Digital phone service, often called “Voice over IP” (VoIP), is a relatively new commodity for the home phone market. However, it has been used in the corporate arena for quite some time. For the consumer market, there are two types of digital voice services that are available: Those from your broadband Internet provider and those from companies such as Vonage.
As a phone medium, it has its good points and its bad points. Let’s tear into this thing called VoIP and take a look at the good and bad points.
The Good Points About Digital Phone
Most people look at price first when they consider buying something new, and phone service is no exception. When it was first introduced, digital phone service was incredibly cheap, usually no more than $10 a month in most cases. Most carriers are now offering it for somewhere in the area of $20 a month, which is still significantly lower than regular landline/POTS service.
Even better, since the service is carried over the Internet, you normally get unlimited local and long distance both for the same price.
Many times you’ll see an awesome price for something advertised and think, “Hey, that’s such a great price, I’m going to buy it.” However, once you’ve forked over your hard-earned cash, you find there are hidden fees and costs involved that weren’t made clear.
With this in mind, you might think that taking advantage of a whole new technology in telephony would require you to buy a new phone, but with digital voice service, this isn’t the case. Just plug your old phone into the device sent to you by the provider and you’re good to go.
The main question that my friends and family ask me about switching over to digital phone concerns the difficulty of installation. If you can plug a phone cord into a wall outlet, you can install digital voice yourself. Here’s how:
- Plug the digital voice device into your broadband modem.
- Plug the power cable for the voice device into an outlet.
- Plug your phone cord into the digital device.
Ok, great, you say, but what if I have more than one phone in my house, how do I handle that?
That’s simple. Instead of plugging the cord from your phone into the digital device, run a cord between the digital device and the closest wall outlet. But first, walk outside to where the old phone lines entered your house, usually near your power meter and panel, open it up, and disconnect the wires from the old phone company at the terminals. This has to be done in this order because there is 70 volts of electricity on the old phone company’s line and this voltage will damage the digital device.
Easy installation and low prices are great, but, for me, there are two other features of digital phone that I like more. However, not all providers offer them (Vonage does). I like my cell phone because I can look at the screen and see who it is that’s calling me and if I don’t have time to talk to them, I don’t. With most digital voice providers, the digital device has a large, easy to read caller ID display. However, that’s not the best feature of this type of service.
Digital voice service from companies like Vonage lets you take your home phone number with you when you travel, wherever you happen to be traveling. Taking a trip to Japan? Pack your digital device with you and you can chat with friends and family back home as much as you want without paying an extra penny for that capability as long as where you’re staying has Internet access.
Personally, I think that’s awesome.
The Bad Points About Digital Phone
Digital phone, as with regular phone service, sometimes called POTS, or Plain Old Telephone Service, requires a good, clean line in order to work properly. This means that the farther away from the office that your Internet service is delivered from, usually called a Central Office, the lower the quality of the service. However, unlike the old type of telephone service (analog phone), digital phone isn’t as forgiving when it comes to line quality. Even with a terrible line quality, with an analog phone line, you can still hold a conversation, whereas with digital voice, the cutoff where the phone stops working comes much sooner.
However, this isn’t the worst part. We’ve all had inclement weather cause us to lose phone service for a few minutes to a few hours. Honestly, that part is no real big deal to most customers. However, imagine this scenario: You have digital voice service and are home alone with your young child. There’s an accident and you’re either unable to talk or you can’t get to the phone, but your child can, so you have your child call 911.
Operator: “911, please state the nature of your emergency.”
Child: “Mommy’s hurt and can’t talk on the phone. Please send help.”
Operator: “Ok, what’s your address?”
Child: “I don’t know. I’m only three.”
Aren’t 911 operators supposed to have your address information at their fingertips? Yes, they are — with analog/landline phone service, they do.
However, most digital voice carriers route 911 calls through regular lines and many of them don’t actually go to a regular emergency number. Some of the carriers, like Vonage, are addressing this by creating what can be called a 911 database, but it requires you to go online and enter all the pertinent information in order for it to work. In terms of effectiveness in emergency situations, digital phone service has a long way to go.
If you think you’d rather shop for digital voice through standard phone service providers, then you can check out our Deals page on Digital Landing to see what deals are offered in your area.