What is internet telephone?
Internet phones use your broadband for phone calls. The technology is called VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.
You can use VoIP for your home phone or at your office. You can even have an entire system for your business.
How do internet telephones work?
VoIP converts voice to data and sends it over broadband Internet. Landlines require 2 separate lines to carry sound and data. Not so with VoIP. Also unlike landlines, which require one constant path to maintain a connection, VoIP signals travel through whatever are the most efficient paths to reach their destination.
However, the public switch telephone network and VoIP have begun to intersect. Internet telephones can already connect to the PSTN. This is why you can call a landline with your internet phone.
Yet, because VoIP technology is so much more efficient in its bandwidth usage, traditional telecom service providers have begun using the internet between connections without any benefit to the consumer.
What does internet phone offer?
Internet phone has many features and advantages. For one, price. VoIP is cheaper for everyone involved.
The average landline provider charges between $20 and $40 a month for basic phone service. VoIP, on the other hand, ranges from $10 to $20 for residential users.
At one major telecom company, basic local calling costs $20 to $27 a month depending on region. If you want features (such as caller ID) with your local service, prices start at $26 per month with a $7.50 activation fee. Long distance is another $20. That’s almost $50 a month for local and long distance.
On the other side, internet phone service is a competitive market and often has good starting deals. ViaTalk, for example, offers $8.47 per month for the first 3 months and comes with enhanced voicemail, 3-way calling, caller ID, a free 2nd line, and more.
VoIP includes features free with basic subscription. Features included are:
- call waiting
- caller ID
Many residential VoIP phone service providers also offer 3-way calling and a complimentary 2nd line, like the ViaTalk example above.
There are also many more features designed for business VoIP.
All internet phone providers have unlimited calling plans, allowing more freedom to its users. Local and long distance calls work the same way, making it much cheaper.
There is, however, a Fair Use Limit. If you exceed the limit (usually 3000-10,000 minutes per user per month) you will be charged high fees and sometimes flagged for abuse of the network.
International calling is also much cheaper compared to landline service. Because VoIP phones use the internet, there is no connection that must be kept open on a ‘hard’ line quite far away.
Some plans offer international calling credit, and charge per minute afterward. Others have special plans with specific countries.
What are the drawbacks to internet phone?
- You need high speed internet
- No power, no phone
- Emergency systems are different
The faster your internet connection, the better the sound quality and reliability of your calls. You may have read about reliability problems with VoIP service, but this has vastly improved over the last few years, so much that good VoIP service has indistinguishable and occasionally even better quality than landline phone service.
If the power goes out, the phone won’t work. Both VoIP and the Internet require electricity.
You must be careful about emergency calls. VoIP numbers are not bound to your location and so 911 doesn’t work the same way. Some service providers have better 911 systems than others and it depends on your location. Internet phone providers are attempting to improve their technology on this.