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VoIP Internet Phone Service – The Future is Here!

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In 2004 the terms VoIP, internet  phone   service  and IP  phone  were foreign to almost everyone except technology professionals and geeky computer types. Now most people I talk with are at least slightly familiar with these terms, as the internet  phone   service  market is now starting to take off. Contrary to what many people believe, VoIP is not a new technology. It was introduced to the public in 1995, by a company called Vocaltec. By using internet  phone  software, registered users could make  phone  calls via their computer using a dialup internet connection. I made my first internet  phone  call in 2000 using my computer, a headset, a dialup internet connection and a free account with Net2Phone. The sound quality was terrible, but it was an absolutely fascinating experience to be making a free long distance call over my computer. Now in 2005, ten years after the first commercial use of VoIP, the technology is finally ready for prime time!

Significant improvements have been made with VoIP in the past five years, and communications companies have started investing heavily in the technology. The quality and reliability of service has improved so much within the past year or so that VoIP is now suitable and reliable enough for everyday residential and business use. In fact, so much attention is now being given to the continued improvement of VoIP technology that it’s well on it’s way to becoming the PREFERRED method of communication by home users and businesses alike.

There were around 1.5 million internet  phone  users in the USA in 2004, and around 2.1 million today according to Telecommunications Industry News. According to various statistics I’ve seen, the number of VoIP users in the United States is projected to be around 17 to 18 million between 2008 and 2010. This in an increase of over 1000% within the next 3 to 5 years! Experts also estimate that by 2007, 75% of long distance calls worldwide will be made via the internet. The US is currently not the biggest user of VoIP technology – there are about 7 million users in Japan out of approximately 12 million worldwide today. The internet  phone  industry is booming, and will continue to grow over the next decade. It seems that everyone including EBay wants in on the exploding VoIP market now, as evidenced by their purchase of VoIP provider Skype in September 2005.

More people are showing interest in obtaining Internet  Phone   Service  because they are starting to hear more about it. This is due in part to more “converted users” raving about the amount of money they are saving and the great features they get for free (I love my VoIP service so much I wrote a website about it!). A greater awareness has also come from increased advertising efforts by major cable and communications companies. Many cable television and  phone   service  companies (like Verizon) have been pouring money into VoIP technology in order to capture some of this new market share.

In an effort to hold on to their customers, many regular PSTN (public switched telephone network)  phone  companies are now offering “unlimited long distance calling” for a flat monthly fee of around $39 per month. Current subscribers are starting to cancel their traditional  phone   service  as they are convinced that VoIP is a better option. Not only is VoIP cheaper (under $25 a month for unlimited calling), but most Internet  Phone  providers throw in all of the optional features for free.  Phone  companies charge extra for services like voicemail, caller id and call waiting. I think  phone  companies have missed the boat when it comes to competing with VoIP, but that’s a topic for another article……

With all of the telephone service options now available, it is becoming difficult for consumers to choose the right provider for their needs:

Should you subscribe with a true VoIP service service provider (like Vonage, Packet8, SunRocket, Voip.net, etc…), or should you choose the  phone   service  that your cable company provides? If you compare VoIP provider rates with those of the cable company, “pure” VoIP providers are clearly the winner. Cable companies do provide free installation, but VoIP is really very simple to install. Many cable companies offer discount through “package deals”, but it’s always smart to compare total cost and included features with VoIP providers before making a decision.

Should you switch to VoIP and get rid of your landline  phone , or keep what you’ve got and pay for unlimited long distance calling? If you don’t use the internet, keep your landline  phone  and forget about VoIP for now. To get the most bang for your buck out of VoIP service, you need to have cable internet service. This eliminates the need for a  phone  line and “dial tone” that you have to pay the  phone  company for. To use VoIP in the most cost effective way, calls should go through your cable broadband connection – this eliminates the need for standard  phone   service . VoIP does not work well over dial up internet; you really need broadband in order to get the best audio quality.

