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Now that free WiFi or wireless Internet service is being offered in many metropolitan areas, a new VoIP phone service that can replace cell phones for some users is being launched.
Many cell phone users never go beyond 100 miles of their home location - if WiFi service is available in this area, then a VoIP phone with a wireless connection will serve their needs adequately at a lower cost.
WiFi works better indoors than cellular, so the familiar dropped call scenario when walking indoors should also go away with this new technology.
Providers offering this service include Vonage and Time Warner Cable. One of the drawbacks of the early phones made for this service was limited battery life, however, chipmakers such as Marvell Technology have innovated new solutions that are making the next generation of phones comparable to existing cell phones for both talk time and standby time.
Phone OEMs offering phones for WiFi VoIP include Cisco Systems (through the Linksys brand), UT Starcom and ipDialog.
Most new handsets will be hybrid phones and will offer both cellular and WiFi connectivity. The basic idea is that the user can switch to a WiFi network when one is available to save on cellular per minute charges.
VoIP phone service has many advantages, which is why so many people are choosing to make the switch.
The most obvious advantage is the cost savings and ability to get unlimited services for one flat fee.
Other advantages include the ability to take your ATA (analog telephony adapter) with you when traveling or visiting and having calls ring in as if you were home. The only requirement is that your new location must also have a broadband Internet connection.
Call detail and bills can be viewed over the Internet with most VoIP service providers, which saves time and allows you to retrieve vital numbers and voicemails without dialing messy access codes.
One of the biggest benefits is that call features, usually billed as extras by traditional providers, are carried automatically in VoIP as information stored in the packet headers. These features cost less to the providers and are often provided at no extra charge to you.
Many VoIP services offer an 800 number at a very low extra charge, which rings to your main number. This means that far away friends and neighbors can call you with no toll charges.
VoIP also enables an entire host of new services that are just not available with traditional phones. Some services allow you to choose your area code, allowing you to appear as a local call in the area you dial most frequently. Others support features usually not found in home services, like call hunt which rings up to 10 numbers successfully until someone answers, ring lists which rings all the lines in your home sequentially or all at once until someone answers and click-2-call, which allows you to click any number from a PC-based contact list and dial. Your phone rings when the call is connected, and you can simply pick it up and talk.
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.
VoIP or Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol service refers to the biggest innovation in telephony since the 1950s and has been largely responsible for the great reduction in phone rates we are recently enjoying.
VoIP home phone service works only if you have a broadband Internet connection. It transmits voice signals over the same pipes as data. Voice information is broken down into packets, compressed and transmitted over the Internet or a private digital network along with data. This results in lowered costs that the VoIP phone companies pass on to you.
VoIP central office equipment is also less expensive than traditional telephone equipment.
Because VoIP does not use traditional phone lines, until recently this also meant that VoIP phone services were not subject to the same taxes and surcharges as traditional telephony. Unfortunately, the loss of tax revenues became an issue and this is now changing.
VoIP services are not without their drawbacks, no matter how attractive the advantages are.
In order to give a fair assessment of the drawbacks, VoIP services have to be divided into two categories: services that operate over a private, managed broadband network and services that operate over the public Internet.
The services that operate over the public Internet are subject to network congestion. This can sometimes cause static, echos, call delays and dropped calls. This is also a function of the service provider's equipment. AT&T has spent many research dollars combatting these issues with its CallVantage program and can be considered the "Cadillac" of public Internet based services. Packet8 also is noted for mostly clear communications.
Services over private, managed networks are less susceptible to these issues, but are usually more costly than the services over the public Internet. If call quality is important to you, this is a tradeoff you will want to make. Although these services are also technically VoIP, they are usually marketed as "digital phone services" in an attempt to differentiate them from CallVantage and Vonage.
Other disadvantages that apply to both are that if your network is down, so is your phone service. With most services, you also lose your phone service in a power outage. Comcast has remedied this by using a keep-alive battery backup in their phone adapters.
Most VoIP providers now are required to offer enhanced 911 services by law, so this is no longer the stumbling block that it used to be. However, some services use emergency call locations that are far away from their callers. It is always best to check fully into the details of the 911 services offered by a provider before making a final selection of carrier.