How to Save Money on Local and Long-Distance Phone Service

Communicating with friends, loved ones, business clients and anyone who will pick up the phone and listen to you shouldn’t be difficult or expensive. How many times have you opened your phone bill and seen charges that you have no idea where they came from or what they mean? After my telephone company debited my checking account twice, took 4 months to repay me, “accidentally” interrupted my DSL connection, as well as added a service without my consent, I was seriously looking for alternative ways to avoid dealing with a traditional telephone company and service.

Some of my friends have started using their cell phone service as their regular telephone service, but I didn’t feel like maneuvering the ins and outs of roll-over minutes, peak hours and charging the battery. So, when I heard of a way to avoid the tight grip of traditional phone companies, I investigated further. A cheaper way to place phone calls can be accomplished through VoIP technology.

How Does a VoIP Phone Service Work?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which involves the transfer of data across the Internet. VoIP systems take analog signals (such as the voice) and turn them into digital data that travels throughout the World Wide Web. When switching to this digital land of communication, a wealth of possibilities can be explored. Some of the many actions made possible through VoIP systems include the transfer of voicemails as email attachments, which makes message retrieval possible from any computer.

What You Need For VoIP Service

An Internet connection that can reach speeds of up to 90 Kbps (kilobytes per second) is needed to switch to VoIP service. For those of you who are wondering, there are 8 kilobits in 1 kilobyte. Since dial-up is unable to reach the speeds offered through broadband Internet, you will need to receive your Internet connection through cable or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line).

VoIP Phone Service: The Perks

�· Cheaper monthly phone bills
Ã?· Don’t have to pay for extra features, such as call waiting, 3-way calling and call-forwarding
�· VoIP phones are portable and can receive/place calls from any worldwide high-speed Internet connection
�· Check your voicemail from any computer
�· Up to 75% savings on local, long-distance and international calling (depending on service plan)
�· No more paying government taxes or surcharges

Yes, There Are a Few Disadvantages

Let’s say you’re in a snowstorm and the power lines are out. Just as with a cordless phone, which functions through the use of electricity, your VoIP will also be affected in the same way. Since your phone service is connected through the Internet, when the Internet is interrupted, so is your VoIP service. Additional details to keep in mind before switching to a VoIP phone is that some services do not offer access to directory assistance or 911 emergency access. Before choosing a VoIP service plan, these are some of the things you may want to look into.

VoIP Phone Service: The Cost

VoIP subscription services require the purchase of a service plan from a VoIP provider. Some companies have been known to offer unlimited yearly local and long-distance phone service for less than $200. The total cost to use VoIP technology depends on the way you wish to receive and place your calls. This will determine the necessary accessories you will need, which may include:

1) Broadband Internet (Cable or DSL) Subscription

2) An adapter to connect your already existing telephone to VoIP services

3) VoIP headsets and handsets with USB connection

4) Software that turns your computer into a telephone (with the use of speakers and microphone)

5) VoIP phone (We all know the saying “you get what you pay for” and the same is true when purchasing a VoIP phone. Various phone models can cost as little as $25, but to really benefit from long-term product use and improved voice quality, the more reliable selections are priced above $100. Don’t be surprised if you come across models costing $1500 (usually geared towards business consumers).

The market is booming with VoIP phone options, offering an array of features for both personal and business consumers.

a) Desktop Hands-Free: Some can be connected and powered through an USB cable, such as a VoIP desktop hands free phone, which eliminates the use of a mouse for placing and ending phone calls.

b) Cordless: There are cordless VoIP phones, offering features like multiple expansion handsets, 2-way paging and handset speakerphone.

c) Business: Business VoIP phones use Ethernet cable for connection to an office network.

d) Wireless: There are also VoIP phones that provide wireless capabilities. They can be used in the office and home, as well as any public location supplying WiFi access.

Test Out the VoIP Phone Service For FREE

You can easily test out the difference between traditional telephone service and VoIP technology by placing a PC-to-PC call for free. Numerous companies offer free VoIP software, which enables your computer to place phone calls across the Internet. The set-up is easy and takes about 3-5 minutes to complete. A popular free download for this service is called Skype 2.5 (http://www.skype.com).

The Catch: Calls can only be placed to computers that possess downloaded VoIP software and you cannot place phone calls to regular telephones. But this is free and it doesn’t matter if you call a computer in Seattle or China; it is still free.

VoIP Service Plan Example: Vonage

Let’s take a brief look at what Vonage has to offer customers who wish to make the switch towards VoIP technology. Vonage uses an analog phone with a broadband phone adapter to provide service.

Requirements: Broadband Internet (Cable or DSL); Vonage Phone Adapter (free with service plan); any touch-tone, corded or cordless phone

Features: All service plans include voicemail, caller ID w/ name, call waiting, call forwarding, 3-way calling, call transfer, repeat dialing, call return and more (for no extra cost).

Vonage Service Plans

1) Residential Basic 500 Minutes Plan
Cost: $14.99/ month
Details: 500 minutes of local and long distance.
Call anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.
3.9�¢ per minute after the first 500 monthly minutes.

2) Residential Premium Unlimited Plan
Cost: $ 24.99/month
Details: Unlimited local and long distance.
Call anywhere in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Just added free calls to Italy, France, U.K., Spain and Ireland.

3) Small Business Basic 1500 Minutes Plan
Cost: $39.99/month
Details: 1500 minutes of local and long distance.
Call anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico for business customers.
3.9�¢ per minute after the first 1500 monthly minutes.
Receive a free, dedicated fax line.

4) Small Business Premium Unlimited Plan
Cost: $49.99/month
Details: Unlimited local and long distance.
Call anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico for business customers.
Just added free calls to Italy, France, U.K., Spain and Ireland.
Receive a free, dedicated fax line.

Companies Offering VoIP Service

For those who are interested in comparing VoIP service plans, you can check out the following companies:

�· Adwell Communications: Offers VoIP services using phone, PBX or computer to make and receive calls
�· AT&T CallVantage Service: VOIP plans includes unlimited calling within USA and Canada
�· BroadVoice: VoIP provider using a supplied broadband phone adapter
�· CallDaddy: Pre-paid VOIP services
�· Callserve: Software download for PC-to-Phone service (outbound calls only)
�· Dialpad Communications, Inc.: Monthly billing and pre-paid PC-to-Phone VoIP services, as well as broadband telephone adapter options (no PC needed).
�· Lingo, Inc: Plans offer unlimited calls to U.S. and Canada using any phone (with provided adapter). Some plans offer unlimited calls to Europe, Asia, Mexico.
�· RhinoBell: Offers PC-to-phone, phone-to-phone using device service
�· Skype: Peer-to-peer Internet voice service for Mac, Windows and Linux
�· Voiceglo: VoIP service with both free and paid plans. Some plans require phone adapters or USB phones.
�· VoicePulse: VoIP service offering phone-to-phone (with device).

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