How to Shop for a VOIP Provider
The advantages of switching from a regular phone service to a VOIP service are manifold. The biggest advantage being cost savings both for residential consumers and small businesses. With broadband internet (dsl and cable) having garnered a critical mass among residential customers and small businesses, voip presents itself as an extremely viable option. The cost advantage comes from the voip technology which uses the ubiquitous cheap internet as the back bone for communication.
Several companies have established themselves as worthy players in this field challenging major telecom companies. Vonage by far is the biggest voip service provider in the US and Canada followed by Packet8 , Verizon, SunRocket, Lingo and Viatalk, not in that order though. The more the number of service providers, the more confusing it becomes to choose from when you go voip shopping. Alll voip providers aren't made equal. Each provider having some advantages over the other.
There are three major yardsticks you should consider before choosing a voip company.
Call QualityPriceVOIP Features1. Call Quality - Voip being a newer technology, it still hasn't matured enough. So call quality varies between different providers. Also sometimes the call drop rate is high among some providers. Read reviews, do some research about a provider's call quality before signing up.
2. Price - Most provides have multiple price plans. The basic plan, which is always the cheapest, most providers offer is a fixed number of long distance minutes every month. Its pretty much like cell phone calling plans, where you get a few hundred minutes of long distance calls every month. Rates like .99 per month for 200 minutes will beat any regular phone company rates. The higher priced plans come with unlimited long distance calling in the US & Canada for a higher fixed fee. Though prices for unlimited plans are higher that the basic plans, they are still cheaper than regular phone company price plans. There are also plans tailored for small businesses which may include video conferencing.
3. VOIP Features - The most important VOIP feature you must have is the ability to make 911 emergency calls. VOIP companies provide E911 service, which is similar to the 911 service provided by the cell phone companies. Some voip providers do not provide an E911 service. Make sure your provider has a E911 service if you are dumping you regular phone company altogether and switching to a voip provider. Other features include voice mail, call forwarding, call waiting, 3 way calling, online account management, current phone number transfer and many more. Do some research and make a list of features you want to have with your voip plan and ensure the voip provider you are choosing has those features.
Promotions and Offers - Though the VOIP plan pricing are always cheaper than your regular phone company rates, most voip companies come up with limited time promotions like free 1 year or six months of service when you sign up during the promotion period. SunRocket and Viatalk seem more aggressive in offering such deals to gain some market share. If you can sign up during these ongoing promotions, it will save you some additional money. There are many voip related web sites that keep an up to date listing of the current voip promotions. These web sites also provide visitors with user and expert reviews and will be a great tool for your research and helpful in choosing the right voip provider for your need.
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