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VoIP Calling Plan

VoIP – you’ve heard about it, but do you know what it is? Moreover, should you adopt a VoIP phone plan? Before you make a decision, review this important VoIP information.

What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Basically, instead of using a landline or mobile phone, VoIP allows you to speak with someone using an internet connection. The closest, simplified description of VoIP would be “voice chat” – think AOL Instant Messenger but with voices instead of text.

How Does VoIP Work?
Technically, there are two variations on VoIP:

1. Using the internet to make calls
Think Skype, Google Hangouts, or Vonage. Skype and Hangouts are the software version of VoIP, whereas Vonage is more akin to hardware. The basic distinction between the two is that with the software versions, your computer converts Internet data into telephone data. Vonage, however, has a dedicated device that plugs into your router and handles the conversions. All of these systems allow you to dial phone numbers and converse with others using a microphone, whether through your computer or a mobile phone app.

2. Using the internet to voice chat (no phone numbers involved)
Think Mumble, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, or Skype’s Skype-to-Skype feature. These are commonly used by gamers because these tend to be server-based. This means that users connect to a server, join a particular channel and can chat with anyone on that channel. Viber, Linphone, and Facetime are examples of one-to-one solutions.

Whichever app or service you choose, you simply have to dial a number or choose a contact. VoIP phone plans typically use the first method.

When it comes to VoIP phone plans, you simply choose the app (software) or VoIP adapter device (hardware) and then either pay per minute or per month. Please note that rates will differ between providers.

  • Save Money

The plans with these apps are relatively inexpensive in comparison to mobile plans. With pay-as-you-go methods, the price you pay per minute ends up being pennies (quite literally).  Even if you choose to pay monthly, it’s usually a just few dollars. Other apps allow you to make free calls to Canada and U.S., and only charge a few cents per minute for international calls. If you are calling service to service, however, these calls are usually free regardless of your location.

  • No Mobile Plan Necessary

Have an old phone that’s no longer connected to an active mobile plan? You can use it for VoIP calls, simply download the app of your choice! As long as there is Wi-Fi available, you can make calls. Public Wi-Fi counts, however, you should understand the security risks before you decide to connect. Now your old phones don’t have to go to waste!

  • Works With Existing Landlines

If you still have a landline phone, all you need is the proper VoIP phone adapter and you can be making VoIP calls in no time.

  • Choose Your Own Phone Number

With some VoIP providers, you may be able to choose your own phone number. Some charge for this service, others provide it for free.

  • Special Features

VoIP providers don’t limit you to phone calls – there are often other features you can access. For example, you can send text-based messages or even hold conference calls.

While these sound appealing, not all plans are perfect. While a VoIP plan may be great for one person, it might not be the best choice for another. Here are some things to consider before you make the switch.

  • Internet Connection Affects Voice Quality

VoIP calls usually require about 50-90 kbps of bandwidth, which simply measures how much data is transferred per second. More bandwidth means more data capacity which means better voice quality.

It sounds simple enough, however, you must remember that your internet is being used for things other than VoIP. Playing games, downloading big files, or watching YouTube/Netflix can all affect your internet speed and, thus, the voice quality of your VoIP call.

It is recommended that you have an internet connection of at least 5 Mbps up and down each way. Also, prioritizing VoIP traffic on the Quality of Service on your router could help.

  • Can Cost More

Do you pay per gigabyte for your data, or do you have a monthly data cap? You may end up paying more for VoIP calls. Let’s assume most VoIP calls use 20-90 kbps, that means you could be using between 150-675 KB per minute or 9-40 MB per hour. While it may not seem like a lot on its own, when combined with your web browsing and video streaming, you may notice that you are reaching your data limit much faster than usual. And if you use VoIP over 3G, 4G, or 5G data, you will end up paying even more.

  • Security/Privacy Issues

It’s not commonplace, but it is possible that with VoIP, strangers could be eavesdropping on your conversation. The biggest vulnerability lies in the fact that the global IP is public whereas telco networks are closed. This is exactly why you should use encrypted VoIP apps whenever possible. And when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, take extra precautions to protect your device and personal data.

Considering everything mentioned, do you think VoIP is right for you? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

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