Can VoIP Service Replace Your Landline?
A reader asks: 'I have a landline and a cell phone, so I'm thinking of dropping the landline phone in favor of VoIP phone service, to save some money. What is your opinion of VoIP, and what are the pros and cons of using it to replace a traditional landline?'
Is It Time to Drop Your Landline?
In tough economic times, folks are looking to cut expenses any way they can. Many are even eyeballing that telephone handset on the counter, wondering if they really need a traditional wired landline anymore. Quite a few have decided that they don't, opting to replace it with VoIP telephone service, which uses an Internet connection to make and receive phone calls. Is VoIP (Voice over IP) the right choice for you?
Let's start by de-geekifying the terminology. When you see “VoIP” or “Internet telephony” just replace it in your mind with “Internet Calling.” In a nutshell, here's how it works. VoIP connects your phone to the Internet via your high-speed internet connection (DSL, cable or fiber optic.) Instead of plugging into your local phone company's wall jack, you plug your phone line into a VoIP adapter. The adapter plugs into your computer or Internet modem/router and converts the signal from your phone into data that travels over the Internet.
The advantage of these VoIP services is that you can pay a lot less, and you don't have to change anything about the way you make and receive calls. You'll continue to use the same telephone handsets, and in most cases, you can even continue to use the same phone number.
The landline market in the U.S. has been shrinking steadily for about ten years. The number of homes with a landline only is now below 8%, and some phone companies are mulling whether it's time to stop offering landline service altogether. Two newer technologies are replacing landlines: cellular phones and VoIP .
By comparison, the residential VoIP market is young. Vonage, one of the oldest players, was founded in 2001. Vonage has about 2.5 million subscribers worldwide. Most analysts agree that residential VoIP started taking off in 2004, when cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner began to offer bundled services including VoIP, TV, and Internet access. Over 90 percent of residential VoIP "lines" are provided by cable companies.
For those who already have high-speed internet (DSL, cable or fiber), dropping that expensive landline can be very tempting. The unpredictability of the monthly phone bill, along with all those mysterious taxes and fees, bring many consumers to a boiling point. Vonage offers unlimited local and long distance calling in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico for $24.99 per month. Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and other service providers offer flat-rate VoIP calling at similar price points.
Other options such as Skype, Google Voice and Magic Jack offer VoIP phone service for less, and even for free in some cases. See my related articles Free Internet Phone Calls and Magic Jack Phone Service to learn more about these alternatives.
Switching to VoIP: Pro and Con
Cost alone does not dictate that everyone should ditch their landlines for VoIP. VoIP is more vulnerable to power outages than landline service is. The traditional telephone wires are powered separately from the general electrical grid. So when the lights go out, your landline will probably still work. That's one good reason to keep a landline even after adding VoIP service. But the problem is also solved by having a mobile phone, at least until the battery runs out.
The 911 emergency service works very consistently with landlines, but can be problematic with VoIP. A landline terminates at a fixed location. When you call 911 from a landline, your location is automatically and surely transmitted to the emergency response center. But since they are not traditional phone services, VoIP providers do not have to provide emergency 911 calling. However, many of them will enroll you in what's known as Voluntary 911 Service. VoIP providers can use your billing address, or provide you with some other means of giving your physical address, which is used to associate your phone number with your physical location, in the emergency 911 database.
If you move, or you temporarily change the location of your VoIP phone, it's your responsibility to update the E911 address location information. And of course you won't have the ability to make 911 calls in the event of an Internet connection failure, or if you lose electrical power at your location. You should always have an alternative means of accessing 911 or similar emergency services, such as a landline telephone, mobile phone or a neighbor. Some people just don't want that kind of uncertainty when their lives may be on the line, so that's a consideration when deciding whether or not to go with a VoIP-only phone solution for your home.
A good inexpensive compromise might be VoIP service backed up by a prepaid or pay-as-you-go cell phone. See my related article Are Prepaid Wireless Phones a Good Deal? to check out several options. Your thoughts on VoIP service are welcome! Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 14 Nov 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can VoIP Service Replace Your Landline? (Posted: 14 Nov 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved