VOIP Product Guide
Imagine being able to make phone calls using your computer Internet service. Not just e-mail or online chat but actual telephone calls using regular phone numbers. Imagine no more. It's a reality and it uses a technology called VoIP. It's relatively new, especially for residential use. As of the end of 2004, only about 2% of Internet subscribers actually were using VoIP to make phone calls. About 80% have never heard of it. Word is spreading and services are rapidly becoming available to permit easy access and use.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), lets you make telephone calls using a digital-based broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. Broadband Internet connections are fast access services that are provided by Cable companies or telephone services (i.e. DSL). Broadband is literally hundreds to thousands of times faster than dial-up Internet access and that helps allow services such as VoIP to run flawlessly and simultaneously with your other web activity. VoIP will not work with dial-up Internet connections. Broadband Internet subscription pricing runs about $30.00 per month and higher, whereas dial-up Internet access runs around $10 to $25 per month. In spite of this difference in cost, broadband access is speedily becoming the choice among Internet users among the age 20-45 brackets. That's because it allows more rapid download of computer files, especially MP3 music files and MP4 video files. Broader telecommunication channel widths help make VoIP a very real alternative for telephone use, making the higher cost of broadband service an unbeatable value.
It's possible to add voice to dial-up Internet through e-mail and "Instant Message" features (i.e. AOL Instant Message, Yahoo Message), and you can also add images by adding a webcam to your computer. You're limited, however, by email addresses or membership in a Message group. VoIP offers more. It allows you to contact to virtually anyone who has a telephone number. In addition to a broadband Internet service provider, you also need to subscribe to VoIP phone service. If you make lots of phone calls, especially domestic and international long-distance, VoIP and Broadband service may actually be a better value for you.
Several phone carriers are already offering VoIP telephony at very competitive rates and systems vary from one carrier to another. Some services using VoIP may only allow you to call other people using the same service, but others may allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number - including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers. Also, while some services only work over your computer or a special VoIP phone, other services allow you to use a traditional phone through a special adapter. ATT, Vonage, and Packet-8 are among the leaders in providing VoIP technology to residential customers.
Depending on the service, one way to place a VoIP call is to pick up your phone and dial the number, using an adaptor that connects to your existing high-speed Internet connection. The call goes through your local telephone company to a VoIP provider. The phone call goes over the Internet to the called party's local telephone company for the completion of the call. Another way is to utilize a microphone headset plugged into your computer. The number is placed using the keyboard and is routed through your cable modem.
VoIP converts the voice signal from your telephone into a digital signal that travels over the Internet then converts it back at the other end so you can speak to anyone with a regular phone number. When placing a VoIP call using a phone with an adapter, you'll hear a dial tone and dial just as you always have. VoIP may also allow you to make a call directly from a computer using a conventional telephone or a microphone. If you're considering replacing your traditional telephone service with Internet Voice, there are some possible differences:
- Some Internet Voice services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power.
- It may be difficult for some Internet Voice services to seamlessly connect with the 911 dispatch center or identify the location of Internet Voice 911 callers.
- They may or may not offer white page listings.
- Because the calls often travel across the Internet, packets of data can be lost or delayed, which can cause occasional echo or lag. VoIP providers are still working on this technology and you can expect this issue to be resolved very soon.
Are you concerned about a difference in phone sound quality? You may be surprised to learn that some phone carriers are already using VoIP technologies, in the background, to route standard long distance telephone calls. So you may have already experienced it without awareness.
This is a relatively new and evolving technology. It's likely some of the shortcomings will be worked out soon. Many advantages are already being appreciated. Some research groups expect that there will be about 5 million to 7 million VoIP users in the United States, by the end of 2006. Will VoIP ever replace telephone service, as we currently know it?
Certain new technologies rumbling in the background suggest it will:
- Current Internet service standards (IPv4) are being outgrown. A new standard, IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) is set to take over with gradual background transition by 2010. This new version may render dial-up access obsolete, favoring broadband as a standard.
- Many regional telephone companies have been working to replace old analog telephone wiring in favor of a digital upgrade that can carry far greater amounts of information at greater speeds. Overall completion isn't likely until 2015. Some areas are already being served and growth is imminent and spreading rapidly through current and emerging urban and suburban communities. This means that telephone carriers will be able to effectively compete with Cable-TV for offering broadband access and VoIP technologies.
- More areas are being 'wired" to allow WiFi wireless Internet access, another broadband-based technology, which may also gradually replace current cellular telecommunications. The increase of WiFi use will coincide with marketing of new portable computer products that are likely to support some form of VoIP based communication.
The passing of time and events will gradually help determine when VoIP will likely become the norm instead of the exception. Nonetheless, more businesses and individuals are discovering the emerging values and opportunities that VoIP is already delivering. If you currently are a broadband Internet service subscriber (or are considering it), VoIP offers some significant advantages. We've got the ways to help you get easily connected.
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