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VoIP first appeared back in the mid-1990s, although the underlying technology was developed as far back as the late 1970s. However, thanks to poor internet speeds (and of course for some of this time, no public internet at all) it’s taken almost 20 years to evolve into the product we see today, which is used by millions of people around the globe.
VoIP — or broadband telephony as it’s now commonly referred to — makes use of an internet connection to make telephone calls over the net rather than over traditional telephone networks. This has meant that calls made using VoIP are usually significantly cheaper than those made using a landline or mobile device.
Related: What is VoIP?
In more recent years, we’ve seen significant improvements made to broadband speed and reliability. In the days of dial-up, it was possible to make VoIP calls, but quality was often impaired when compared to calls made via a traditional phone line. Now, however, VoIP calls are often better quality than traditional calls and also have the additional benefits of offering more features such as call waiting and much more.
Related: VoIP vs Traditional Phone System
VoIP service providers avoid carrier phone networks and this means that they are able to maintain very low call charges. Often, if a customer is calling someone who uses the same network provider as them, then calls are completely free.
Much of the time though, even when calling to a landline, different network, long distance or internationally, the call will be charged at a low cost compared to landline and mobile calling.
How charges are made up depends on the service provider. It’s often the case that a customer is charged per minute, just as with traditional plans (but at a reduced rate), or a customer can pay a fixed rate for an ‘all-you-can-eat’ plan which allows them to make calls to certain geographical areas without worrying that they will be hit with an enormous bill at the end of the month.
VoIP, as it’s based on data, is also much more flexible than traditional solutions. You may be able to add free voicemail, which sends you an email when a message is left, for example.
Other potential VoIP features include:
Many of the above features are not taken advantage of by consumers as they are more suited to business users. But it demonstrates just how powerful and flexible broadband telephony can be.
To some extent that will depend on customer need. For example, a cable company may offer bundles, which enables high volume telephone and mobile users to potentially make significant cost savings — especially if they choose an unlimited plan.
Sometimes, the biggest savings can be found in buying a bundled service for TV, internet and telephone with a company that offers broadband calling as a part of the bundle. This allows you to negotiate a package that is all but personalized to your specific needs. So if you use a lot of TV, but never use the landline that you’re paying for each month, adding broadband telephony on a specific plan can mean that your landline costs are significantly reduced to the extent that you don’t pay very much at all.
Generally, there are three ways in which you can use home telephony. The first, most traditional, option is to have a landline setup through your local provider which uses copper wires to deliver a phone service into your home.
Alternatively, in some areas, you can use a cellphone ‘bridge’ which uses local cell towers in order to extend your existing cell plan to your home using cell towers. Finally, you can use a VoIP system, which allows you to use your internet connection via a VoIP service provider to make calls at a lower cost than the other systems.
Landlines, since the birth of mobile, have not yet become obsolete and in some parts of the world you will need a line installed in order to access broadband and fiber broadband. Package prices vary, but you will need to pay a standard set fee just for the line itself, and then pay for your telephone calls over and above that. The line fee is around $15-20 per month and calls made internationally and long distance can quickly become costly.
Cellphones can also be very expensive, especially since you will generally need to have a second line/plan and pay for additional minutes to cover your home usage. Cellphones are not renowned for being cheap, so this is likely to be the most expensive option.
VoIP calls are much cheaper than either of the above and services vary in terms of quality and price. It’s a good idea to look into VoIP that’s bundled with your other services, such as TV, as this is likely to be the cheapest option. Shop around and ensure that you choose a reputable company and read the blurb to ensure that you understand how the charges work.
Related: VoIP Phones vs Landline
There’s no doubt that broadband telephony is less expensive than other options, although you will need a broadband connection in order to make calls. If you choose the right company, it’s unlikely too that you will need an engineer to come to your home to enable the service as it’s compatible with most modern home telephones.
You can also use a ‘softphone’ which is a simple piece of software that is installed on your computer and allows you to call using your device. Or if you really want to, you can buy a VoIP phone which may give you additional features such as call waiting.
It’s thought that broadband telephony can save consumers somewhere between $200-$600 per year, so if you’re considering making the switch, then there’s all the motivation you need right there.
Related: Making the Switch to VoIP