Our VoIP FAQ contains the most common generic VoIP questions that we have gathered from users of WhichVoIP since 2005. The answers provided are focused on the residential user for their home phone needs. If you are interested in common questions from a business perspective then we recommend you also check out our Business Questions section.
Look through the questions below to find the one that best matches your question and then click on it to view the answer. Alternatively just browse through all the questions one at a time.
VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol or as commonly stated Voice over IP. Internet Protocol (IP) is the method by which data is sent over the Internet (from computer to computer for example). So, basically, VoIP is the transmission of your voice over an internet connection.
As VoIP uses your internet connection to transmit your voice (analog) over the internet (digital), your voice signal must first be converted into a digital signal that the Internet Protocol (your internet connection) understands. This digital signal of your voice then travels over the internet and is directed to the number you are calling. At the other end, the digital signal is converted back to an analog signal (your voice) so the person you are calling can hear you. The conversion at the other end allows you to speak to anyone with a regular phone number, whether they have VoIP service or regular phone service. Refer to our VoIP Explained page for more detailed information on this topic.
A high speed internet connection is required, such as DSL or Cable Broadband service. To use your existing phone you will need a phone adapter to allow connection to your internet connection. This adapter provides the conversion from your analog voice to the digital signal required for internet transmission. Alternatively, you can purchase a special VoIP phone (often called IP Phone), which can be plugged straight into your internet connection with no phone adapter required. You will also have to sign up for a VoIP Service Provider. Typically, Service Providers will provide the required phone adapter free of charge.
The number of VoIP Service Providers is increasing every week. Most offer various VoIP solutions to suit most peopleís needs, with varying prices and features. For a list of VoIP Service Providers that best suit your needs, and also to access our thousands of user submitted reviews, check out our VoIP Providers and user reviews comparison page.
This is an important question to ask. There are a number of VoIP Service Providers out there and they are increasing every week. Most Service Providers have a selection of plans to choose from and provide various different features, at various different costs. User our residential VoIP providers and user reviews page to find a provider that best suit your needs.
Most plans provided by VoIP Service Providers now allow the user to call any number anywhere in the world, including local numbers, long distance numbers, international numbers, and cell numbers. However, this may depend on the Provider and the VoIP Plan you choose. For a list of VoIP Service Providers that best suit your needs, check out our VoIP Provider comparison page.
Probably the biggest advantage of a VoIP phone service is the cost savings over a traditional phone service. These savings can be substantial, depending on the Service Provider and Plan you choose, and your normal phone usage. Other advantages include feature rich Plans (caller ID, call forwarding, voicemail, call waiting etc), portability (you can take your phone adapter with you and in theory use on any high speed internet connection), and if you have a broadband internet connection you donít have to maintain and pay the additional cost of a phone line just to make phone calls.
One of the main disadvantages of a VoIP phone service is that it may not work during power outages or outages in your high speed internet connection though this can typically be overcome with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for around $50. Other disadvantages include, 911 emergency dialing may not be provided by some Service Providers (rare these days, see our article on E911), you need a high speed internet connection (DSL, cable etc.), and you may not get a directory listing. It should be noted however that VoIP technology is progressing rapidly, and pretty much all of the disadvantages of a VoIP phone service compared with a traditional phone service have been addressed or have workarounds.
Typically yes, but some Service Providers may not support this feature. A great alternative to consider is an Internet Fax service (also known as Online Fax). We have a good guide to faxing with VoIP.
No, not if you are using a phone adapter or a special VoIP phone. However, your high speed internet connection must be active for your VoIP service to work.
Nearly all VoIP Service Providers now offer the option to keep your existing phone number if you wish (referred to as number portability). This may vary between VoIP Provider, so check this before signing up for service.
Yes. Some VoIP Service Providers provide a Number for Life feature. This means that as long as you stay with your Service Provider you can keep your number, if required, even when you move house locally or to another city/state.
