VOIP : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary
VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) Using the Internet packet net for voice conversations.
Either or both ends might be ordinary telephones or they might be
PCs (Personal Computers)
with microphones and speakers. If you have a wireless Internet network, you can also
use WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) phones that
look like cellphones but tie into the nearest Internet wireless network.
is cheaper than ordinary long distance but has problems with voice cutting out during
times of congestion or lost packets. VOIP
is also used as verb.
- The main advantage is cheap or free long distance to North America and parts of
- Sometimes you can get rid of your land lines and save on that too.
- The people who make best use of this are snowbirds or people who travel a lot.
Your phone number follows you no matter where you roam. You can use your existing
number or get a number with any area code you please. This can save you on
cellphone roaming charges, or being charged for a line to a residence you are not
- Though you must get your Internet access from a local company, you can get your
phone service from any company. Further, you can plug into the Internet anywhere in
the world and your number follows you. You just take your combined router/VOIP box
with you, or your VOIP software in your laptop.
phones often come bundled with features such as call-waiting, caller-id and
electronic answering machine.
- Since the Internet has no long distance charges, in theory
long distance could be free, but in practice it will not be free, just cheap. Check
out long distance charges to find the true economics of a candidate plan.
You can buy VOIP
services that use ordinary phones that plug into a gateway box that then plugs into
your LAN (Local Area Network). These are designed primarily to augment land line
phone service for high volume long distance, not totally replace it. Most of the
time, you will also want to keep your ordinary land line voice service so your
savings won’t be a big as you might expect.
- You have to buy a gateway box. It is effectively a small computer that does
analog to digital conversion and relays the packets out over the Internet. This
additional startup cost will eat into your expected savings. It plugs into your
Internet router, just like an additional computer.
- Your VOIP phones no longer plug into the wall. They must plug
into one of two jacks on the gateway, one jack for each of two numbers, e.g. phone
and fax. This means if you want extension phones in other rooms, you can’t
use the in-wall wiring. You must string your own wires to hook the phones into the
jack via a splitter.
- The VOIP phones don’t work at all if your Internet
service is down or if your gateway has no power. This means they won’t work
in a power outage the way land line phones do. In such an emergency, 911 or your
burglar alarm phone would stop working. Further, you can’t report the
phones are incompatible with directly wired apartment intercoms.
- If you drop your land line voice phone service, the phone company will charge
you more for ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line technology) service. If you also drop
ADSL service from the phone company and replace it
with third party land line ADSL
service, they will still charge you for a dry line (a
raw copper line without any phone company services using it). This means your
expected savings will be eaten up. Only if you get your Internet service from
cable, you could drop your land line and not have to pay the phone company
anything. So your savings are badly eroded.
- When the phone is operating, it is using your LAN,
chewing up some of its capacity thus slowing it down. However, a voice connection
is less than 63K a second. What is more of a concern is
your computer activities bogging down your VOIP
connection leading to breaking up.
- If you need two lines, you will need two gateways and two sets of phones.
- If you use pure software VOIP,
e.g. Skype, then the computer has to make the ring. It may not be loud enough to
- If the computer is powered off, it can’t take incoming calls, or ring, or
make your phone ring. I am not sure what happens if the computer is merely
If you live in an apartment, chances are your telephone rings when someone comes
to the door. (Very old apartments may have a separate intercom.) This can be handled
by a box at the apartment door phoning you via the phone company. In this case, your
will ring. You would miss the call if your computer is not powered on. My apartment
has a Viscount Enterphone 2000 which works a different way. It works even if you have
no phone service at all. It uses a direct wire to your set of phone jacks. You need
to plug a standard phone into one of the wall jacks to take calls from the front
door. Your VOIP phone will not ring, unless you had some special
hardware on your computer to attach to your wall jack wiring. (I don’t know if
such hardware even exists.) Visit the website of the manufacturer of your entry
system to find out about compatibility.
The Comwave people sometimes use a miniature router that gives you only one
Ethernet outlet for computers, or a 4-port router. You can plug a single phone into
the router, or plug the router into a wall outlet, where it powers all the