Depending on your long distance calling habits, VoIP internet  phone   service  can save you between 20% – 80% per year vs. traditional PSTN  phone   service . The technology is mature now and the quality of service is great (and getting better all the time). It’s hard to beat unlimited local and long distance calling for less than $25 per month, plus you get free voicemail, caller id, call waiting, call return, and all the other features you’re used to paying extra for.

VoIP is definitely here to stay, and cost savings is only one of the many benefits it offers. Internet  phones  will change the way the world communicates. It’s now possible to live in another country and have a US  phone  number, you can have several “virtual”  phone  numbers in different states or travel the world and bring your home  phone  with you. It’s an exciting time in the world of communications – are you ready to switch to VoIP?

(c) Copyright 2005, Debbie Jacobsen. All rights reserved.

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Local Phone Service – Before You Switch Guide

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Many people lately appear to be confused as to what all these new local phone services mean to them. Yes, there are great rates and deals floating all over the place, but there are definitely some issues that need to be cleared up and some questions to be answered. Few even think to ask half the questions to the answers that will be presented here in this article.

New Service Installation

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about many of the local phone services offered out there today. The thought is that these services can be installed into their homes without any current phone service previously installed. The majority of local phone service offerings are “Switched Services”, not for new installations.

A qualifying customer must first have local phone service from a Bell Carrier (SBC) or other qualifying regional carrier in place before going through a discounted provider. The services these other local phone companies provide are “Switched Services” for the sole purpose of switching you from your current provider. They in no way install new services.

DSL Lines

If you have DSL this is very important. Switching local phone service while having DSL service can cause automatic cancellation of your DSL triggering cancellation fees and discontinued service. Many switched local phone providers are aware of this and will not switch your service if DSL is present, but some may not check and this can cause quite a few problems.

If planning a switch, contact your DSL provider to see what you may be able to do. There may be different solutions negotiable with your DSL provider to enable the switching of your phone services.

There is a new DSL service that offers DSL without having to have a phone line installed. SpeakEasy offers this service and is a highly ranked DSL provider in the broadband community. This is perfect for broadband phone subscribers.

Past Due Phone Bills

Many consumers now believe with all of these new phone options that they can forget their previous obligations to the last carrier and move forward with a new one. Stop! All switched local phone providers do a check with your last local carrier before providing services. If you even have one month behind on your previous service, you more than likely will be denied. All bills must be paid up and current before you switch.

Credit Checks

All local phone providers do a credit check. While it cannot be said entirely everything they check for in your credit, you can be assured that any previous due balance to a long distance carrier will be counted against you.

If you know you have bad credit, you might want to start working on repairing it for yourself. There should be credit repair counseling services in your area that are free of charge. Take advantage of these services, credit checks are only gaining popularity and can only further limit your purchasing power as a consumer.

Phone Numbers

If you were planning on keeping your old phone number, expect to pay your current local carrier some extra charges before the switch. Costs vary, but if you don’t mind carrying a new phone number then this is nothing to worry about.

One Size Bundled Services

One size doesn’t always fit all, especially if you’re on a budget. Almost every switched local phone provider offers lower cost alternatives to their main bundled packages. So if an unlimited long distance calling plan is too costly for you, there usually are other options that give you a preset amount of monthly minutes at a lower overall package cost.

Do your research, including on your previous bills to see what amount of local and long distance usage you typically use. If it makes sense to buy into a lower package, you can really save as long as you stay within the limits of your calling package.

Business Packages

If your business has more than 5 business lines you will not be able to switch your local phone services. However, check with the carrier to make sure. You may still find an option for your business that works for you.

PIC Freezes

If you had a PIC, which basically is a lock on your long distance service, you will need to unlock the service for it to be removed for your switched local phone package to be installed.

Hopefully this article has helped you understand what may stand in your way of switching your local phone service. While the opportunity to save and consolidate bills is great, make sure you have taken care of and understand all the above issues and you should have no problem switching to a great new level of service and features.

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