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VoIP Articles and Knowledge

VoIP FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Many people are hearing about VoIP for the very first time. If you are unfamiliar with what VoIP means, you are not alone. Our VoIP FAQ answers all the most common questions people have about VoIP in easy to understand terms. If you have additional questions you would like to see in our VoIP FAQ, we welcome you to suggest them to us!

Q. What is VoIP?

A. VoIP is an acronym that stands for "Voice over Internet Protocol".
Regular telephone companies use dedicated phone lines and infrastructure to provide you with phone service; resulting in costly monthly service fees, long distance rates and features. With VoIP your phone calls are routed through your internet connection, thus eliminating the infrastructure overheads required to route calls. This results in significantly lower operating costs for VoIP service providers, which is in turn passed on to the consumer.

Q. What things do I need in order to use VoIP?
A. This depends on the VoIP service provider you choose. Some require as little as a program installed on your computer a set of speakers and a microphone. While others require you to use a router or VoIP modem device (typically given to you by the company for free or at a nominal cost when you sign up).

Q. What is the sound quality like?
A. Generally, VoIP phones have very good sound quality. The sound quality of VoIP phones is very much determined by its environment. There are a number of factors that can positively or negatively influence the sound quality of a VoIP call. The most critical factor is your internet connectivity, meaning the size of your internet connection and how much free bandwidth is available for use by your VoIP phone. If you have a small connection, and you are downloading multiple large files at the same time, this could negatively affect the sound quality of a call. While having a large capacity internet connection with no other internet activity could result in an excellent, crystal clear call that is as good or better than a regular phone.

Q. How reliable is VoIP based phones compared to regular phones?
A. This largely depends on the quality of your internet connection. Typically VoIP can be very reliable, if the equipment and internet connection available on both ends of the call are of good quality. Just as with regular phones, buying bargain no-name equipment and service providers can result in mediocre or poor performance.

Q. Does my computer need to be on to use VoIP?
A. This usually depends on the type of VoIP service you are using and the equipment it depends on. Typically most are independent from your computer and thus do not need to have it on. They rely on equipment that is external to your computer. However, some "soft phones" require the computer to be on and for you to place the call through a special software program that resembles a phone, except it is on your computer screen.

Q. Does a VoIP phone work the same way as a regular phone?
A. In almost every aspect it is identical in typical day to day use. The way you call people, and the way others call you and how you answer the phone are all the same. In terms of similarity to regular phones, some VoIP phones are so similar, if placed along side regular phones most people would never even be able to tell which one is which.

Q. Can I call all the same people I talked to on regular phones?
A. You can contact all of your family and friends that have a phone number, this includes people with phone numbers on the regular telephone network, people on other VoIP services and cell phones.

Q. Would people be call me the same way they would with a regular phone?
A. Yes, the way others call you on a VoIP phone is typically identical to a regular phone line. The exception to this may be "soft phones" when a phone number is not assigned to your account and only soft phone to soft phone calls are achievable. Essentially, if you are assigned a phone number for your VoIP service, others can call you the same way they normally would have, if you had a regular phone.

Q. Can I use my internet connection while talking on a VoIP phone, does it affect the call quality?
A. You can definitely use your internet connection while talking on a VoIP phone. However, this is dependant on what sorts of tasks you are performing on the internet. If you are simply browsing web pages, this will rarely affect VoIP call quality. If you are downloading multiple large files, this may affect call quality. It depends on how much internet connection bandwidth is available to VoIP after taking into account the other data you are sending to and from your computer.

Q. What kind of internet connection do I need for VoIP?
A. Dial up internet connections are not recommended for VoIP. The larger the internet connection, the better the sound quality of VoIP calls. 1MB of bandwidth would be a good minimum for effective VoIP communications. Many popular Cable and DSL providers offer 1MB connections and above. It is typical for Cable and DSL providers to offer a range of service tiers ranging such as 1MB, 3MB and 6MB at various price points. While a 1MB may be suitable for some, depending on the quality of their internet provider's network, some may require more bandwidth as dictated by their experiences with VoIP on the internet connection they have. Also keep in mind internet provider network congestion may also contribute to lower internet connectivity speeds and or bandwidth that may adversely affect your VoIP call quality.

