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Residential VoIP: Things to Consider Before Switching

Aug 17, 2007
While Voice over IP Telephony has proven to be a viable and cost saving alternative to the traditional telcos for the small business community, there are some drawbacks that the residential consumer should consider before making the switch.

Power Outages

Because your VoIP service utilizes a broadband connection and the hardware plugs into the wall, if a power outage should occur, you would have no telephone service. If you are using a cable modem and your ISP experiences an outage, you would also have no phone service. However, many VoIP providers offer call forwarding at no extra charge, thus allowing the call to be automatically forwarded to your cell phone.

In the case of extreme disaster situations, i.e. a hurricane or tsunami, even cell phone service could be disrupted, but so probably would traditional landline telephone service.

Emergency Services

Most networks, including your broadband Internet service provider, employ the DHCP protocol, dispersing dynamic IP addresses to the nodes on the network. While your IP address will usually remain the same when you are online, if you turn off your computer for any amount of time, your address will more than likely change. It is for this reason that makes it difficult to pin down devices on a network to a specific geographic location.

The most serious drawback of VoIP in the household is that your service provider may not be able to map emergency service calls such as 911 to your physical address, or to properly route the call to your local call center. Indeed, so serious is this matter that the FCC has mandated that service providers deal with it by implementing enhanced 911, and they are doing so in their own ways.

Cable and telephone companies usually deal with fixed residences and know your address already, making it easier to comply with the FCCs mandate. The pure play providers, such as Vonage or Packet8, provide the consumer with the ability to have phone numbers in different area codes, and deal with a much more mobile road warrior type of consumer. An advantage of the nature of VoIP prized by many.

The pure plays could just pay to connect to the already established local phone companies 911 systems, but many have balked, preferring to develop their own E911 technology. For now, most providers do offer 911 services to fixed addresses by having the customer activate 911 at sign up.

Local Listings

If you choose a pure play provider for your residential VoIP, more than likely, you will not be listed in your local white pages, but check to be sure. Of course, if you choose your local phone company as your provider, you will be. Check with your cable company if you are considering them as your provider to see if you will be listed in your local white pages.

There are many white page directories on the internet, not the same thing, but an option nevertheless. The yellow pages are a paid directory, so if you have a business, you still can exercise this option.

Faxing over VoIP

Faxing a document involves scanning it, converting the data into sound, and transmitting the sounds over a copper telephone line to their destination. Sounds do not travel well over the internet. In IP telephony, the standard T.38 was developed to convert the fax sound into sendable data, much like VoIP converts the human voice. Another standard called T37 can send faxes as either an email attachment or a remote printout using the Internet Printing Protocol. Many providers offer a separate fax line for an extra charge.

Choosing VoIP over traditional telephone services has its pros and cons just like anything else. It is up to the consumer to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, and to come to a conclusion with eyes wide open.
About the Author
Author Michael Talbert is a certified systems engineer and web designerwith over 7 years experience in the industry. For more information on Voice over IP Telephony, visit the website VoIP-Facts.net, or the VoIP Blog for up to date industry news and commentary.
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