VoIP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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.


Generic and Home VoIP Related Questions and Answers

Look through the questions below to find the one that best matches your question. If you still have unanswered questions then use the comment form at end of this article to ask us directly.

1. What is VoIP?

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.

2. How does VoIP work?

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.

3. What do I need to have to be able to get VoIP service?

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.

4. What Providers are out there?

The number of VoIP companies is increasing every week. Most offer various solutions to suit most peopleís needs, with varying prices and features. For a list of Companies that best suit your needs, and also to access our thousands of user submitted reviews, check out our Provider user reviews and comparison page.

5. How do VoIP Providers Compare?

This is an important question to ask. There are a number of 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. Use our residential providers and user reviews page to find a provider that best suit your needs.

6. Who can I call using my VoIP?

Most plans 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 plan you choose. For a list of Providers that best suit your needs, check out our Provider comparison page.

7. What are some of the advantages of using VoIP?

Probably the biggest advantage of a VoIP 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.

8. What are some of the disadvantages of using VoIP?

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.

9. Will I be able to fax with VoIP?

Typically yes, but some Service Providers may not support this feature. A great alternative to consider is an Online Fax service (also known as Internet Fax). We have a good guide to faxing with VoIP.

10. Will I still be able to use my computer during a phone call?


11. Does my computer need to be ON for my phone service to work?

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.

12. Will I be able to keep my existing phone number if I switch to VoIP?

Nearly all 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. It is often a good idea to start with a new phone number first so you can test the service. Once happy with the service, get the provider to port your number over. This can save a lot of hassle.

13. What happens if I move house, will I be able to keep my phone number?

Yes. Most 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. This is one of the many advantages of VoIP, your service is very portable because all calls are handled in the cloud using the Internet. One important point though, if you move home, remember to log into your account on the provider's website and update the emergency E-911 information. This is vital so emergency services automatically know where to go if you call 911. After all, you don't want them going to your old home 1500 miles away! If you also need a local number for your new home, for example let's say it is outside of your old area code, you can buy a virtual number for this new area code. Then simply use this virtual number when you give it out to new friends so their calls are all local calls. The incoming calls for both numbers will be routed to your phone by your VoIP provider. Virtual numbers are usually less than $4 per month.

14. What if I decide to change my phone number after I have VoIP?

Some Providers now offer the customer the option to change their phone number themselves via their Provider web site or by phoning customer service.

15. How difficult is it to set-up?

Set-up is very simple. Your 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.

16. How do I add multiple phones to my service?

There are four possibilities for adding multiple phones onto your phone service. Click here to read about the four options.

17. Will VoIP work with a Home Security System?

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.

18. Will VoIP work with Satellite Internet?

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.

19. I travel a lot, can I still use VoIP?

Yes you can. Another big plus with VoIP is the ability to travel and still receive calls to your home or business line. There are a number of ways to do this. For example, the most simple is call forwarding, which means you can forward all incoming calls to a number of your choice (e.g. a cell phone), sometimes several numbers (simultaneous ring). Another option is just to take your VoIP ATA device with you and plug any analog telephone into the ATA (note there may be International considerations here regarding the telephone). Finally, many providers have soft phones for computers or even better, Android and iPhone Apps that you can install onto your smart phone. Now calls to your home number ring at home and also ring on your smart phone. The caller ID is usually passed through too, so it is just like being at home.

Have a More Specific Question Not Covered Above? Just Ask Us!

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: Andrew

Published: by WhichVoIP

Related Articles for Further Reading:

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WhichVoIP Visitor Comments

#64 : Posted by Edward on November 12th, 2015:

I have a Captioncall phone, supplied by Captioncall, will it it work with Ooma?
Received two answers. Caption call states it will work just fine. I called Ooma and the CS rep stated no it would not work.

-> Response: We have not actually used Captioncall but it seems to me it should work.
After all, Ooma connects to any regular phone so will connect to Captioncall and the Captioning is done via an Internet connection. Now the other end of Ooma is the Internet but so long as you have a decent Internet connection, in my opinion it should work (since both Ooma and Captioncall are using the Internet).
If you know anybody that has an Ooma I'd say try it out first (or any other VoIP service for that matter). If you can get Ooma from Costco and it doesn't work Costco may let you return the Ooma device.
Please let us know how it goes.

-> UPDATE: Ooma responded to Edward and stated that the Ooma phone service would indeed work with Captioncall.


#63 : Posted by Ul on November 3rd, 2015:

Providers often show hard-wired diagrams between router, adapter and phone.
Have seen only Ooma VOIP system that do wireless connection between adapter and phone.
Are there other VOIP vendors that offer wireless connection?

-> Response: Are you looking for Wireless between the adapter and phone or adapter and router or both?
Obihai may be an adapter to look at that could enable you to work with any voip provider. It has plug-ins for bluetooth (to phone) and wifi (to router).


#62 : Posted by Donald E Saunders on September 28th, 2015:

What happens if I change internet provider.

-> Response: This should not have any impact on your VoIP service - providing the new ISP also has a decent quality connection. Likely worth running our VoIP test to see the quality before and after.


#61 : Posted by Don on July 2nd, 2015:

Are ISPs (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) required to allow individuals to set up an VOIP system without permission or charging a fee for the telephone capability?

