Residential VoIP

What is Residential VoIP?

Voice calls over the internet initially started as a way for businesses to cut down on their phone bills. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a way of using the internet to carry voice and enable conversations between two or more people connected to the internet. Initially it required a computer, an internet connection, a microphone and speakers and the user had to sit in front of his computer to use VoIP. While this system is still very popular, both in offices and homes, the advent of the VoIP phone, a normal phone instrument that allows for calls to be made over the internet, and the growth of residential VoIP service providers had created a revolution in the use of VoIP at home. A residential VoIP service offers the user the same simple functionality of the traditional phone, along with a host of value added features to select from.

Compare Residential VoIP Services
VoIP Provider Plan Reviewed Monthly Fees Setup Fees Plan Summary Detailed Review Visit Provider
Freedom 24-month $8.33 $0.00
  • Unlimited Calling and Faxing (US & Canada)
  • No Commitment, No Setup Fees, No Installation
  • 60 International Minutes
Residential Premium Unlimited $16.58 $0.00
  • Unlimited local and long distance
  • Free Linksys Phone adapter
  • No contracts; 1 month free
VT Unlimited $8.95 $0.00
  • Unlimited calling
  • US-based support
  • No contracts
Home Phone Plus $9.88 $0.00
  • Unlimited local and long distance
  • Ability to send faxes
  • 24/7 customer service
Premier Unlimited $23.97 $0.00
  • Unlimited calling to the US and Canada
  • Free Long-Distance
  • No Contracts or Hidden Fees
North America Unlimited $19.95 $0.00
  • Unlimited local and long distance
  • Low international rates
  • standard features

Residential VoIP Buyer’s Guide

Finding the Right Residential VoIP Service Provider

The VoIP service provider is the agency that routes your calls through the internet. They will give you a VoIP phone number or allow you to choose one of your own, including carrying your old landline number to your VoIP phone. Residential VoIP service providers normally have a range of plans to choose from. The most popular are the unlimited call packages with a fixed monthly charge. A large number of features are available at no extra charge, although some advanced features may require an extra monthly payment. The best way to go about choosing a service provider is to ask friends who are using VoIP about the service they are getting, read reviews of the service providers and visit chat rooms dedicated to VoIP and see what others have to say about the various companies. Make a shortlist of the service providers who sound good and get in touch with them.

There are a number of things you should clarify with the service providers before making your choice.

  • How long have they been in operation? The longer the better.
  • Are the prices quoted for the various packages all inclusive or are there extras that will only appear when you get the bill?
  • A service provider who has a 24/7 hotline or email helpdesk for customer support is always the best option.
  • Ask about number portability. Being able to use your old number on your VoIP phone means you won’t have the headache of having to inform everyone about a new number.
  • Ask about termination policy. If you should decide to switch service providers you don’t want to get a bill full of premature termination charges.
  • Ask if there are any VoIP phones or ATAs they recommend. If yes ask for details of why they recommend them.
  • Ask about the flexibility in switching to another plan or upgrading to additional features. You should be able to do this when you want to.

Getting Started

To get started with VoIP in the home, you must have an internet connection. Residential VoIP requires a speed of 90 Kbps, so while a dial up connection is too slow, even a low speed broadband connection will meet this requirement. The exact technical specs will vary according to the service provider, but there is nothing that a normal home broadband connection cannot provide.

Most homes have one of two types of internet connections. It may be achieved by using the same cable that brings TV to the home, or by use of a Direct Subscriber Line (DSL). Both are equally good for residential broadband service. Both require a modem for connecting a computer to the internet. If you are planning to use your computer for VoIP, and it has a mike and speakers, there is nothing else you need. But since most people do not keep their computer on 24/7 and it inconvenient to go running to the PC each time you need to make or receive a call, using a phone is the better option. Here too there are two options – you can either buy a VoIP phone or use your existing instrument by connecting it to the modem through an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA).

Making the connection is easy and requires no technical expertise. The VoIP phone and the ATA come with the required cables and connection instructions. Its all just plug and play.

