What Innovative Voice Technology Is Replacing Telephones?

If you grew up in the age of smartphones, you’ve probably never heard a busy signal or gotten your hair tangled in a phone cord. Boomers, on the other hand, get nostalgic remembering the kitchen wall-phone that matched the Formica, misdialing the operator for help, and writing phone numbers in a little black book.

Those days are all but gone. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that more than half of U.S. homeowners and renters have ditched their landlines. That was unthinkable even a decade ago, but it’s starting to make a lot of sense.

What Is VoIP?

VoIP stands for. In a traditional phone system, copper wires run from your house to a nearby concentrator that digitizes your voice. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), calls are routed over your home Internet system. Your voice is first converted to data and then reassembled into high-quality sound.

There are numerous advantages to making the switch.

  • VoIP is easy to install: Landlines require professional installation. Unless you have unusually complex needs, VoIP is a do-it-yourself job.
  • VoIP saves money: Since calls don’t have to travel through physical phone lines or undersea cables, costs for service and overhead are significantly less. According to Voip-info.org, many residential cord-cutters reduce their phone bills by up to 50 percent.
  • VoIP is loaded with features: With landlines, few add-ons are available, and you’re charged extra for them. VoIP packages include features like voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, conference calling, call blocking, enhanced 911, and encryption for one reasonable price.
  • VoIP is convenient to control and monitor: You can access your system from anywhere through apps and web-based portals.
  • VoIP is versatile and customizable: You can choose only the services and features that you need. Also, you can easily connect other communication devices to your phone system by Bluetooth, via apps or even wirelessly.
  • VoIP is prepared for the future: Conventional phone technology has crawled along at a snail’s pace for most of the last century. It’s hardly compatible with modern technology. VoIP systems operate on Internet technology and are software-based, which makes it easier to adapt to future innovations.

How Easy Is VoIP to Use?

If you have no trouble using a regular phone, you’ll have no trouble using VoIP.

The most basic requirement for service is high-speed Internet. For the best access and sound quality, experts recommend an upload speed of 3Mbps or faster. Before setting up, test your broadband before switching to VoIP as an upgrade may be in order.

Do your homework on providers and services. There are plans for all lifestyles and budgets, but customer service is also an important consideration. Search VoIP companies on consumer protection websites. Read reviews written by people who have been customers for a while; rock-bottom prices aren’t necessarily a bargain in the long run.

Typically, there are four plan options:

  • Pay-as-you-go: Go over some recent phone bills and figure out how much talk time you need. If you don’t make a lot of calls or need extra features, this is an affordable solution.
  • Metered: You’re charged by the minute for your calls, but you’ll enjoy more call-management features.
  • Month-to-month: Month-to-month plans are more expensive, but you’re not under contract and can cancel at any time. Some providers charge a cancellation fee.
  • Contract: You have to pay upfront for the equipment, but long-term contracts can save money over time. Incentives include the ability to negotiate the price, free hardware, and extra features at no charge.

Depending on what features you need, you could pay as little as $6 a month or as much as $50. If you don’t tack on functions that you’ll never use, you should be able to find a nice plan in the $20 to $25 range. Many providers charge a one-time fee ranging anywhere from $10 to $40 if you opt to keep your existing phone number.

As for equipment, VoIP requires one of the following:

  • IP phone: Hardware that looks and functions much like an ordinary phone. There are two options for IP phones: one that connects directly to a router or modem or one that connects wirelessly.
  • Softphone: A softphone is software that operates like a telephone. It requires a broadband Internet connection. If you use it with a computer, the computer must be equipped with a microphone and speakers. You may need a special headset to enhance sound quality. Softphones also run on tablets and smartphones.

If you’re determined to keep your landline, you’ll need an analog telephone adaptor. ATAs enable conventional phones to access the VoIP network.

Most residential systems are plug-and-play. Once you’ve received your equipment, they take just minutes to set up. Good providers usually have online tutorials or offer support by phone or chat if you have questions.

Some companies require you to purchase their equipment while others build the cost into monthly service charges.

Mobile VoIP operates through apps, and there are hundreds to choose from. The service is much cheaper than landline service, and calls are unlimited.

Where to Find the Best Deals

If you have reliable Internet service, there’s nothing to stop you from switching to VoIP.

Since the market is extremely competitive, there’s no better time to act. Most providers are willing to tailor plans and negotiate prices, so call around. Check websites for sign-up bonuses and limited-time offers. Coupon sites often have VoIP discounts as well.

Use the search box on technology sites like pcmag.com and wired.com to find price comparisons. Voip-info.org and voipreview.org are also valuable resources for up-to-date reviews and tips on how to save.