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In order to take advantage of ultra-low VoIP telephone service rates, you will first need a broadband Internet connection through either a DSL or cable modem service provider.
If you have dial-up and are concerned about the costs of switching over, look at the whole picture by comparing your current monthly costs for both Internet and phone service now. With the savings of VoIP offsetting the costs of broadband, usually the difference is in your favor!
Most VoIP services supply an ATA, or analog telephony adapter box, that connects to either your router if you have a home networking system or to directly to your modem. This adapter then connects directly to your existing telephone, or in the case of cable phone service, to your home wiring so that all your existing phones operate from it.
If you have a VoIP service that doesn't work through your home wiring by design, do not try to force it by plugging the output of the ATA into a phone jack. This can damage the equipment. In this case, the best approach is to buy a cordless phone system with one base station and multiple satellite phones. The base station phone is plugged into the ATA and the satellites can be placed anywhere there is an electrical outlet.
This is convenient, as you no longer are constrained to using only locations that have a phone jack.
Some phone services provided by ISPs or cable companies combine the modem with the ATA so that all you have to worry about is one new piece of equipment.
And some high end VoIP services, such as Packet8, also have the option of supplying a full VoIP-ready phone with a wide array of added features.
Also, most VoIP services do not work over old-fashioned rotary phones.