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What is VOIP - how do internet phone calls work?
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Question:I read that VOIP means making phone calls over the internet - for very cheap. How does that work?
Answer:VOIP means 'Voice Over IP', or in layman's terms, phone service over the Internet.
Have you tried Yahoo messenger on your computer with it's voice feature? You speak into the computer's microphone, the voice gets digitized, sent to your friend who also has Yahoo messenger, and on your friend's computer your voice comes out of the computer's speaker. The cost for this transmission is the cost of your and your friend's internet connection. You may want to have a fast connection (cable, DSL) to get good voice quality without delays. If you have a flat-fee internet service, then your Yahoo phone calls are essentially free.
This is nice the first time you try it, but it gets old to speak to a computer's microphone. Not to mention that you need to sit next to the computer. And you need to agree with your friend upfront on being available on the messenger if you want to call.
Next thing is, you will want to call a regular home phone from your computer. Around 2000, there were some companies pioneering this and offering free service. I used www.dialpad.com - I would originate my calls from my computer and I could call any number in North America - for free.
The next step is to have a normal looking phone that has all the hardware built-in to connect to the internet. It will have an ethernet port just like your computer's network card on its back side. Your house no longer needs a traditional phoneline. That is assuming that your internet connection is reliable.
If your ISP is sometimes down, be prepared to have no phone service in those moments.
Another restriction is that these solutions may not offer 911 service, 411 service, phone directory listings and other phone services.
Currently Vonage gets a lot of attention with their product. One cool way to use it is for people with family members overseas.
The author of this article has family in Germany and lives in California, with an 831 area code. I could buy a Vonage phone, register it with an 831 area code and then mail it to my parents in Germany.
Then my parents plug it into their ethernet port (they do have a fast enough connection - ISDN) and we could call each other for free. Well, not really.
My parents in Germany pay about 1 cent per minute of internet usage. If my parents use a call-by-call service (similar to 10-10- prefixes in the USA), they can call the USA for 1.2 cents a minute. This call-by-call provider certainly uses VOIP also to achieve this low rate of 1.2 cents.
The summary is that in this case, it would not save much money 0.2 cents per minute and that's why we have not done it.
But if you have family overseas with a flat rate internet connection, Vonage and other similar products can save you a lot!