Q. Can I transfer my existing regular phone number to VoIP?
A. While most VoIP services allow for you to transfer your current regular phone number, some VoIP services may not allow for this, particularly "soft phones" which work as an application on your computer. It is recommended you check with the VoIP service provider you are interested in to confirm this.

Q. Can I dial 911 in emergencies with a VoIP phone?
A.  The availability to use the 911 service greatly depends on the VoIP service provider you choose. Some do NOT have 911 emergency calling, others offer limited 911 dialing that does NOT send phone number of address information to the dispatch operator, while others offer enhanced 911 that functions very similarly to regular phones by sending your phone number and address information to the dispatch operator. It is important that you check the level of 911 service available from a VoIP provider to determine whether you are adequately covered in the event of an emergency. NOTE VOIP PHONES DO NOT WORK DURING POWER FAILURES.

Q. Do services like 411 directory work with VoIP?
A. This is something that is dependant on the VoIP service provider. While many of the more larger and popular VoIP service providers have these services, it is not available in all cases.

Q. Do I need to contact my regular phone company to inform them I will use VoIP?
A. No, you do not need to inform your regular phone company that you will be using VoIP.

Q. Can I use a VoIP phone during a power failure?
A. No, VoIP phones cannot be used during a power failure, as most internet connectivity providers do not provider powered lines to transmit data during power failure.

Q. How will VoIP affect my internet bandwidth usage?
A. While it is difficult to estimate the exact amount of bandwidth you would use with VoIP in a given time frame, it is recommended that you monitor your bandwidth usage in the first week or month of use to gauge your usage. Many internet service providers place maximum download and upload limits on their service. So it is advisable to check your bandwidth usage regularly during your initial use of VoIP so that you can better gauge how it impacts your bandwidth.

Q. If I have a VoIP phone number, will it be listed in the phone book?
A. Typically your phone number will NOT be listed in the telephone book if you have the number through a VoIP provider.

Q. Since DSL goes through phone lines, does that mean its better for VoIP?
A. No. Whether your internet connection goes through a standard phone socket or not does not impact the performance or reliability of your VoIP calls. VoIP by DSL, Cable, even Wi-Fi performs the same, given the same about of bandwidth and network congestion.

Q. Is it really true that VoIP can be cheaper than using a regular phone line?
A. Absolutely. Many of the popular VoIP packages offer an incredible assortment of included calling features, unlimited North American calling, and low per minute rates for international calls. Similar services would be significantly more from many if not all regular phone service providers.

Q. Will I need to upgrade and buy new VoIP phones as the technology matures?
A. While it is difficult to give a firm answer, the most likely scenario is that you will be able to enjoy many years of service from the VoIP hardware you purchase or are provided from your VoIP carrier. The likelihood of needing to upgrade the hardware in the near future is slim to none.

Q. Can I select an area code for my VoIP phone number, even if I do not live in that area?
A. Yes, some VoIP service providers allow you to use area codes other than the ones designated for your area. Check the availability of the feature with the VoIP provider you are interested in using.

Q. Do fax machines work on a VoIP line?
A. Yes, many VoIP service providers offer fax related features for their service plans. Some even offer their VoIP plans with an additional dedicated fax line either included or for a small additional cost.

Q. When I travel, can I bring my VoIP hardware with me and use it on the road?
A. Yes, since VoIP uses the internet to transmit voice data, you do not need to be bound to a specific termination in order to use VoIP service. As long as you have all of your necessary VoIP hardware / software and are in a country that supports the power and compatibility requirements of your hardware, you can use VoIP just about anywhere.

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