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What is an Internet Phone?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
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An Internet phone looks and acts like a regular phone. However, it does not provide for communications over traditional telephone lines. Instead, it connects to the Internet, sending your voice via the World Wide Web. Internet phones operate through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, allowing callers to toss their traditional landline phones. Instead of requiring standard phone jacks and traditional phone wiring, Internet phones require broadband Internet service and a cable or Digital subscriber line (DSL) modem.

Traditional telephones work via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The PSTN is a private network that provides for a telephone connection using standard phone jacks. For years, this network has been relied on for obtaining landline service through local telephone companies. Today, however, callers have another option. They can bypass both the PSTN and their local telephone companies, choosing to place calls entirely over the Internet.

To use an Internet phone, callers need to secure services from a VoIP service provider. The VoIP company will typically provide the customer with a telephony adaptor. This adaptor is a small device used to plug into a broadband modem. A telephony adaptor’s purpose is changing electrical phone pulses into Internet Protocol (IP) packets. The IP packets travel over the Internet, allowing callers to participate in regular telephone conversations.

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With an Internet phone, using the telephone is no different than using a landline; just the network is different. Users can make and receive phone calls in the normal fashion. VoIP service providers assert that there is no noticeable difference in sound quality. However, it is possible to experience choppy voice quality, similar to a poor cell phone connection, occasionally. Usually, this occurs when there is heavy traffic on the network and is only temporary.

A downside of using an Internet phone is its reliance on electricity. Internet phones connect through broadband modems. When the power goes out and the modem fails to work, Internet phones are unavailable. This can be a major concern in emergency situations. Fortunately, this issue can be eliminated by using a universal power supply (UPS), enabling your phone connection to stay up and running when the power goes out.

Another issue with Internet phone service is the availability of 911 dialing. Typically, VoIP service companies do provide support for 911 calls. However, some services route 911 calls differently than they are sent via landline phones. Furthermore, with some services, the name and address of the caller is not displayed at the 911 call center.

Despite its differences from landline phone technology, many individuals find the Internet phone a viable and even preferable option. Internet phone service is usually cheaper that landline phone service. The cost is less for local, long distance, and international calls. Internet phone users may even save on taxes. Furthermore, calls to other Internet phone users, within the same VoIP service network, are often placed and received for free.

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Discuss this Article

SkyWhisperer
Post 5

@Charred - As for me, I prefer free Internet phone calls I get with Skype, Yahoo and other similar services. The quality is good enough, and my costs are zero.

Charred
Post 4

Another step in the latest evolution of Internet phones is the trend towards so called “plug and play” jacks that you can stick into your computer, and hook up to a traditional phone to make long distance calls over the Internet.

You pay a small, flat yearly fee for these services. Ironically, they’re giving Internet phone providers a run for the money, since they still charge a monthly fee. It’s like they’ve become the equivalent of traditional phone companies.

NathanG
Post 3

@Mammmood - The traditional phone carriers have dropped their prices even on overseas calls, because they’ve felt the pinch of Internet phone providers. So you’re probably getting a decent rate with your current carrier as it is—or you can negotiate a better rate with another traditional carrier. It may not make that much sense to switch to an I.P. phone for quite some time.

Mammmood
Post 2

The only thing that has been holding us back from getting a VOIP Internet phone is the call quality to some parts of the world. We call remote regions in Asia on a fairly frequent basis and the call quality is not that great yet. In the big cities, it’s ok, but in the smaller areas they still use older, fragile phone lines.

These are the so-called “last miles” in the network, and the phone calls have to get on the last mile in order to complete the call. I tried it once with a friend’s Internet phone and still got delays, echoes, dropouts—too much to make the call worthwhile. However, I do want to get an Internet phone eventually, once these wrinkles are worked out and the smaller areas in Asia upgrade their phone systems.

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