Some VoIP Service Providers now offer the customer the option to change their phone number themselves via their Provider web site or by phoning customer service.
Set-up is very simple. Your VoIP Service Provider will provide you with a phone adapter (if using your existing phone). You simply plug this adapter into your internet connection and your phone into the adapter.
There are four possibilities for adding multiple phones onto your VoIP phone service. Click here to read about the four options.
This question comes up a lot and the answer is MAYBE. There are a number of items to consider so we decided to write an article that researches VoIP and home security systems which will hopefully help.
We get this question a lot from our readers. The problem with satellite Internet is the latency involved in sending signals to and from the satellite since it is 22,000 miles away. Latency and jitter are not friends of VoIP and often this can result in poor quality calls. WhichVoIP wrote an article on VoIP over Satellite which is worth reading if you have satellite Internet and are looking at VoIP.
Use the Comment form below to contact us with your question and we will try and respond within 24-48 hours. We might even add your question to our main VoIP FAQ list.
If you continue to scroll down this page you will find many questions asked by our visitors, along with our answers.
Author: Andy Forgrieve
Whichvoip's Guide to VoIP Features
Saving with VoIP and a Real World Example
Use the form below to add your comments/thoughts and to interact with us. All comments will be moderated by WhichVoIP.com before going live. We try to answer all questions within 24 hours.
Posted by Pat Moody on November 21st, 2013:
I need to know if I can use all 5 phones in the house that is 4100 sq ft on one story with this system. Also my phones are two line phones. Can I still use them and just use one of the lines?
-> Response: Yes this should be fine Pat. See FAQ16 for a link to our article on this.
Posted by Darlene on November 13th, 2013:
Can I plug the basic talk VoIP box into my Internet box? Is the internet box considered a router also? Why can I not get service in a area code that is listed on the basic talk web site?
-> Response: Darlene, yes you can usually plug your Basic Talk VoIP ATA into your Internet modem using an Ethernet cable (normally supplied). The Internet modem often has router functionality inside, I would need to know the model to confirm. Regarding service in a specific area code, you may need to talk to them about that as usually this is fine but always are some corner cases.
Posted by Tim Siewert on November 8th, 2013:
What if I do not have a DSL or Cable service at my house? I have a wireless "hotspot" for my internet service and cell phones through Sprint. Can I still get VoIP? I am looking for a less expensive alternative.
-> Response: Tim you do need high speed Internet for VoIP. Your best bet may be to look at mobile VoIP offerings. These are apps for your cell phone that enable you to make low cost calls and uses your cell data plan.
Posted by kenneth on November 8th, 2013:
Is charter communications phone service considered Voip i.e same as getting ata and voip service provider
-> Response: That is correct, its ATA tends to be built into the modem it supplies but pretty much all of the larger cable companies are using VoIP, they just don't advertise it this way, often calling it digital phone service and the likes.
-> UPDATE: So the quality should be the same if using the same Internet provider right?
-> RESPONSE: Correct. I have never used Charter so I would recommend trying it out first as the VoIP providers usually give you 30 days money back guarantee. Just order a new phone number initially from the VoIP provider and if happy then transfer your Charter number over to the new VoIP provider later ? that way if you are not happy it saves a LOT of hassle! There are a few ISPs that play games and do not allow third party VoIP service on their network hence the reason to try this first though unlikely to be an issue these days, especially with a big company like Charter. Regarding quality, so long as you have a decent Internet connection you should have great quality and loads more features (e.g. call forward, voicemail to email etc). Best way to test your connection right now is to run our VoIP test. If you want further reading here is on article on switching to VoIP for Frontier FiOS.
Posted by Rosaire Gingras on November 5th, 2013:
I would like to keep my home phone number in the house and in my motorhome on the road - can I?
-> Response: This is not something that would be easy to do as presumably you would need to rely on cell coverage when you are on the road. One option to consider. Get VoIP for home service and a cheap cell phone service if you do not have one already. Enable call forwarding for your VoIP line so it automatically forwards all of your calls to your cell service when you are on the road.
