Fact is, you really only need two things:
- A regular telephone
- Broadband Internet access.
If you have these two things (and most people do), then you can take advantage of Internet phone service to save money on local and long-distance calling.
And another thing: sooner or later all telephone service will use some form of Internet telephony, which is another name for Internet phone service or VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). The only question is when are you going to jump in and get started?
These days, Internet phone service is rapidly becoming more and more reliable. It is gaining a wider audience all the time. Many cable companies are already taking advantage of this technology to capture a wider audience for their services. But make no mistake: like any newer technology there are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out.
So, to help you make an informed decision, let’s look at some of the pros and cons to Internet phone service.
Most Internet phone companies will charge you a monthly fee and in return you can get (and make) unlimited calls within the continental United States. You also have the ability to make international calls for a tiny amount of the cost that your making those calls for now.
Again, if you’re already paying for broadband Internet than you already have most of the system in place to make telephone calls from PC-to-PC anywhere in the world — pretty much for free. Of course there are other more convenient ways of making Internet phone calls. For example, you can make a phone call from your PC to any standard landline phone. It does cost a little more, but the savings are still substantial.
Pretty much anywhere you go now you are within the easy access of a broadband Internet connection. So if you have a cell phone that is VoIP-compatible then you can logon to your account and make a phone call. If you’re a frequent traveler you probably already have the proper headset and cables for your phone.
In other words, Internet phone service of this sort is just as convenient as checking your e-mail while you’re on the road.
When you get an Internet phone service account, the phone that you use is going to be assigned a unique phone number. This number will remain good, whether you’re making phone calls in New York or Los Angeles or Miami or Chicago or St. Louis or even in London, England.
Internet phones have all the familiar features like call waiting, voicemail, caller ID, call forwarding, and three-way calling. All of this is available to you with pretty much any standard Internet phone package at no extra cost to you. And if you need to, you can even send pictures and documents while you’re on the phone.
With conventional phone service from the phone company, your telephone receives power even in the event of an outage to the electrical grid. This is not the case with standard Internet phone service. Your computer (and any associated equipment like a WiFi router) needs to have power. If any of these are not working, your Internet phone service will not work.
Emergency 911 Calls
Another downside to Internet phone service is that emergency or 911 calls don’t work the same way. When you call 911 with conventional phone service, if you can’t talk the emergency personnel receiving your call can still pinpoint your location and send help. It doesn’t work that way with Internet phone service. Newer technologies may be able solve that problem but that’s not universally true just yet.
Another downside to Internet phone service is that the quality and reliability isn’t quite as good as compared to a traditional landline. This is because the same technology that makes the Internet possible is not optimized for voice traffic.
When you send an e-mail on the Internet, the message is broken up into small pieces and sent to its destination over different pathways. Then it is reassembled at the end. This is OK with email, but not with a voice call. When you make a phone call you don’t want there to be a delay, or an echo, or any bad quality on the call at all. While quality is better now, Internet phones aren’t quite perfect yet.