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VoIP 2015 - An introduction to VoIP (1 of 3)

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol or to put it another way, making and receiving telephone calls via your home or office internet connection. The benefits of this are that you can make significantly cheaper calls than your standard fixed line phone service, you often get better call quality, you can also take advantage of many extra features such as call diversion, answering service, hold music etc. For many, just ridding themselves from the grips of BT is incentive enough to consider VoIP.

Before you dive into the world of VoIP it is important to appreciate that you need a half decent broadband service to run VoIP on. Run a line test at www.speedtest.net to see what your current broadband speeds are. We need to look at both the upload and download speeds. I would suggest 4Mbps in both directions would be suffice for VoIP in an office of upto 10 people where there may be a couple of telephone conversations simultaneously as well as other internet access. although VoIP will work perfectly well on slower lines through clever use of data compression. Many companies opt to install a second broadband line exclusively for the use of VoIP to ensure the maximum bandwidth for calls.

Did you know that on a standard BT residential service you are charged 9.58p / minute for the call and 15.97p for connecting each call to another UK landline number? So a one minute call on this BT service will cost just under 26p compared to the same call made via a VoIP service which will cost just 1p. A one minute BT call to a UK mobile costs just under 28p compared to 8p from a typical VoIP service. There are even more significant savings to be made above and beyond the standard BT offering when considering international phone calls.

I have given you a worst case scenario to demonstrate the potential savings and everyone’s current fixed line service will defer slightly with some paying in advance for free calls or a discounted business rate on calls. But there will be savings to made everywhere by considering a switch to VoIP.

In its crudest form you only incur call charges when making outgoing calls, so you could have an arrangement where you make your outgoing calls via a VoIP service but receive your incoming calls in your normal manner i.e. via your regular fixed line handset. 

To start making cheaper outgoing VoIP calls you need to subscribe to a VoIP service such as voipfone.co.uk or gradwell.net. These companies will route your outgoing call from the internet onto the traditional phone network. It takes 2 minutes to sign up for an account with them and then you pre-load your account with a minimum of £10 for your future VoIP calls. 

The second thing you’ll need need is a Softphone. This is software that turns your Mac into a telephone and makes the phone call. Many softphones are free such as Zoiper but these can be upgraded to unlock additional features such as better call quality with a lower bandwidth and integration with your Mac OS Address Book. Should you not want to run a softphone on your Mac and/or you live or work in an area with poor mobile phone coverage, then you can install Zoiper on your iPhone.

The last item you’d need is a headset which is an earpiece and microphone that connects to the Mac and enables you to speak to and hear your caller. You should have one of these if you have an Apple iPhone or they can be purchased for about £10.00. So for not much more than £10.00 anyone with an internet connection and a Mac can start to enjoy making cheaper phone calls.

Taking this scenario onto the next level, if you don’t want the inconvenience of using a headset and a softphone, you can purchase a VoIP telephone from around £80.00 which you can use to make your calls with. This looks like a conventional phone but actually sits on your computer’s wired network as it is essentially a computer and needs to access the internet to get to your VoIP providers servers.

A variant of this scenario is for the home user who may have 2 or 3 existing cordless handsets around the house. You can introduce a VoIP telephone adapter that allows you to keep all your existing phones for both incoming and outgoing calls but it automatically routes your outgoing calls onto the much cheaper VoIP service. These adapters cost between £40 - £60.

Should you have any questions about some of the suggested solutions raised in this article please get in touch for further information. 

My next article will cover the issues of switching completely to VoIP for incoming as well as outgoing calls, taking advantage of VoIP when moving office and complete VoIP business solutions.