Posted by Dennis Coleman on October 24th, 2013:
Is this type of phone service compatible with my home security system? The questions that you have posted on the site addressed my other concern about multiple lines but I saw nothing about security systems that need to notify police in the event of a break in. Thanks.
-> Response: Good question Dennis. We get this question a lot so added our response to FAQ17 above, hopefully the article that this points to will help.
Posted by John Dobson on October 16th, 2013:
If I purchase a Vonage or Magic Jack setup with a local USA number, can I take it to Scotland, plug it into an internet connection and make calls from Scotland to the USA and from the USA to Scotland using the local number (without incurring any additional charges)?
-> Response: Scotland, why on earth would you want to go there? Kidding (one of the guys here is from Scotland, great place). Yes that should work just fine, of course always worth confirming with the provider when you sign up. Some providers also have an app for Android/iOS devices so potentially you could use that in Scotland and use WiFi for the Internet and then not need to bring any hardware with you. That is the beauty of IP based phone service, location is not important. I say to confirm with them simply because they could use the IP address and determine your location in the UK and then block calls accordingly. This is not something that the providers usually do though. Vonage also has service in the UK so potentially even less likely to have issues with them.
Posted by marie on October 12th, 2013:
I have basic talk and it was working fine for a month now my internet keeps cutting out, I have returned my box twice and it it still cutting out. I have to disconnect everything and wait to see if it comes back on, I don't know if it's the phone or I need higher speed on my internet, can you help please.
-> Response: Marie it does sound more like an Internet related issue or your setup perhaps. I recommend you run our VoIP test and look at our troubleshooting and setup pages. Feel free to respond with the results and we will try to get to the bottom of this.
Posted by Paul on September 17th, 2013:
We spend half our time in Costa Rica and Half our time in Canada. We have a internet connection in both places which is fast enough for Voip (5mbps). I have been using Google Voice for free, but I prefer to use a regular telephone and somehow use our wireless CR or CDN phone in conjunctions with VOIP...how could I do that
-> Response: It may be worth taking a look at Obihai, they have hardware solutions for Google Voice.
-> UPDATE: Thanks, this may be the solution I am looking for.
Posted by Nathan on September 14th, 2013:
I have a device from my previous vonage service. It's a Uniden uip- 1869v combination adapter and phone. Do any of the services support these devices if I can unlock it? I was very disappointing to find that vonage no longer supports it after I paid hundreds for the device a few years ago, and refuse to return to them.
-> Response: If you can unlock it I would expect you should be able to get this to work with other providers. Callcentric tend to be a good option for BYOD.
Posted by Rob on September 13th, 2013:
I have a home security system that's hardwired into my landline. Any idea whether/how I can get it to work with VoIP? I'm probably going to go with AXvoice, if that helps.
-> Response: Rob, it tends to be hit or miss when it comes to home security systems and VoIP. Probably not the answer you want to hear I know. Axvoice states in their T&Cs that they are not compatible with such systems. My recommendation would be to talk to your home security company as often they have a list of VoIP companies that they have tested for compatibility.
-> UPDATE: We get this question a lot so created an article that may help on VoIP and security systems.
Posted by Dave on September 9th, 2013:
Does anyone offer VOIP service that can be plugged directly into a Verizon FiOS router?
-> Response: Dave, all the providers should work for this configuration. You just take their VoIP ATA and plug it into the FiOS router, although most people have multiple devices in their home so tend to have another router or switch downstream too. I have a similar setup at my home (Frontier FiOS) and I just connect my FiOS router to my ATA box and then my ATA box to my own router which then connects to my home network. We also have a decent page on various VoIP setups that may help.
Posted by Lan pham on August 28th, 2013:
I want to use VOIP but there are many ATAs out there( Obihai 202,Duo wifi etc). Could you please tell me which one I should go for? I plan to use CALLCENTRIC service for basic home phone.