-> Response: No permission should be necessary, you are simply sending your VoIP calls over their Internet, so it is just data whether it be internet browsing or VoIP calls. Some ISPs used to play games by disallowing certain ports (such as 5060) to prevent VoIP but that is in the dim and distant past thankfully.


#60 : Posted by Dave M. on February 28th, 2015:

I have a landline in a rural area serviced by Frontier. Every voip provider that I have checked with has said they can't port my current number to their service because they don't have a 3rd party carrier in place to do it. Frontier has said everything is ready on their end to port the number. It seems that all of the voip providers are refusing to comply with the law on LNP. Does a complaint to the FCC do any good?

-> Response: Take a look at our Porting page which highlights the process and lists some tools to check for portability. It also lists some useful resources to contact should you wish to file a complaint.


#59 : Posted by Ja Ti on February 22nd, 2015:

VOIP is great for routine calls, but for natural disasters such as flood, hurricane, blizzards VOIP requires a number of services to work properly in order for the user to make or receive calls. In other words if ANY of these are present you will not be able to make or receive calls.
1) Internet Outage, disruption, or congested anywhere between the user and their VOIP provider - think natural disaster.
2) User has no power in their home - can't power voip equipment or cable/dsl equipment. Also for extended power interruptions the ISP may not have sufficient reserves to maintain internet service if their offices are without power or if the VOIP provider is without power.
For business that means having at least 1 or 2 POTS lines with the VOIP programmed to roll to the POTS lines if the VOIP lines go unanswered (as a fallback service).
Bottom line, VOIP is great for reducing costs for routine calls, but always have a backup for the natural disaster situation.

-> Response: Good points. Most people tend to use cell service as a backup. On the power side, you can buy a cheap Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to power your modems and ATAs.


#58 : Posted by Roberto Da Silva on February 11th, 2015:

Does VoIP also work for a TDD, or Telephone Device for the Deaf? Can I plug-in and use a TDD instead of a regular phone?
TDDs are text-based tele-typewriters that use ANSCII code, not analogue voice/sound. It allows the Deaf to communicate over landlines.

-> Response: This is a great question though unfortunately it does not have a definitive answer.
I found this article from Cisco regarding TDD and IP telephony.
It is encouraging but this is for enterprise level IP communications. I state this because consumer grade Internet service does not have an SLA (Service Level Agreement) so tends to be inconsistent when it comes to packet loss, jitter, latency and the likes. All of this can cause havoc with a system such as TDD.
First I would run our VoIP test to see how good your Internet connection is.
Next I would try a VoIP provider but one that has a 30 day cancellation policy. Also, test them with a new telephone number, do not port an existing phone number over until you know the system is bullet proof.
Lastly, you want to make sure that the VoIP provider has the option to use a CODEC with minimal compression so you do not lose tones from the TDD.
Hope this helps and please let me know how you get on. I will add any feedback you provide to our website to help other visitors that are hard of hearing or deaf.


#57 : Posted by Christiane Hodister on January 24th, 2015:

My husband is a long haul truck driver, most of the time he is in the US. Can I call him on his Canadian cell in the US at no charge? Can he call me at home in Canada at no charge? Does he need to have Internet service in order to call me? Will he get charged for roaming by Telus, his provider? Thanks, Chris.

-> Response: Some good questions here Chris. Lets start by stating that to use any type of VoIP service your husband and you will both need some form of high speed Internet access. If your husband has a smartphone with a data package then that will work. If you have a home broadband Internet service or you have a smartphone with a data package you are good also. Assuming the above then there are a few options.
1) Get a "VoIP home phone service". Many providers, like Phone Power, include a free cell phone app that you can use that links to your home phone service. That means you get a home phone service with unlimited calling in US/CAN, plus use of the app on your cell phones (that uses your data package). More info on Canada home providers can be found here: http://www.whichvoip.com/voip/canada_voip.htm
2) You can use a call phone app like Rebtel, Skype, Viber etc. See more info here: http://www.whichvoip.com/mobile-voip.htm


#56 : Posted by Douglas Prager on January 4th, 2015:

I live in Hawaii and have found only one VOIP service provider outside of the state (BroadVoice) that offers local (808) phone numbers. Can you direct me to any others?

-> Response: Good question. This doesn't come up often but the 808 area code is indeed a problem.
I did find one option, after doing some searches, Ooma.
I found in their FAQ the following info:
"Due to the high cost of Hawaii phone numbers, the 808 area code carries a surcharge of $29.99/year per number. This fee is waived for one 808 phone number if you subscribe to Ooma Premier."


#55 : Posted by Paul Welsh on December 21st, 2014:

When I advise my current copper line provider (Bell) that I am cancelling their phone service, how do I know that my number is still assigned to me? What should I do first - sign up with a VOIP provider or cancel Bell?

-> Response: Definitely keep Bell until you've moved to VoIP. Here is an article on local number porting that should help you.
You should try VoIP first (i.e. go for a provider with a 30 day money back guarantee) so you can cancel it if you don't like it. In other words start by getting a new number with a new VoIP service and then transfer your old number only if you are happy with VoIP.



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