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VOIP services

Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services can take the place of your landline telephone. Instead of placing calls via the traditional telephone network, VOIP services route calls over the internet. As a result, VOIP services are often much cheaper than using a landline phone, especially for making international calls.

VOIP services comparison chart for 2017

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ring central
Lingo
8x8
Via Talk
BroadVoice
Voip.com
Excellent
Five stars means excellent
Very good
Four stars means very good
Good
Three stars means good
Average
Two stars means average /
Poor
One star means poor
Phone Power has been awarded best buy Product image of phone power Product image of vonage Product image of phone.com Product image of skype Product image of ring central Product image of lingo Product image of 8x8 Product image of via talk Product image of broadvoice Product image of voip.com
Lowest price
per month
 
 
 
Ratings
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Overall
phone power has a rating of five  overall vonage has a rating of five  overall phone.com has a rating of five  overall skype has a rating of five  overall ring central has a rating of four  overall lingo has a rating of four  overall 8x8 has a rating of four  overall via talk has a rating of four  overall broadvoice has a rating of four  overall voip.com has a rating of four  overall
Setup
phone power has a rating of five for setup vonage has a rating of five for setup phone.com has a rating of five for setup skype has a rating of five for setup ring central has a rating of five for setup lingo has a rating of four for setup 8x8 has a rating of four for setup via talk has a rating of four for setup broadvoice has a rating of four for setup voip.com has a rating of four for setup
Calling plans
phone power has a rating of four for calling plans vonage has a rating of five for calling plans phone.com has a rating of four for calling plans skype has a rating of four for calling plans ring central has a rating of five for calling plans lingo has a rating of five for calling plans 8x8 has a rating of five for calling plans via talk has a rating of four for calling plans broadvoice has a rating of four for calling plans voip.com has a rating of four for calling plans
Calling features
phone power has a rating of five for calling features vonage has a rating of five for calling features phone.com has a rating of four for calling features skype has a rating of five for calling features ring central has a rating of four for calling features lingo has a rating of four for calling features 8x8 has a rating of three for calling features via talk has a rating of four for calling features broadvoice has a rating of four for calling features voip.com has a rating of three for calling features
Ease of use
phone power has a rating of five for ease of use vonage has a rating of four for ease of use phone.com has a rating of five for ease of use skype has a rating of four for ease of use ring central has a rating of four for ease of use lingo has a rating of five for ease of use 8x8 has a rating of five for ease of use via talk has a rating of four for ease of use broadvoice has a rating of four for ease of use voip.com has a rating of four for ease of use
Help & support
phone power has a rating of five for help & support vonage has a rating of four for help & support phone.com has a rating of five for help & support skype has a rating of four for help & support ring central has a rating of five for help & support lingo has a rating of five for help & support 8x8 has a rating of four for help & support via talk has a rating of five for help & support broadvoice has a rating of three for help & support voip.com has a rating of four for help & support
Package
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Monthly fee
$14.95 $9.99 $9.98 $2.99 $24.99 $21.95 $24.99 $15.75 $9.99 $14.95
Set-up fee
$15.00 $29.99 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $29.95 $29.99 $29.95 $29.95 $32.95
Cancellation fee
$99.00 $39.99 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $39.95 $59.00 $49.95 $39.95 $39.95
Free phone adapter
phone power includes a free phone adapter vonage includes a free phone adapter phone.com includes a free phone adapter skype includes a free phone adapter ring central includes a free phone adapter lingo includes a free phone adapter 8x8 includes a free phone adapter via talk includes a free phone adapter broadvoice includes a free phone adapter voip.com includes a free phone adapter
Unlimited minutes
phone power does not include unlimited minutes vonage includes unlimited minutes phone.com does not include unlimited minutes skype includes unlimited minutes ring central includes unlimited minutes lingo includes unlimited minutes 8x8 includes unlimited minutes via talk includes unlimited minutes broadvoice includes unlimited minutes voip.com includes unlimited minutes
Calls
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VOIP network
phone power includes calls to voip network vonage includes calls to voip network phone.com does not include calls to voip network skype includes calls to voip network ring central includes calls to voip network lingo includes calls to voip network 8x8 includes calls to voip network via talk includes calls to voip network broadvoice includes calls to voip network voip.com includes calls to voip network
US
phone power includes calls to us vonage includes calls to us phone.com does not include calls to us skype includes calls to us ring central does not include calls to us lingo includes calls to us 8x8 includes calls to us via talk includes calls to us broadvoice includes calls to us voip.com includes calls to us
Canada
phone power includes calls to canada vonage includes calls to canada phone.com includes calls to canada skype includes calls to canada ring central includes calls to canada lingo includes calls to canada 8x8 includes calls to canada via talk does not include calls to canada broadvoice includes calls to canada voip.com includes calls to canada
Puerto Rico
phone power does not include calls to puerto rico vonage includes calls to puerto rico phone.com includes calls to puerto rico skype includes calls to puerto rico ring central does not include calls to puerto rico lingo includes calls to puerto rico 8x8 includes calls to puerto rico via talk does not include calls to puerto rico broadvoice includes calls to puerto rico voip.com includes calls to puerto rico
International
phone power includes calls to international vonage includes calls to international phone.com includes calls to international skype includes calls to international ring central includes calls to international lingo includes calls to international 8x8 includes calls to international via talk does not include calls to international broadvoice includes calls to international voip.com does not include calls to international
Residential calls
phone power offers residential calls vonage offers residential calls phone.com offers residential calls skype offers residential calls ring central offers residential calls lingo offers residential calls 8x8 offers residential calls via talk offers residential calls broadvoice offers residential calls voip.com offers residential calls
Business plans
phone power offers business plans vonage offers business plans phone.com offers business plans skype offers business plans ring central offers business plans lingo offers business plans 8x8 offers business plans via talk offers business plans broadvoice offers business plans voip.com offers business plans
Call features
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Extras
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Features
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Help & support
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Telephone support
phone power includes telephone support vonage includes telephone support phone.com includes telephone support skype does not include telephone support ring central includes telephone support lingo includes telephone support 8x8 includes telephone support via talk includes telephone support broadvoice includes telephone support voip.com includes telephone support
Email support
phone power includes email support vonage includes email support phone.com includes email support skype includes email support ring central includes email support lingo includes email support 8x8 does not include email support via talk includes email support broadvoice includes email support voip.com does not include email support
Live chat
phone power includes live chat vonage includes live chat phone.com includes live chat skype includes live chat ring central includes live chat lingo includes live chat 8x8 includes live chat via talk includes live chat broadvoice includes live chat voip.com includes live chat
Knowledge base
phone power includes knowledge base vonage includes knowledge base phone.com includes knowledge base skype includes knowledge base ring central includes knowledge base lingo includes knowledge base 8x8 includes knowledge base via talk includes knowledge base broadvoice includes knowledge base voip.com includes knowledge base
FAQs
phone power includes faqs vonage includes faqs phone.com includes faqs skype includes faqs ring central includes faqs lingo includes faqs 8x8 includes faqs via talk includes faqs broadvoice includes faqs voip.com includes faqs

