All about Residential VoIP

All you need to know about Residential VoIP, from adapters to ratings to service rates.

An Introduction to Residential VoIP

Installing VoIP for use on home phones is residential VoIP service, which is also occasionally called Internet phone service or digital phone service. Calls are placed using the Internet to send the signals instead of the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Switching to residential VoIP service has quite a few benefits:

  • VoIP will lower the monthly bills
  • Most plans come with unlimited local and long distance calling
  • Advanced features from the phone company like caller ID and call waiting are included
  • Softphones and mobile apps allow portability of service

VoIP calls travel mostly over the Internet connection, avoiding the PSTN and the charges that occur at each switch, so call costs are severely reduced. Long distance calls within the US and Canada are treated like local calls and international rates start at a few cents a minute.

Softphones are software based phones that install to and run from a computer. Using a softphone on a laptop gives you service mobility because you can make VoIP calls wherever you have an Internet connection.

Mobile VoIP applications are downloaded to your cell phone or smartphone to allow you to make VoIP calls using the 3G, 4G, or WiFi networks.

Standard Feature Set of Residential VoIP Providers

Residential VoIP service providers typically offer the same feature sets, but it does vary by provider. The following list is a compilation of the standard features available among the residential VoIP providers:

  • 411 directory assistance
  • 3-way calling
  • Address book
  • Auto forwarding
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • Call block
  • Call forward
  • Call hold
  • Caller ID
  • Caller ID block
  • Call return
  • Call waiting (w/caller ID)
  • e911
  • Number portability
  • Speed dialing
  • Voicemail

For explanations of these features, check out our VoIP Call Features article.

Standard Residential VoIP Service Costs

Residential VoIP service ranges from $5 to $30 a month. Ultra low monthly rates of under $10 are the result of special offers and promotions hosted by residential VoIP providers. Opting to pay an upfront annual rate instead of by month will get you a complimentary second year of service with companies like PhonePower and Voipo, dropping the monthly average to $5-$8.

Standard Residential VoIP Hardware

Analog Telephone Adapter

VoIP service can be implemented on your current traditional telephones by attaching an analog telephone adapter (ATA). The ATA will plug into the router and then into the phone to act as the bridge from analog to digital. The ATA receives the analog signals from the telephone and converts them to VoIP-compatible digital packets so they can be carried over the IP network.

Residential service providers often supply you with a telephone adapter so you can make VoIP calls with your current phone. Depending on the provider, the adapter may be a separate cost (around $50) or it may be leased to you for free while you are a customer.

Residential Gateway

A residential gateway is a device that combines an ATA with a router to provide analog to digital conversion on a larger scale. Gateways can process multimedia signals from voice, data, video, and they support PBX functionality. Residential gateways can also connect fax machines and other IP-enabled devices to the Internet through wireless connection. A home office would benefit from using residential gateway instead of an ATA.

Residential VoIP Service Failsafe

Take note that VoIP service requires an Internet connection to make calls. Power outages, server crashes, and a handful of other events can cause the Internet to go down and the phone service will go down with it. There are ways to protect against this, however. ATAs can be configured to maintain a connection with the PSTN that can act as a failsafe, and most residential gateways come with a port for a PSTN line. Also, some residential VoIP providers offer a failsafe feature that will automatically forward your calls to your cell or any other number if service goes out.

Choosing a Residential VoIP Provider

Unlike traditional phone companies, there are many residential VoIP providers to choose from and singling one out may seem like a big task. Check out our article about a good VoIP service provider selection strategy for tips to find a great service provider.

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