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 and then click on it to view the answer. Alternatively just browse through all the questions one at a time.

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 Internet Fax service (also known as Online 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: Andy Forgrieve

Published: by WhichVoIP

Related Articles for Further Reading:

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Whichvoip's Guide to VoIP Features
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WhichVoIP Visitor Comments

#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.



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