Internet Phone Service 101

In this article I’m going to explain Internet phone service in simple terms. Hopefully this will help you make an informed decision about whether or not Internet phone service might be for you.

Let’s start with some definitions

Very often you’ll see Internet phone service referred to by an acronym: VoIP. What this stands for is “voice over Internet protocol.”

“Protocol” is another word for “rules.” So Internet protocols are the rules and technologies that make the Internet possible. It’s a collection of all the rules that everyone follows so that equipment from one vendor is able to communicate just fine with equipment from another vendor.

In brief, Internet protocol says that you take multiple data transmissions (like emails), break them into pieces (or “packets”) and send them along multiple different lines simultaneously. The information is then reassembled at the end and brought to the receiver in the proper way so that it can be easily understood. This means more speed, efficiency, lower costs — and a tremendous amount of upside expansion capability.

Here’s how Internet protocol makes Internet phone service possible

In the old days, you were connected to the person you’re talking to buy a copper wire. Your conversation with this other person took up the entire wire — nobody else could use it. This is not very efficient. And as demand for phone service went up, capacity could not keep up with the demand. The phone companies literally could not string enough copper wire fast enough.

The solution? Send the voice messaging using Internet protocols — VoIP.

The owners of these networks realized that they could attract new customers for their networks by offering Internet telephone service that saved money on local and long-distance calling. And of course the telephone companies themselves branched out with this service as well.

So that’s how it works.

Now let’s see if we can answer some questions that will help you make an informed decision about whether Internet phone services are for you.

Here’s how you can take advantage of Internet phone service

There are couple of ways you can go. One way is to bundle your Internet phone along with your Internet service and your cable TV. If you live in an area where this is available that could be a cost-saving solution for you depending on how much you are spending now.

You can also contact your existing phone company to see if they offer Internet phone services.

A third option is to go with an independent Internet phone service company. There are many vendors out there, e.g., Skype, Packet8, and And these are just a few of the popular Internet phone services out there. Be careful, however, because there’s been a shakeout in the market. Vonage and SunRocket are two companies that recently suffered setbacks and there may be more before the shakeout ends and consolidation takes over.

Will you need a special phone line?

No, but you will need to have your own high-speed Internet connection. And unless you opt to go with a PC-to-PC or PC-to-phone plan, you will need to have an adapter to sit between your phone and the Internet connection. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go as far as hardware is concerned.

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