Finding the Right VoIP Service Provider

The VoIP service provider is the agency that routes your calls through the internet. They will give you a VoIP phone number or allow you to choose one of your own, including carrying your old landline number to your VoIP phone. Residential VoIP service providers normally have a range of plans to choose from. The most popular are the unlimited call packages with a fixed monthly charge. A large number of features are available at no extra charge, although some advanced features may require an extra monthly payment. The best way to go about choosing a service provider is to ask friends who are using VoIP about the service they are getting, read reviews of the service providers and visit chat rooms dedicated to VoIP and see what others have to say about the various companies. Make a shortlist of the service providers who sound good and get in touch with them.

There are a number of things you should clarify with the service providers before making your choice.

  • How long have they been in operation? The longer the better.
  • Are the prices quoted for the various packages all inclusive or are there extras that will only appear when you get the bill?
  • A service provider who has a 24/7 hotline or email helpdesk for customer support is always the best option.
  • Ask about number portability. Being able to use your old number on your VoIP phone means you won’t have the headache of having to inform everyone about a new number.
  • Ask about termination policy. If you should decide to switch service providers you don’t want to get a bill full of premature termination charges.
  • Ask if there are any VoIP phones or ATAs they recommend. If yes ask for details of why they recommend them.
  • Ask about the flexibility in switching to another plan or upgrading to additional features. You should be able to do this when you want to.

Residential VoIP services are cheap

The one thing everyone talks about is cost. VoIP calls are incredibly cheap in comparison to what landline and cell phone companies charge. You are not charged according to how long you talk or how many calls you make. Neither are long distance calls more expensive. No taxes or surcharges are applicable to VoIP calls. In most cases when you sign up for a calling plan, there is just one fixed amount to pay every month, irrespective of how much the phone is used or the number of long distance calls made. That means that there are no more complicated phone bills to verify – the type you can’t understand and no one, not even the phone company, can explain to you.

While the amount of savings you can make over your landline phone bills will depend on the volume of calls you make and the residential VoIP plan you opt for, even with a low call volume the savings can be substantial. For example, against a phone bill of $70 a month, you can expect a VoIP bill of about $25.

Residential VoIP has a lot of advantages

While the quality of service you get and the features available to you will depend on your residential VoIP service provider, there are some common ones that are generally available.

  • You will be able to teleconference. Three way calls are a standard feature and some service providers offer the option of large teleconferences. This allows for the members of a scattered family to talk to one another at the same time.
  • The ability to send videos, images and text messages along with your VoIP call means a richer communications experience. Rather than telling others about a place or object you have seen, you can send them pictures.
  • Making video calls allow the people in the conversation to not just hear, but also to see each other which gives the conversation a new dimension.
  • You can choose the phone numbers you want to block or have diverted to your voicemail.
  • It is often possible to block anonymous and telemarketing calls.
  • When you are busy you have a Do Not Disturb option that will divert all you calls to a voicemail box from where you can retrieve messages when you are free.
  • Different ring tones can be assigned to different calling numbers so you immediately know who is calling you.
  • If the person calling you is in your phone book /directory, the name of the caller can be displayed. This is much easier than trying to correlate a phone number to a person.
  • If the residential VoIP service offers sequential ringing you can program it so that if your phone is not answered after a specified number of rings, the call diverts to your cell phone (or any other phone) and the same procedure is again repeated with the cell phone. This way, your chances of missing a call are minimized.
  • You can pick you own area code, irrespective of where you live. For example, you could choose the same area code as a child’s college so that when he or she calls home, its only a local call for them. Of course that means that when your neighbors call you, it becomes a long distance call, so this feature must be used judiciously.
  • A “phone unavailable” or similar option will automatically redirect incoming calls to a predetermined number in case your internet connection is down and you cannot be reached on VoIP, ensuring that you will not miss any calls.

There are many other features available, including the now familiar ones of caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, etc. It is a good idea to do a detailed comparison of the features different residential VoIP service providers offer to find the plan and options that suit you best. It is a good idea to start with only the services you think are essential and then upgrade the plan when you feel you need more features.

Residential VoIP service providers are the key to quality

With top quality hardware (VoIP phones and ATAs) easily available and improvements in technology allowing broadband services to become both faster and more stable, the role of the service provider in ensuring top quality residential VoIP service is critical. VoIP offers a whole new calling experience with features not available on landlines and cell phones. The service provider is an essential component in ensuring the quality of the experience so take the time to check out the possibilities and make detailed comparisons before making your choice.