-> Response: Good question Lan, there are indeed MANY ATAs out there today. We recently created a phone adapter comparison page that may be worth checking out. I think it will help.
Posted by emilotte on August 1st, 2013:
Is a Voip phone portable in that can I take it to the cottage and plug it into my internet router.
-> Response: Yes, that is one of the many benefits of VoIP. Assuming you have a VoIP phone service provider set up you can take your analog phone adaptor (ATA, typically supplied by your service provider) along with a regular analog phone, or you can take an IP phone if you have one. Plug into a high speed internet connection and you will have your phone service. Your phone number is "coded" inside the adaptor/IP phone so you can take your phone number wherever you go. Some providers include a free "softphone" which is a software app that you can download onto a laptop for example. You can then use your laptop to make calls when you are away from home with the addition of a microphone and speakers (or headset). Hope this helps.
Posted by Dave Holdener on July 27th, 2013:
Currently have a 2 land line system. Will one VOIP account handle both lines or will I need 2 accounts?
-> Response: One account for as many lines as you need on the business side. For the residential side usually 2 lines can be covered under one account.
Posted by Ron on July 22nd, 2013:
It appears that if you want your phone number transferred, it immediately applies a 1 prior to the area code. Does this mean our neighbor must call long distance to call us?
-> Response: This should not be the case as most providers include a feature called 7 digit dialing in addition to 10 digit and 11 digit dialing. Please check with your provider directly as it may be a simple configuration change in your setup.
Posted by Peter Shepherd on July 21st, 2013:
A friend of mine recently switched from Bell to Talkit, and I've noticed an extreme drop in quality from his calls (he's using a $30 cordless phone) at my end, while he notices little difference on his end. We both live in central Toronto. I wondered if the difference in quality could be a marketing decision on the part of some VOIP providers, to ensure that the client hears better than the call receiver? When I looked at other bulletin boards, Talkit.ca appeared to have a bifurcated reputation, two-thirds liking and one-third disliking. As there's a large up-front cost to join, is it worth complaining, or do they usually give a 30 day guarantee on new service?
-> Response: Peter, if I was to hazard a guess I would say your friend may be having bandwidth issues on his uplink path (i.e. from him to you). Usually Internet providers have asymmetrical broadband so fast downlink but relatively slow uplink. A VoIP call typically takes up to 100Kbps so maybe this is the issue. He could try running our VoIP test - see top of this page (speed test). Yes there are usually 30 day guarantees for most providers. If the VoIP test looks okay I would definitely complain to the provider.
Posted by kenny washburn on June 24th, 2013:
how can I change my area code,now that I have moved
-> Response: You should be able to call your provider and get them to change your number. Alternatively ask them about virtual numbers. Keep your current number and add another area code for a small fee.
Posted by Eric on June 19th, 2013:
Which VOIP services provide V.150.1 V.MOIP analog modem over IP services ?
-> Response: Good question Eric but unfortunately I am not aware of any providers that support v.150.1. This is unfortunate as it would potentially fix some legacy issues.
Posted by Duane Foote on June 4th, 2013:
Can I get it to work? All I have available is phone modem service or 3g wireless or satellite. Currently I only use phone modems and have an old fashioned landline and one cell phone plan with Verizon.
-> Response: There are often latencies and jitter with satellite broadband so I would not recommend it. There is not enough bandwidth for dial-up modems to run VoIP. You can use Mobile VoIP on your cell phone though, see our Mobile VoIP section from our navigation at the top of this page.
Posted by Sylvia on June 2nd, 2013:
There are so many ATA adapters I don't know which one to use. Can you list the top 3 in terms of quality/reliability/features.
-> Response: Syliva there are many ATA adapters but usually they are provided and configured by the VoIP provider you select. A common ATA used is the Grandstream HT502, small form factor and seems very reliable.
