VoIP (pronounced “Voyp”) stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol” and to make a long story short—it allows you to make calls through your home internet connection. When you make a call with your VoIP system, your voice is converted into data and transmitted to the caller at the other end in the form of high-quality audio. The sound and connection typically are seamless enough to where you won’t even know the call you’ve received is from a VoIP line.
The majority of plans are loaded with a great selection of features that can come in handy when you are making or receiving calls. Many providers offer over 30 features included in the low monthly fees. These include basic call management features such as call waiting, call forwarding, call blocking, caller ID name, do not disturb, and voicemail. More advanced features such as the voicemail to email feature let's you access your messages at anytime, even when you are away from your home, simply by checking your email inbox. Distinctive ringing, additional virtual numbers, and Smartphone Calling App's are other examples of more advanced features that can be useful.
IP communication provides for device mobility. For example, a residential broadband connection may be used as a link to a virtual private network of a corporate entity, in which case the IP address being used for customer communications may belong to the enterprise, not being the IP address of the residential ISP. Such off-premises extensions may appear as part of an upstream IP PBX. On mobile devices, e.g., a 3G handset or USB wireless broadband adapter, the IP address has no relationship with any physical location known to the telephony service provider, since a mobile user could be anywhere in a region with network coverage, even roaming via another cellular company.
*Disclosure: We are an independent, advertiser-supported comparison service. The offers that appear on this page are from companies that we have a marketing relationship with, that compensate us. This impacts where those products appear on the site. Company listings on this page do not imply endorsement. There are many advantages of having a residential VoIP phone service. Thanks to VoIP, nowadays, telecommunication is easier and flexible than ever before. It's not only easy to use, but also very cheap. Voice over IP phone services include unlimited calling and many free features that you would normally pay for with a traditional phone company, such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, etc. We offer a thorough analysis of provider, services, and features.
In addition to making sure your internet service can handle your VoIP traffic, you also need to make sure your local area network (LAN) can handle it. What makes network management tricky with VoIP is that if you simply drop it onto your network, that traffic will get processed the same as any other traffic, meaning your shared accounting application or those 20 gigabytes worth of files your assistant just stored in the cloud.
Companies working from home will appreciate Ooma’s remote features. For starters, Ooma offers a mobile app that lets you make and receive calls from your smartphone using your business number. You can also set up ring groups, which allows you to group extensions together so they all ring simultaneously—then the call gets transferred to whichever remote employee picks up first.
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
If you want to compare pricing for multiple residential service providers you can use our Home Phone Rates Tool. Please note that the pricing does not include additional fees like sales tax, regulatory fees and any other taxes/fees that may be relevant to your location. These tend to be the same for each provider as it is based on location, however, some providers may include additional "recovery" fees for the overhead involved in state and regulatory compliance (e.g. FCC reporting compliance).
Mass-market VoIP services use existing broadband Internet access, by which subscribers place and receive telephone calls in much the same manner as they would via the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Full-service VoIP phone companies provide inbound and outbound service with direct inbound dialing. Many offer unlimited domestic calling and sometimes international calls for a flat monthly subscription fee. Phone calls between subscribers of the same provider are usually free when flat-fee service is not available.
Throughout the developing world, particularly in countries where regulation is weak or captured by the dominant operator, restrictions on the use of VoIP are often imposed, including in Panama where VoIP is taxed, Guyana where VoIP is prohibited. In Ethiopia, where the government is nationalising telecommunication service, it is a criminal offence to offer services using VoIP. The country has installed firewalls to prevent international calls being made using VoIP. These measures were taken after the popularity of VoIP reduced the income generated by the state owned telecommunication company.
While understanding the basics of VoIP and SIP is important, setting one of these systems up will require some general network knowledge, too. For the best quality, you will need to meet a minimum upstream and downstream data throughput requirement. In addition, you'll also need to meet a minimum latency number (that is, the time between when a signal leaves a remote computer and when your system receives it), typically measured in milliseconds. It is possible to test your network connection to see if it will support a VoIP service. RingCentral offers this service from their website, other vendors like to have their service engineers do it for you.