Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP),
is a technology that allows you to make voice calls
using a broadband Internet connection instead of a
regular (or analog) phone line. Some VoIP services 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 VoIP
services only work over your computer or a special VoIP
phone, other services allow you to use a traditional
phone connected to a VoIP adapter.
How VoIP / Internet Voice Works
VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the
Internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to
a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination. VoIP can allow you
to make a call directly from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional
phone connected to a special adapter. In addition, wireless "hot spots" in
locations such as airports, parks, and cafes allow you to connect to the
Internet and may enable you to use VoIP service wirelessly.
What Kind of Equipment Do I Need?
A broadband (high speed Internet) connection is required. This can be
through a cable modem, or high speed services such as DSL or a local area
network. A computer, adaptor, or specialized phone is required. Some VoIP
services only work over your computer or a special VoIP phone, while other
services allow you to use a traditional phone connected to a VoIP adapter. If
you use your computer, you will need some software and an inexpensive
microphone. Special VoIP phones plug directly into your broadband connection and
operate largely like a traditional telephone. If you use a telephone with a VoIP
adapter, you'll be able to dial just as you always have, and the service
provider may also provide a dial tone.
Is there a difference between making a Local Call and a Long Distance Call?
Some VoIP providers offer their services for free, normally
only for calls to other subscribers to the service. Your VoIP provider may
permit you to select an area code different from the area in which you live. It
also means that people who call you may incur long distance charges depending on
their area code and service.
Some VoIP providers charge for a long distance call to a
number outside your calling area, similar to existing, traditional wireline
telephone service. Other VoIP providers permit you to call anywhere at a flat
rate for a fixed number of minutes.
If I have VoIP service, who can I call?
Depending upon your service, you might be limited only to other subscribers to
the service, or you may be able to call anyone who has a telephone number -
including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers. If you are
calling someone who has a regular analog phone, that person does not need any
special equipment to talk to you. Some VoIP services may allow you to speak with
more than one person at a time.
What Are Some Advantages of VoIP?
Some VoIP services offer features and services that are not available with a
traditional phone, or are available but only for an additional fee. You may also
be able to avoid paying for both a broadband connection and a traditional
What Are Some disadvantages of VoIP?
If you're considering replacing your traditional
telephone service with VoIP, there are some possible differences:
Some VoIP services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not
offer backup power.
Not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency
services through 9-1-1.
VoIP providers may or may not offer directory
assistance/white page listings.
Can I use my Computer While I talk on the Phone?
In most cases, yes.
Can I Take My Phone Adapter with me When I Travel?
Some VoIP service providers offer services that can be used wherever a high
speed Internet connection available. Using a VoIP service from a new location
may impact your ability to connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1.
Does my Computer Have to be Turned on?
Only if your service requires you to make calls using your computer. All VoIP
services require your broadband Internet connection to be active.
How Do I Know If I have a VoIP phone Call?
If you have a special VoIP phone or a regular telephone connected to a VoIP
adapter, the phone will ring like a traditional telephone. If your VoIP service
requires you to make calls using your computer, the software supplied by your
service provider will alert you when you have an incoming call.
Does the FCC Regulate VoIP?
In June 2005 the FCC imposed 911 obligations on providers of “interconnected”
VoIP services – VoIP services that allow users generally to make calls to and
receive calls from the regular telephone network. You should know, however, that
911 calls using VoIP are handled differently than 911 calls using your regular