Posted by Fernando Almonacid on May 20th, 2013:
Hi: I have been using a VoIP phone for the last year without issues, however I decided to change my internet provider as well as my router and since then my VoIP phone just take messages. I really want to continue with VoIP, any suggestions?
-> Response: Fernando do you get a dial done when you pick up the phone? Can you make a call but not receive calls? You have changed a couple of variables. Do you have your ATA adapter downstream from the router? If so try putting it upstream as then you can take the router out of the equation - it may not be allowing that port through.
-> UPDATE: Router problem, now resolved.
Posted by Mort Forney on May 19th, 2013:
I have optimum phone, I intend to keep it - are there any complications to getting an extra phone?
-> Response: Not usually any issue ordering another line Mort. If you just want another phone I'd consider a cordless phone setup for your home as it is simple to add more phones.
Posted by KT on May 18th, 2013:
I live in a rural area, though I have DSL. I thought if I joined Vonage it would work for me. Sadly, it didn't. Are there ANY VOIP that work in rural areas which work in rural areas?
-> Response: Hi, if you have DSL and it has reasonable bandwidth you should have no issues running VoIP with any provider. May be worth running our speed test, see the link in the navigation menu after clicking on WhichVoIP.com.
Posted by Cliff on May 6th, 2013:
learned a lot from your 16 VOIP Questions. Thanks. About ready to set up Ooma Premier service porting my 2 lines from Vonage that used to be with Qwest/Century Link. Still have DSL 12down/5up . Thinking about a new 3rd line # thru another cheap VOIP provider but concerned whether my 4 port CL router can handle it with my 3 desktops & hp printer without losing any sound quality.
-> Response: Hi cliff. should be fine, you have loads of bandwidth there to handle this. Only downside is having multiple providers to deal with. You can add a switch downline to the router to handle the PCs etc.
Posted by neil dubner on April 28th, 2013:
can I use hughes satellite as my internet connection. I have no other access to the internet
-> Response: Only issue with satellite broadband is the latencies/delays rather than the actual bandwidth as this can affect the voice quality. We do have a voip test that you should run to check your broadband for VoIp. VoIP tends to be hit or miss though with satellite backhaul to be honest.
Posted by JimM on April 21st, 2013:
Can you have the same land phone number and VoIP number at the same time
-> Response: Hi Jim. Your VoIP number would replace your landline and you can still use your same phone and number, it's just the call will go across the Internet to its destination.
Posted by Nancy on April 15th, 2013:
Will I be able to get email notifications of messages left on my VoIP phone?
-> Response: Hi Nancy, yes any messages left on your VoIP number can be emailed to an address of your choosing. It's a great feature.
Posted by joel on March 27th, 2013:
what happens when your phone doesn't work. Who do you contact? Internet provider or ooma?
-> Response: Hi Joel. If you still have Internet access i.e. check a few websites then it would suggest ooma may be down. If no internet then worth contacting your internet provider....using a cell phone :-)
Posted by Jasper on March 20th, 2013:
Sometimes I have no dial tone - what would cause this?
-> Response: Normally you would see this if your Internet went down - VoIP needs an Internet connection to make and receive calls. A power outage would cause this too but guessing you'd have noticed that one Jasper :-)
Posted by Ted R on March 15th, 2013:
One of the best features is voicemail to email. When I'm away from home I can listen to my voicemails using mail tool on my ipad, love that man!
-> Response: Yeah we love that feature too Ted!
Posted by Janet on March 11th, 2013:
Some of the providers say they work on smart phones - what does that mean?
-> Response: Good question Janet. This is called a soft phone and it means that you can download an app for your smart phone (or even WiFi tablets) and make calls from that device using your home phone service provider. Great if you are on the road! On a smart phone this would just use up data minutes rather than voice minutes. If you prefer to use your cell phone for all calls and make low cost national and intenrational calls try mobile VoIP providers - see the tab at the top of this page.