More people are switching to residential VoIP phone services and saving money. Compare the traditional PSTN phone service with VoIP phone services before making the switch.
Traditional phone services use the publicly switched telephone network, or PSTN, to convey voice messages (referred to as voice traffic). This telephone system conveys voice traffic via analog signals, and has been the method of communication that consumers have been relying on for years.
VoIP is a newer method of relaying voice traffic, and converts the analog signals of yore into the digital signals (also known as data packets) of today. The data packets are transmitted via Internet Protocol and then reassembled as analog signals for the individual on the receiving end of the call, hence the acronym, Voice over Internet Protocol.
VoIP phone services have been available since the mid-'90s, but people are only recently recognizing the benefits of VoIP. Businesses and homeowners alike are switching over to VoIP to take advantage of its significantly lower costs.
Residential VoIP Phone Service
Though businesses are subscribing to VoIP at twice the rate of residential users (79% of businesses are expected to use VoIP phone services by 2013), households still make up a majority of VoIP subscribers.
Residential and small office/home office (SOHO) VoIP users increased 14% in 2011 to 178 million, and the use of VoIP phone services is expected to grow. The main reason people are switching phone services is that VoIP is much more affordable than PSTN, but it's good to compare what each phone service has to offer.
Comparing Phone Services
There are a number of advantages to switching to VoIP phone services, but the traditional phone service, PSTN, has its own advantages.
VoIP Is More Affordable than PSTN
Local VoIP calls are usually free, long-distance VoIP calls are usually free or very inexpensive, and international calls are cheap. PSTN, not so much.
VoIP users with the same VoIP phone service providers can call each other for free - even for international calls. For example, Skype-to-skype calls are free. PSTN doesn't offer this option.
VoIP phone services offer extra features (such as voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting) for free or for nominal costs. PSTN charges for extra features.
VoIP Is More Flexible than PSTN
VoIP phone service allows you to use your service at home, or on the go, so long as you have the right equipment to do so. PSTN provides cordless phones, but you have to stay within range.
VoIP users can choose their area code, or change it when needed (like when relocating) so PSTN users can get local rates when calling VoIP friends. PSTN doesn't offer this option.
Some VoIP service providers allow you to use your current home phone number when you switch from PSTN to VoIP phone service, saving you the trouble of informing your contacts.
VoIP users can manage their VoIP phone service from anywhere in the world with VoIP online account management.
VoIP Is Not as Reliable as PSTN
PSTN is usually hard wired, so customers with traditional phone service can continue making and receiving calls during power outages. VoIP phone service relies on electrical power.
PSTN has excellent quality, whereas VoIP phone service quality depends on the quality of your high-speed internet and the availability of Internet bandwidth.
VoIP Is Not Ideal for Emergency Calls
PSTN offers E911 (enhanced 911) to provide the caller's location. Though interconnected VoIP providers must supply E911 service, you have to register your location information, and if you move, you have to update your information.
VoIP providers that are not interconnected, such as Skype, and mobile VoIP services do not offer E911 because they cannot rely on specific routers to determine the caller's location.
VoIP callers are also unable to make emergency calls during network outages and/or power outages, which may be the time to make emergency calls.
Thinking about Switching Phone Services?
Though more and more people are dropping their PSTN phone service altogether, some choose to hold onto the most basic PSTN phone service in the event of an emergency, power outage, or network outage. If you're thinking about switching phone services, but you're not quite ready to let go of PSTN, this may be one way of reducing costs, while still holding onto reliable PSTN features. In time, VoIP phone services will improve and any issues mentioned will most likely be addressed.