Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows you to make basic communications functions, such as voice calls, voice messaging and facsimile over the internet instead of the traditional telephone network.
You can use your existing broadband internet connection so there is no need for a second line to be installed. You simply sign up to a VoIP service provider who will charge you a subscription charge, and/or your call charges. When you sign up to a VoIP provider you are given a VoIP number which is the same as a traditional phone number, and what you give to other people so that they can contact you.
With VoIP you can still call any number that you want whether it be another VoIP user, a landline or a mobile. You are not limited to other VoIP service users only. The charges for all calls depends on the VoIP service provider that you sign up with. You may find that some calls using VoIP are cheaper than a traditional telephone network, whilst others may work out more expensive. Depending on your VoIP service provider you may also get a number of free calls, particularly to other VoIP users with the same provider.
The cost of VoIP varies depending on which VoIP service provider you use. Some will charge a monthly subscription fee which may include a number of calls, whilst others may simply charge only for the calls you make. You may also have to pay an one-off set-up fee or for any equipment you need to use VoIP.
Many VoIP service providers offer a pay-as-you-talk option similar to that which is offered with mobile phones. You simply purchase credit from your VoIP service provider and make calls until that credit runs out, before purchasing more credit to use again. Some VoIP service providers may require you to top up your account by a minimum amount for a fixed period.
VoIP Technical Issues
VoIP uses broadband connection so your use of it will be as reliable as your existing broadband internet connection. Therefore, if your connection often drops then you may find it will do the same with your VoIP usage. Broadband technology is relatively dependable but you may suffer problems if your internet service provider has technical issues or there is a high amount of internet traffic.
If you use VoIP via your computer then it will have to be turned on in order for you to make or receive calls. To put it simply, if your computer is not on then people will not be able to contact you on your VoIP number. Some VoIP service providers may offer a voicemail option in order to pick up messages from any calls you can not take but you may be charged for this service.
It should also be noted that some VoIP service providers do not allow you to make emergency calls so you should also ensure that you have another way of getting hold of the emergency services if required.