As you start to consider VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as an alternative to conventional POTS (plain old telephone service) for your home or office, you will have to choose a VoIP service provider. Just like conventional telephone service or mobile cell services, you must have someone provide you with connectivity to the rest of the world.
This may seem to be confusing. You are already connected to the outside world through your broadband connection. You have already used your computer to speak with others using an instant messenger service so you know basically it can be done easily.
A VoIP service provider supplies two critical components: a gateway between the broadband Internet world and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and telephone directory service.
The gateway that bridges the broadband network with the PSTN allows access to you so that you can dial and complete calls to any telephone anywhere in the world. Remember, just because you are connected to the Internet does not mean connectivity to the telephone network. This is regardless even if you access the Internet through your telephone line service provider; they are two completely separate entities. This gateway bridges the connection between these two distinctly different worlds.
The directory service provides you with a ‘telephone number’ that allows other people to call you. This directory service associates your IP address with this telephone number so that calls can be properly routed to you when dialed from the outside world, no matter whether it is another computer, a telephone or a mobile phone.
As you shop for a service provider, you need to first determine what your needs are for a telephone provider. What is your intent? Do you want to keep your POTS (plain old telephone service) line and continue to make local calls and use a PC-based VoIP service to make all your long distance and international calls. This can be the best solution for those that need to keep your POTS line for reasons such as security system monitoring, etc. If you do this, you will still have to pay for you land-line based telephone plus any costs associated with VoIP.
What about a complete home or office phone replacement service? There are many service providers that can provide you with a solution that can completely eliminate the need for POTS service. Depending upon you technical ability, you can buy the hardware from one provider and the VoIP service from another. Or you can opt for a single box provider that will give you everything you need: hardware, software, installation, support and ongoing telephone service for a single monthly payment.
As of the date of this writing, there were about 25 highly rated VoIP providers found that would provide me with varying levels of service, systems and support. You really have to sit down and determine your needs before you begin shopping as the list of these providers continues to grow and the choices of the services that they provide are as varied as apples to hub caps!