VoIP stands for "Voice Over Internet Protocol", which is a technology that allows you to make phone calls using your Broadband Internet connection instead of your regular phone service. It is also referred to as Voice over IP, Broadband phone, Internet phone service and Digital Voice. Yes it is a marketing game by the different service providers but they all use the same core technology.
You still simply pick up your regular phone, dial a number and talk. VoIP is simple and is for everyone. It doesn't matter if the person you are calling has VoIP or not, this is all taken care of by your service provider.
The only requirement for this technology is a high speed Internet connection, such as DSL or cable, as the service is based on broadband Internet communication. A VoIP phone call requires a speed of up to 90Kbps depending on the voice compression algorithm chosen by the service provider. This is a higher speed than dial-up Internet so a high speed (Broadband) connection is a basic requirement.
The following are the main benefits of using VoIP for your phone service:
The features available with a broadband phone service are incredible.
Your voice, which is an analog signal, is converted into small packets of digital data and sent over your Broadband Internet connection to your VoIP service provider. This digital data is perfect for the Internet and it means your service provider can do many things with it such as:
There are many other cool features that VoIP offers and it should be remembered that this technology is growing fast so the possibilities are endless. Check out our guide to many of the VoIP Features available from the service providers covered on our site.
Most providers have Emergency 911 (or E911) service which is a little different to the standard 911 service you may be use to. Verify with your provider of choice that they have this service. This typically requires you to set up your home address in the emergency systems so that they know your location in case of emergency.
The biggest disadvantage that skeptics will throw at you is what happens when your power goes out at home or you lose your Broadband Internet connection. You see VoIP relies on having a broadband connection so if that goes down so does your Internet phone service. However, in the days when most of us have a cell phone of some sort, even if it is just "pay as you go", is this really a big issue?
Another option that many people go for is to have a cheap regular local phone service to use just on those rare occasions when you lose your power or broadband connection.
To make a VoIP call the only additional piece of equipment that a typical setup will need is an Analog Telephone Adaptor (or ATA), which is usually supplied by the service provider when you sign up for service.
This allows you to make phone calls as normal, using your own standard phone. The ATA does the clever conversion of your analog voice to a digital signal that the Internet can understand. It then sends that signal on to your Broadband modem, which passes it over the Internet.
A typical residential phone solution looks like this:
Why is the computer in the picture - you still want your high speed Internet, right? You can surf the web while your daughter talks to her friends on the phone.
If you have more than one phone in your home the recommended connection is to use cordless telephones. The base station of the cordless telephone plugs directly into the VoIP ATA. The additional handsets can then be placed anywhere in your home, distributing the VoIP phone service to your required locations. For other options check out "How do I add multiple phones to my VoIP service?" in our FAQ.
For homes with more than one computer simply connect a router to the ATA instead of the PC in the diagram above. Your computers then connect to the router. Note that many other connectivity options exist for this type of setup.
Now that WhichVoIP.com has given you an insight into this technology you hopefully can now see why VoIP is the most economical and smart method of making phone calls. Check out some of the providers on this page in our comparison table to get an idea of pricing and read user reviews.
For the techies: Check out our Advanced VoIP Guide for an in-depth explanation of how a VoIP call works.
Author: Andy Forgrieve
The History of VoIP
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 LRM on October 11th, 2013:
Would it be possible to continue to use a fax machine with VOIP since the fax uses the phone line?
-> Response: We actually recently created an article on this very subject. It is possible and there are a few options. Take a look at our article on Fax over IP (FoIP).
Posted by lenny on June 17th, 2013:
I use a fax machine will this be affected by changing to voip? it is a once a week thing but I definitely need the fax.
-> Response: Lenny, fax can be problematic with VoIP due to the timing specs for this old protocol. Some fax machines work others not so well. However many of the providers actually provide eFax (internet fax) service as part of the service or for a small add-on in which case you could remove the need for your fax machine altogether and do it all from your computer.
