have an internet connection at home or wherever the phone will be located. You can either access the internet through a dial-up connection or DSL (for which you need a separate wired phone), or through cable (with your cable TV connection, for instance). The internet provider could thus be the same as the VoIP provider, or different.
- You would additionally need some basic equipment. This would include a regular touch tone phone, and a built-in or stand-alone VoIP router. The router can easily be self-installed following simple instructions that come with the installation package. Professional installation is also available but there's usually no need for that.
- VoIP phones have an advantage in that they are not associated with a fixed address or location. You could operate your VoIP phone by accessing the internet from almost anywhere (even overseas). In that sense, you can 'take your phone' anywhere.
- The same portability advantage above, however, becomes a disadvantage, when it comes to services like emergency 911 dialing. Since a VoIP phone is not associated with a fixed address, personnel at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) may not be able to pinpoint your location automatically, when you dial 911. It is therefore imperative you mention your location while dialing 911 from a VoIP phone.
Check out these additional tips while dialing 911 from a VoIP phone as opposed to a traditional phone.
- Other than 911 dialing, most features typically associated with regular phones (call waiting, call ID, call forwarding, voice mail and so on) are also available on VoIP phones.
- Unlike traditional phones, a VoIP phone will not work if there is a power outage. You therefore must have a backup arrangement (like a mobile or additional wired phone) in the rare event you experience one.
- There has been some debate on voice quality and reliability for VoIP phones vs traditional phones. In the initial years, VoIP phones had poorer voice quality and calls would sometimes drop. This has changed significantly, though I would yet claim wired phones have better voice quality and reliability overall. But if you're using the phone mainly for non-critical, non-business calls, the cost savings might justify the slight difference in quality
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