What is exactly VoIP?
Most people are familiar with NetMeeting and other software that let you talk to others over the internet. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is similar. However, it also uses your phone - the interface we are all familiar with.
Instead of connecting your phone to the wall, you connect it to a box either the VoIP company provides or you buy on your own. This is the modem. You need highspeed / broadband internet for this. Your modem plugs into your cable / DSL modem and now a “conversation” can occur between your phone and the internet.
For those who have never heard about the potential of VoIP, be prepared to radically change the way you think about your current long-distance calling plan. VoIP is very simply, a method for taking ordinary analog audio signals and turning them into digital signals that can be sent over the Internet.
So what? Well, for those of you who are already paying a monthly fee for an Internet connection, this means that you can use that same connection to place free long distance phone calls. This process works by using already available VoIP software to make phone calls over the Internet, essentially circumventing phone companies and their service charges.
Interestingly, VoIP is not an entirely new thing. In fact, a number of providing companies have been around for some time. But it has only been with the more recent explosion of high-speed internet access usage, that VoIP has gotten any attention. Now the major telephone carriers are setting up their own VoIP calling plans throughout the USA, another testament to the potential of the technology.
How hard is it to setup?
It is actually very easy. Assuming you have the company send you a modem or you buy a kit at the store, you simply plug the modem between your current cable / DSL modem and your computer (e.g., the out from your cable modem now goes to the new box and the out from that to your computer). It also provides a phone jack for your regular phone.
Once it is on, it will boot up and configure itself.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits depending on the company you go with, but here are a few major advantages
1. Features like caller id, call waiting, call waiting caller id, call forwarding, etc.
3. Web access to voicemail – you can play your messages on your computer.
4. Auto-forward – if the phone is ever down or isn’t answered, it is auto-routed to another number.
5. Email alerts for new voicemail.
6. Online management of all features, settings, account etc.
7. Computer dialing – simply highlight any number on your computer, hit F6 and it sets up the calls from your phone to the receiver’s.
8. Keep your regular phone.
There are some other cool features available such as the softphone, which lets you use your computer as a phone without the modem. This implies that you can take your laptop with you wherever and you have your phone with the same phone number everywhere too. Alternatively, you can also do this without the softphone, but this will mean that you have to take your VoIP modem around with you.
Another useful feature of VoIP is Virtual Numbers. You can get extra numbers that ring the same phone, but they are local numbers to any area code you want. So if you live in Sydney and your family is in Perth, you can get a local phone number both in Sydney and Perth. In this way, your family in Perth can call a local number and talk to you without having to incur IDD charges and vice versa.
Consumers will only need to pay a low monthly subscription (as low as less than US$20) to the VoIP providers and will be able to enjoy a wide range of features, without the umpteen taxes, charges, fees etc charged by telco companies.