Many of us don’t really give a second thought to our home phone service. We tend to keep what we have, go along with changes and accept price increases as they come along. Some of us sign up for the “Triple Play” from our cable or satellite television providers. So why change? Here’s why:
Reason One: Cash in Your Pocket – Now or Later
Times are tough, budgets are tight. Now is the best time to leave your old phone behind. VoIP residential packages come in either month to month or upfront pricing. If you’re willing to front the cash, you can get your service for under $10 a month. If you prefer to go month to month, prices are still very reasonable, and still cheaper than a contracted price from local/long distance telephone companies. Residential VoIP requires an Analog Telephone Adapter to use your existing phones. The good news is that many residential providers give you the option of either bringing your own device (e.g., an IP phone, or an unlocked ATA from a retailer) or give you a FREE lease on an ATA for as long as you subscribe to their service. You’ll make all your calls without having to buy new phones.
Depending on your needs, you can go for unlimited or metered minutes. Most residential PSTN carriers advertise 10 cents a minute. Metered VoIP minutes are as low as 1.98 cents a minute. VoIP also has much lower international rates, and some providers even include an hour of international minutes for free every month. You can also make free calls to anyone who subscribes to the same VoIP provider that you do anywhere in the world.
Reason Two: One number, Two Lines, No Busy Signals
In the past, if you wanted to be able to make two phone calls at once in a home, it meant two phones, and two separate numbers. In the age of cell phones, it’s much more common to have a cell phone be that second phone. But cell phones are not without their limitations: battery life, poor indoor reception, a form factor more conducive to talking on the go rather than long, sit-down conversations, to name a few. And even though cell phones are common, it’s still a second phone with a second phone number.
The number of concurrent calls you can make on a line is called “channels,” and most residential VoIP providers have at least three. What that means in every day usage is that you can pick up the phone even when someone is already talking—no more accidentally interrupting a family member’s private conversation. When the phone is “off hook” and an incoming call comes in, the person on the phone will hear a call waiting beep, and the other phones will ring. When two people are making calls at once and a third call comes in, both phones hear the call waiting beep. At a three channel maximum, one call must be ended to take the third, or else the message goes to voice mail. You can also have three-way conference calls to two different numbers at the same time.
With VoIP, you can even go the other direction and get a virtual number. A virtual number forwards to another phone. In residential usage, you can have a “local” number that is not where you actually reside, so anyone from the old neighborhood can call you at their local rates. You can even get an international virtual number. You do not even need to have the virtual number forward to your own VoIP home phone. A virtual number is one of the many services that VoIP providers offer, so they can forward the call to a PSTN number or a cell phone, but they will charge you a per-minute fee.
Reason Three: Privacy
Residential VoIP has a number of features for your privacy. Some are obvious, some are not. You can block calls on a temporary basis manually with Do Not Disturb, also called “DND” for short; you can block your outgoing caller ID; you can screen calls with incoming caller ID (which also has the name of the caller, not just the number); you can even block specific numbers or area codes that you choose using the online portal; you can even set a “whitelist” and only be available to numbers that you choose. One feature you’ll never get with the phone company is group blacklists. You can mark a number as a telemarketer in your web portal, and the number will be blocked not just to you but to everyone who subscribes to the telemarketer list.
Reason Four: Your Own Personal PBX
PBX stands for “Personal Branch Exchange,” and it is what gives big companies fancy features like call transferring, call forwarding, and on-hold music. VoIP brings all those features home with you, and you’ll be surprised at how great these features are for your home. All of your calls are logged online, and you can check your voice mail from any computer or any phone; you can set up specific call rules so that certain numbers, or calls at certain hours, go straight to voice mail; you can get a text or email every time you miss a call or get a voice mail; you can have an outside phone, such as your cell phone, ring whenever you get a call; using your computer, you can click a contact or recent caller and have your VoIP provider call your phone and their phone at the same time; you can set up a second “failover” number to forward calls in the event that your network goes down or your power goes out. Once you use these features, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
Reason Five: No Price Shock, No Paying Extra for Features, No Dirty Tricks
Phone companies offer discounts to entice you to use their service. But after a year, those discounts disappear and prices shoot up. Residential VoIP is so competitive that prices stay the same or even skew downward over time. You can great discounts if you prepay, and you won’t see any surprises or extra fees, other than regulatory fees and taxes, which are collected every month.
The phone company will make you pay extra for features like caller ID and call waiting, even though there’s no cost to them. Some phone companies won’t even let you have caller ID on call waiting unless you have a specific device. If your phone supports caller ID on call waiting, then so does your VoIP provider, and at no extra charge. VoIP calling features come with every plan whether you have metered or unlimited minutes. You can purchase premium features, such as international calling plans, additional virtual and even toll free numbers, and extra phone channels. VoIP will never give you sticker shock. The price they promise is the price you’ll pay.