Posted by ANITA RAMSAWAK on June 17th, 2013:
I am currently use TekSavvy High Speed Internet, I have 2 questions. If I get a home phone service, do I have to have a computer up and running while I'm on the phone and secondly do I use up my internet with the use of the home phone?
-> Response: Anita, you do not need a computer to run VoIP. The VoIP provider will usually send you an adaptor. Your regular phone plugs into this adaptor and your adaptor connects to your internet modem. Your calls then go across the internet. Your phone service will use up some of your internet allowance but it is very small compared to your regular internet use.
Posted by heidi on June 11th, 2013:
i have hughesnet satelite will that work?
-> Response: Heidi, satellite broadband can be hit or miss due to the latencies involved (i.e. enough bandwidth but delays make the quality poor). Most providers have a 30 day return policy so you could try it (just with a new number, do not transfer your home number over yet, you can do that later). Also worth trying our Speed/jitter test first..
-> UPDATE: We created an article on VoIP over satellite which may be of interest to you.
Posted by JUDY BULLARD on June 8th, 2013:
Can I get a new number as I have not had home phone service for a while.
-> Response: Sure Judy, you can get a new number.
Posted by Pete Dodd on June 5th, 2013:
This is all new to me. I'm a senior with very basic pension. Been with Bell for over 40 years. Bell handles my telephone land line (about $40 per month), plus my Internet and personal website with 2 emails to that site (about $39 per month), and won't give me any better deal...(over $85 / month with taxes!...so much for loyalty!!! How do I split everything up and not lose my website / emails, but still save money with VOIP? Is there another way or a different handler (sorry, I'm mixed up with Servers, Providers and Hosters, to handle my website and emails?). Could you advise me (and all other seniors not schooled in digital), the simplest way to slot Tel, Internet, Website and Emails to get the best and efficient service? Thank you so much for your efforts. Pete.
-> Response: Hi Pete. Providing you are not under some form of contract with Bell, you should have no problems just removing the telephone line and keeping Internet and website/emails. You could pick up a VoIP service for as low as $6 per month (see our comparison tables) so that would save you $34 per month. Only issue may be that Bell usually is DSL service (i.e. your Internet runs over your telephone wires coming into your house) so they may pull a fast one and still charge you line rental so ask them about that before you cut them off. The terminology here is naked DSL, I think in Canada it is called dry DSL. Basically this allows you to use their DSL without their phone service, may cost a few dollars per month but still significant savings for you I'm sure. Before you switch their phone service off, it may be worth getting the VoIP running over your Internet to make sure you are happy (just get a new phone number when you sign up for VoIP, to begin with). Once happy, transfer your existing number with Bell over to VoIP. Do not shut off your Bell phone line before transferring your number over to VoIP, the timing is important here. The Internet bill including email and websites seems reasonable to me so you could shop around and save a few dollars but not much I would say. Hope this helps.
Posted by Bruce Fraser on May 8th, 2013:
Under "Disadvantages": Please talk about latency, or the time lag between when I speak and the other person hears my voice. I tried a friend's VOIP phone while visiting, and it was awful: the other speaker and I were constantly interrupting each other because we thought the other had finished talking.
-> Response: Bruce, often this can be due to your broadband connection. For example if you have satellite broadband. Was this a local or long distance call, or International? The latency can be due to the amount of hops the call takes as it travels the Internet or QoS issues. For example the packets of data (your voice) get buffered as it hops across the Internet due to priority issues. This buffering can cause latency issues and the type of call quality you witnessed. It is rare though and can be down to the provider and how good their wholesale provider is i.e. who they buy minutes from. As an example, when I call family in the UK from the US it is amazing quality but when they call me with their provider I get long delays - maybe their provider has poor traffic routes which is causing the delay.
Posted by Sally on April 25th, 2013:
How good does my broadband connection need to be?
-> Response: VoIP typically is much less than 100Kb/s bandwidth so pretty much all the broadband providers will work. Only issue you may have is satellite broadband and that is due to latencies/delays rather than the bandwidth so it can affect the voice quality. We do have a voip test that you should run to check your broadband.