Residential VoIP Equipment
The residential VoIP market has reached a tipping point, and service is widely available and affordable. Still, there are a few misconceptions that may be preventing some people from taking advantage of this service. In fact, the equipment requirements for residential VoIP are very minimal, and chances are, your existing broadband connection, broadband router, and telephone are all you need to make the switch.
You can keep using your existing telephone
Residential users may have heard of specialized IP phones that some businesses that run their own IP PBXes must use, and that causes some confusion in the residential market. Home users, unlike these larger business users, simply subscribe to a service, and as such, there is no need to replace your existing telephones to use VoIP at home.
Since VoIP is an Internet-based service, the main piece of equipment at home is the broadband router, which is provisioned by your Internet service provider. The phone plug, instead of being plugged into the phone company’s wires through a standard phone jack in the wall, is plugged into the router. You can however, take advantage of the existing house wiring, and connect the router to a phone jack network, so that your phone extensions do not have to all be wired directly to the router.
Your VoIP router
Your Internet service provider may be providing you with a router that can accommodate VoIP, otherwise, you will need a specialized VoIP router. These are inexpensive, and available from all the major router manufacturers, including Linksys and Cisco. A VoIP-specific router will have a built-in adapter, which allows you to use a regular telephone with your VoIP service. Wireless VoIP routers are a common type of residential VoIP equipment, which allows greater flexibility in locating your phones throughout your home.
Some VoIP providers offer specialized kits, which provision the VoIP service and give you a specialized cordless phone. Linksys and Netgear both have cordless phones with integrated Skype service. The advantage of this residential VoIP equipment is that you can make calls via Skype, without having to turn on your PC—or even make calls without a PC at all.
Simple USB devices such as the Magic Jack give you added flexibility. These plug directly into a USB port on your computer, and into a telephone at the other end, giving you instant VoIP service through your computer. Your computer does need to be on to take advantage of this type of equipment, but the cost is very low, and it is ideal for adding a second line.
Using a headset
VoIP takes many different forms. While residential VoIP may replace your conventional phone service and allow you to use traditional telephones, you may also take advantage of VoIP services that are tied directly to your computer. Services like Skype allow PC-to-PC, or PC-to-phone calling, but since your computer does not usually come with a handset attached, most people simply use a headset with an attached microphone to use this type of VoIP service. This is especially useful when having a conversation that requires you to work on the computer while you are talking, since it allows for a hands-free operation. A wireless headset gives you further flexibility, allowing you to actually roam around the house while talking, free from being tethered to the computer. Headsets are common and inexpensive, and made by most electronics manufacturers, such s Logitech, Plantronics, or Panasonic.