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VOIP, A Viable Option for Home or Business Phone Service

Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is rapidly changing the way people make phone calls. Most people have already made or received calls over a VOIP connection without even knowing they were talking over the Internet. This is the case because a VOIP phone is just like a conventional phone except the signal is digitalized and sent over the Internet rather than through a conventional analog phone system. In most cases, the call quality is as good or even better than a standard telephone.

Don't confuse VOIP with the older PC to Phone technology. With a VOIP system a user does not need a personal computer with headphones and a speaker in order to make a call. Instead, the VOIP Service Provider provides an adapter (converter) that the user connects to their high speed Internet cable and plugs in their telephone. The box converts the analog signal from a standard telephone to a digital signal that can be sent over the Internet. All a user needs to make and receive calls are a broadband or DSL Internet connection with a cable modem, an adapter and a standard telephone. It is really that easy.

The big difference between VOIP and conventional phone service is the cost. Consumers can get VOIP service for as little as $15 per month with limited long distance. VOIP service with unlimited long distance to the USA and Canada starts at about $20 per month. Similar conventional local service with unlimited long distance can run as high as $70 per month. In most cases, consumers can get a better call package that contains more features and save a lot of money by switching to VOIP.

VOIP service can be purchased from large, established companies like AT&T and Time Warner or smaller, relative newcomers like Vonage and VOIPnetAdvantage. In general, the larger companies charge significantly more money for similar service packages and the same technology. Call quality does not change significantly between companies because they all use the same or similar adapters and the calls go over the Internet not wires, cables or switches owned by the VOIP service provider.

As with all purchases, consumers should read the fine print when purchasing VOIP service. The monthly charge, fees and taxes are typically disclosed on the service provider's website but it is often not easy to find and understand all of the charges. The following are some questions to answer when shopping for VOIP service.

* What does the service cost each month? Be sure and compare the monthly cost of VOIP service from different service providers on the same basis. For example, compare the cost of plans from different companies that include local and unlimited long distance in the USA and Canada (these are common). Don't compare plans with monthly limits on long distance with those that have unlimited long distance. * What is included in the monthly service fee? Properly determine the monthly charge for the plans being considered. Some service provider's charge a flat rate each month, including all fees and taxes, while others advertise a monthly rate but add on additional fees and taxes. * What does it cost to set up service? Most VOIP service providers will charge a shipping fee, to cover the cost of sending the adapter, and an activation fee. Be sure to include any promotions like free service for the first month. * What does it cost to cancel service? Some companies charge nothing if service is canceled while others charge a fee and may make the customer buy the converter if it is not returned in "like new" condition. * Does the service provider offer a guarantee? Some companies will allow the user to try the service and not charge them if it is canceled within a certain time period. * How much do international calls cost? Some people never make international calls while most people make international calls at some time. Like conventional long distance, the cost for making international calls is typically not included in the monthly fee. The cost of international calls can vary significantly between VOIP service providers.

Whether VOIP service is purchased from a large conglomerate or a small company specializing in VOIP phone service, the monthly cost savings will be significant when compared to conventional phone service. This is true for either home or business use. In most cases, the call quality will be crystal clear. All consumers who have high speed Internet connections should consider VOIP phone service.

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