VOIP services explained

VOIP services work by converting your voice into digital signals which are sent over the internet. At the other end, they’re converted back into the sound of your voice, so you can talk to the person you’re contacting.

Although they work over the internet, most VOIP services don’t require the person you’re calling to be using a VOIP service. You can call ordinary telephones too – and you’ll be allocated a number so they can call you.

There are two main types of VOIP service:

  • Software VOIP services. To use these, you have to install and run VOIP software on your computer. You can still place calls to normal telephones, but you have to use a headset or microphone and speakers to talk. For people to call you, your computer must be on and the software running.
  • Hardware VOIP services. Using a hardware-based VOIP service is much more like using a normal telephone. Typically, you’ll get a telephone handset which connects to the internet via a wired or wireless connection. You dial numbers as normal, and calls are automatically routed over the internet.

You need a broadband internet connection to use both types of VOIP service. You’ll also probably be required to open an account with the VOIP service provider and pay for calls using a credit card.

Getting started with VOIP services

VOIP services give you nearly all the features of a standard telephone, plus more versatility. For instance, with VOIP software you can often see the person you’re calling using a webcam, or hold a call with three or more people on it. What’s more, you’re not tied to one location – your number can follow you wherever you go, as long as there’s an internet connection there.

And – of course – the biggest benefit is the saving you can make. With vastly reduced international call costs (because you don’t have to pay the phone company to connect you), you’ll clean up if you call abroad regularly.

What to look for in voip services

To find the right VOIP service, consider these key areas.

Call costs

One of the main justifications for switching to VOIP from a traditional landline phone is the saving you can make on the cost of calls.

Carefully check what your VOIP service charges for calls. In particular, check how much it will cost to call the numbers you phone most. VOIP services are not cheapest in all circumstances, especially when it comes to placing local calls.

Monthly charges and inclusive minutes

Like mobile phone tariffs, many VOIP services charge a monthly subscription fee. In return, you’ll receive an allowance of calls to use each month. Check what sort of calls these minutes apply to – if you pick carefully, you might not have to pay anything over the regular charge.

However, if you don’t use the phone so often, opt for a pay as you go service. You don’t want to be paying a monthly fee for occasional use.

Do people you know use it?

Many VOIP services – especially software VOIP services – allow you to place calls for free to people who use the same service. If you only call one or two people regularly, it’s a good idea to both sign up for the same VOIP service. You can talk for hours, and pay nothing!

Telephone number availability

Most VOIP services allow you to choose what sort of telephone number you want. You don’t have to settle for a number with the dialing code for your local area, or even your country. You can get a London number even if you’re in Los Angeles.

It’s worth considering your choice of number carefully. When people call you from a normal telephone, it will affect how much they pay. So if all your family lives in Australia and they call you regularly, why not set up an Australian number?

Reliability and backup

It’s important to remember that because VOIP services don’t work in the same way as an ordinary landline, they may not be as reliable. If your broadband connection fails or you have a power cut, you won’t be able to make calls.

