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Internet Phone Service (VOIP)

Internet phone service (VOIP) is inexpensive but there are some drawbacks.

Cells phone can be used almost anywhere, while VOIP service requires an Internet connection. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Cells phone can be used almost anywhere, while VOIP service requires an Internet connection.

Internet Phone Service (VOIP)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines Internet Phone Service (VOIP) as a technology designed for people to make telephone calls over the Internet instead of using a traditional phone line. While VOIP service has been around since 1973, it is still fairly new to consumer markets. Like many other technologies, VOIP service has several system bugs that will need to be addressed before widespread use of VOIP service can take place. However, the increase in phone companies switching to VOIP service is an indicator that VOIP service may eventually replace traditional telephone service.

Some Internet phone service providers restrict users to making calls only to other individuals using the same service. In contrast, there are a range of VOIP service providers that allow individuals to call anyone who has a telephone number. In addition, VOIP services require the use of a computer or special VOIP phone while others allow callers to use traditional telephones connected to a VOIP adapter.

How VOIP Service Works

VOIP is simply the transmission of voice data over Internet protocol-based networks. VOIP service converts voice data into a digital signal that can travel through the Internet. Individuals can use their VOIP service to make calls from a VOIP phone, a computer or a traditional phone connected to a VOIP adapter.

A broadband Internet connection is required to use VOIP service. This connection can be established via a cable modem, local area network (LAN) or digital subscriber line (DSL). Users will also need a computer, VOIP phone or VOIP adapter to make calls using Internet phone service. Individuals who choose to use their computers to make calls will also need to purchase software and a microphone. VOIP phones simply plug into a broadband Internet connection and operate similar to a traditional phone. Individuals who use a VOIP phone adapter can dial just as they would with a traditional phone.

Advantages of VOIP Service

Affordability is one of the primary advantages of VOIP service. VOIP service provides individuals with an easy, low-cost way to make calls around the world. According to CNET, VOIP users only spend an average of $25 per month on service. Additionally, VOIP service is not taxed as much as traditional phone service, which could translate to significant savings for users. Because individuals can use their VOIP service from any location where they can connect to the Internet, portability is a key advantage of VOIP service.

VOIP service also has features not available on traditional telephones and may offer the same services as traditional phone service at a lower price. For example, users can benefit from paying one rate for both Internet connection and telephone service. Additionally, some VOIP service providers even offer free Internet phone service. In these situations, the provider often only allows users to call other members of the same network.

Other VOIP service providers may let users expand their local calling areas by adding other area codes to their plans. In addition, some Internet phone service providers allow individuals to call anywhere for a flat rate for a fixed amount of time. Another key feature of VOIP service is that individuals do not have to have their computers turned on to receive VOIP calls on their existing phone.

Disadvantages of VOIP Service

While in some cases, VOIP service is less expensive than traditional phone service, individuals should consider several factors before making the switch. For example, some VOIP services may be affected by power outages, and the service provider may be unable to provide backup services. Reliability is also a critical drawback of VOIP service. Because they require an Internet connection, poor Internet service can interrupt VOIP calls. The voice quality of VOIP service can also be an issue for some individuals because, in some instances, it is not as clear as traditional phone service.

In addition to these disadvantages, there are two critical cons involved with using VOIP service: security and emergency service issues. As with most other Internet technologies, security is a major concern. Communicating via Internet phone service increases the risk of identity theft, viruses, spamming, call tampering and phishing. On top of this, not all VOIP services enable users to reach emergency services by dialing 9-1-1. Customers interested in VOIP services should contact their potential service providers to learn more about these issues.

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