Are you wondering if a VoIP phone might be better for you at home? Here at Broadway Broadband we like to help you make the right choices when it comes to broadband, and so will run you through some of the details to help determine if it’s right for you.
So what is VoIP and how useful is it?
VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has been in place for several years, gaining notice and popularity in 2003 with the first release of Skype. It is different from a traditional phone in that it uses the internet to connect to other devices. Arguably, Skype is the most well-known VoIP service, and its support for connections with conventional landlines and mobile phones makes it stand out from self-contained platforms like Facetime and Slack.
Modern VoIP technology is surprisingly easy to install, and it works just as well (if not better than) the standard connection on a mobile phone or landline. Another advantage of VoIP phones is you will have access to a broader range of features whilst saving you substantial amounts on your phone bills.
How to set up a VoIP phone at home: Preparation
VoIP is easy to set up and works well on the majority of broadband connections. With that in mind, there isn’t a lot of preparation needed other than checking your internet is strong enough for the demands of a VoIP system.
If you are setting up VoIP for personal/home use, you shouldn’t have to worry about the strength of your connection. However, if you are configuring VoIP for your business, you may well need a significant increase in bandwidth.
It’s difficult to know exactly how much bandwidth you’ll need without testing the system first, because the right amount will depend on multiple factors, including the total number of concurrent calls and the codec used to encode and compress vocal inputs. (You might be able to upgrade your bandwidth after installing VoIP, depending on your provider and their terms and conditions.)
Getting the right hardware
You won’t need a lot of specialised equipment to get started with VoIP. That being said, there are a few purchases that can make things easier. For example, an IP phone provides you with the same experience as a traditional phone whilst using VoIP.
These phones are widely available from a range of brands, all with various unique features. Alternatively, some companies also sell adapters that allow traditional landlines to be used for VoIP.
IP phones usually connect to computers via an Ethernet cable. It is technically possible to use VoIP over a WiFi connection too, but wired connections are often faster and more reliable.
On the other hand, a physical phone isn’t really necessary for a VoIP system as digital phone apps provide the experience of VoIP without any extra hardware. Skype for Business, for instance, is being absorbed into the Microsoft Teams subscription, and you can often get the same high standard of sound quality with a small over-ear headset instead of a physical phone.
Finding a VoIP provider
With a large number of VoIP providers on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your home or business. Different options come with different pricing and offer significantly different sets of features. Therefore, it will be helpful to compare a few providers before committing yourself to a subscription.
One key consideration with a new VoIP service is whether it charges by the user, by the minute, or a combination of the two. You might want to weigh up the benefits of advanced features versus the extra costs that may be involved.
Some organisations save money by only using VoIP for calling outside numbers, while others opt to invest in an all-in-one solution for VoIP calls, as well as internal meetings and other types of communication.
How do I choose a VoIP provider?
VoIP providers in the UK can offer a range of different services. These include:
- Device-to-device – this type of VoIP uses the microphone and speakers on your device and is typically used on an instant messenger service. Zoom is an example of this style of service.
- Device-to-telephone network – this is where the caller uses their internet-enabled device to call a landline or mobile number. Skype can be used in this manner, but you will need to pay for calls of this type.
- Telephone network-to-telephone network – with this style of service, the caller uses an adapter to make VoIP calls from a standard landline telephone. Examples of this include AXvoice and Ooma.
- VoIP phone-to-telephone network – this is where the phone itself is IP enabled, meaning there is no need for an adapter. Services like Vonage and BT Digital Voice include VoIP phones.
Connecting your equipment and getting started
When you have all the software and tools you need, you can start getting the VoIP system up and running. Naturally, the specific steps will vary depending on your setup, you may need to connect your existing phones to VoIP adapters or replace them completely with IP phones. Also, some IP phones and routers support power over ethernet, meaning you can power the phone and connect to the internet with one single ethernet cable.
For example, RingCentral has pre-configured phones that will work with VoIP after being connected to the internet. You just need to plug it into your router through Ethernet and wait for it to come up in your VoIP software. However, this process might be different depending on the provider you are using, so be sure to follow the setup instructions closely.
Setting up VoIP should go smoothly for the majority of users, but there is always a chance that you might run into technical issues or other unexpected problems. Again, it will be best to check with the manufacturer of the product that is malfunctioning if you are facing challenges with your VoIP setup. This is because it will be able to provide more specific instructions based on the hardware and software you are using, and a lot of VoIP providers have in-depth guides for both setup and general use.
Frequently Asked Question about VoIP
Can you get VoIP for free?
It is free to sign up for a lot of the most popular device-based VoIP services, but sometimes you will have to pay to access ‘premium’ features like video conferencing. Once you have signed up, you can normally make VoIP calls for free to others using the same service, wherever they are located in the world.
If you want to regularly make VoIP calls to landline and mobile numbers, you will likely need to pay a monthly subscription and/or an amount per minute you stay on the line. However, calls that are made in this way are typically much cheaper than making landline to landline or mobile to mobile phone calls.
Is VoIP less expensive than a landline?
Yes, VoIP calls will usually work out cheaper than making calls with a traditional landline phone. This is especially relevant if you make a large number of international calls. You might also find that the quality of the sound is better on a VoIP call, though this will depend on the quality of your broadband connection.
Are there any disadvantages to VoIP?
If you have a poor internet connection, the sound quality of your VoIP call will be negatively affected too. Also, if your internet goes down (or if you are using a mobile phone and don’t have a Wi-Fi signal), you won’t be able to make any VoIP calls at all. This is also the case if the service you use becomes unavailable for any reason, while specific numbers, like directory enquiries, might not be contacted with VoIP calls at all.
What is better for me – VoIP or landline?
Often you need a landline to have access to the internet in your home, so you might need to carry on paying landline line rental to be able to make VoIP calls. While most VoIP providers now offer add-on services like caller ID, anonymous call blocking, voicemail, and do not disturb, you might also see that certain calls aren’t possible with a VoIP service. For example, there are several VoIP apps that are illegal in the United Arab Emirates.
If your internet goes down, you won’t be able to use a VoIP service to contact your broadband provider, or anyone else (unless you have a device with mobile internet access). So, a lot of households prefer to use VoIP to complement their home phone service instead of replacing it completely.
Clearly, there are many benefits to using a VoIP set up for your calls and their use is likely to become more and more commonplace. We hope that you have found our article useful and feel more confident in making your decision whether VoIP is the right choice for you. As always, should you require any help or support with your broadband, be sure to contact Broadway Broadband today.