If your telephone is vital to you, consider what you’d use as a backup in these types of circumstances. Many people keep their landline telephone too, just in case.

Ease of use

If you’re new to VOIP, it can be a tricky concept to grasp. For instance, the idea that you can have a phone number different to the country you’re actually in seems counter-intuitive at first!

It’s therefore important to choose a VOIP service you’re comfortable using. In general, hardware-based services which give you an actual handset are easiest to use. However, they may mean having to sacrifice a little flexibility.

Help and support

VOIP services are generally reliable. However, if you do depend on them to make and receive calls, you’ll want to be able to get help quickly if something goes wrong. Look for a service with telephone support (so you can get hold of someone quickly).

If you’ll be using VOIP only to make certain types of calls, or alongside your main telephone, you’ll probably be able to manage with a lower level of support. This, of course, tends to be cheaper.

Here are our answers to the most common questions about VOIP services.

Q. What is a VOIP service?

A VOIP service allows you to place and receive telephone calls over the internet, rather than over traditional telephone lines. VOIP services convert your voice into digital signals, which are sent over the internet like any other data.

Q. Why would I use a VOIP service instead of my normal telephone?

It usually comes down to cost and flexibility. Because VOIP services send their data over the internet, you don’t have to pay high call charges. Making calls via VOIP is usually cheaper than using a normal telephone – though it’s international calls where the savings are really noticeable.

VOIP services also tend to be much more flexible. For instance, your telephone number can follow you everywhere. Because you don’t have a fixed phone line, calls can be routed over the internet to wherever you are.

Q. Can I call normal telephones with VOIP – and can they call me?

Yes. Most VOIP services allow you to call normal telephone numbers. And you’ll be assigned a telephone number so they can call you as well. People who call you will have no idea that you’re using VOIP.

Q. Can people listen in to calls I make via VOIP?

Almost certainly not. VOIP calls are generally harder to intercept than calls made over normal phone lines, because they are separated into tiny electronic ‘packets’ of data. Each packet may take a different route to its destination – so it’s very hard for someone to intercept them all.

Additionally, a growing number of VOIP services offer encryption. This scrambles the call before it’s sent over the internet – so even if someone does intercept the data, they won’t be able to understand it.

Q. Are there any restrictions on who I can call?

Not usually. Most VOIP services allow you to call any other telephone number in the world. Just make sure you check the cost of the call before dialing!

Q. Once I have a telephone number, can I keep it?

Possibly. Many VOIP services have number porting systems in place, allowing you to take your number with you when you move from one VOIP service to another.

Q. What sort of internet connection do I need to use a VOIP service?

You don’t actually need a super-fast internet connection to use VOIP. Most home broadband connections are more than up to the job, and you may be able to make calls of acceptable quality even over slower connections.

If your internet connection is too slow, you’ll notice a deterioration in call quality or broken speech.

Q. Why do some VOIP service charge a monthly fee?

Services that charge a monthly fee tend to offer inclusive minutes (so you can call certain numbers at no extra cost), as well as other extra features like caller ID, voicemail, call blocking and blacklisting.

Subscription services which charge by the month are best-suited to people who plan to make regular calls over VOIP. If you’ll only be an occasional user, opt for a free service, at least to begin with. Many VOIP providers will allow you to upgrade once you’ve tried the service out.

Jargon explained

Like all new technologies, it’s no surprise that VOIP comes with a fair amount of jargon. Here’s how to translate the most important terms.

Call divert

Allows you to divert your calls to another number. Call divert is most commonly used if you want to send calls to your mobile while you’re out and about, or to another landline phone – for instance, if you’re working at a desk in someone else’s office.

Call diversion is also handy if your internet connection ever goes down. As a backup, you can divert calls to your mobile or normal landline. However, remember that there’s usually a cost for using call divert features.

Conference calling

Enables you to hold telephone calls between more than two people. Many VOIP services include conference calling features that can accommodate ten, 20 or 30 people. Conference calling is really useful for holding meetings or discussions between a group of people.

Find me

Have your telephone number follow you around. You can set up many VOIP services to forward calls to a number of different telephone numbers in succession – so even if you’re not online with your VOIP service, calls should find you eventually.

Latency

Used to describe the delay between data being sent and received on the internet. If latency is high, you may notice a delay on calls placed over your VOIP service.

Network calls

Calls placed between two people using the same VOIP service (or ‘network’). Many VOIP services allow you to make network calls for free – so it’s a good idea to encourage people you call regularly to use the same network as you.

Number porting

The process of moving your telephone number from one provider to another. You may be able to port your number from your landline to a VOIP service, or between VOIP services.

Phone adapter

A box which allows a standard telephone handset to access your VOIP service. Many VOIP services will supply a phone adapter for free. They let you place calls over VOIP using exactly the same telephone you were using before.

Softphone

A piece of software running on your computer through which you can access your VOIP service. If you use a softphone, you’ll need a microphone and speakers, or a headset to talk to the people you call. Some VOIP services are only available through a softphone.

Related categories



Rank
Phone Power
Vonage
phone.com
Skype
Ring central
Lingo
8x8
Via Talk
BroadVoice
Voip.com