How to choose the best VoIP Plan
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), aka hosted voice, hosted PBX service, broadband phone service, IP Telephony, Voice over IP, I-Net telephony, Internet Telephony, IP Phones and Internet Phone service is a service that allows you to make and receive phone calls via an internet connection or network circuit. VoIP or IP phones are often a part of UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service). Normally, an IP phone or device is used for VoIP. However, you might use a softphone on your PC, an app on your smart phone, or your same phone as you have used for POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), but instead of being connected to a land line phone line or cell phone service, it's connected to a small box typically called a Digital Terminal Adapter (dta). For more information on how to connect a VoIP phone, read VoIP Connection.
At Persimmon Telecommunications, we help you compare VoIP plans so that you can find the best for your organization. You may go directly to a list of hosted voice services that best satisfy your needs by answering some questions at Quotes for VoIP services. Choose Hosted VoIP at step 2. Below we give you a better understanding of some VoIP basics so that you are better able to shop for and compare VoIP plans.
Transportability: A benefit of internet VoIP service is that once you have a phone number assigned to your dta or IP phone, with many services, you can plug that device into practically any Internet connection to make and receive calls. As far as the person at the other end knows, you are at your business. They can reach you by dialing your IP phone number and, if you call them and show caller ID, they will see your IP phone number. You could be making and receiving calls from across the country or even from another country. With that said, be aware that a VoIP call will not work satisfactory on all internet connections - some organizations block VoIP service consciously or accidentally, and some internet connections have poor quality: latency, jitter, packet loss, or not enough bandwidth.
Features: Many have achieved staff productivity improvements through the use of VoIP. VoIP delivers PBX functionality. This means that many features that, in the past, were only available via complex enterprise phone systems are now available at little or no additional cost. As they are developed, new features can easily be added to your service via a software update. Features available at no additional cost on many VoIP services include 3- or 4-digit extension dialing, voice mail, Caller ID, 3-way calling, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and On-Line Account Management.
Reliability and Quality: Although you occasionally encounter busy signals, POTS is close to 100% reliable. PCs are less reliable; for example, at times you must reboot them. When it comes to reliability or availability, VoIP service is between POTS and PCs. VoIP service is generally more than 90% reliable; sometimes you need to reboot the IP phone or dta. Sometimes, there is a small delay on some VoIP services. A common result of this delay is that both persons on a phone call may begin speaking at the same time. Of course, reliability of your VoIP service is directly related to the reliability of your internet connection. If your internet connection is down, your VoIP phone service is not usable from that location. And some users experience voice quality problems, but these can often be corrected by network tuning. To assure good quality of service, you must use SD-WAN, MPLS or, at least an approach to provide Quality of Service or Class of Service (CoS). With CoS, priority is given to voice packets so that other data transfers do not clobber the voice signal. If you purchase a VoIP service from the same provider who is supplying your internet access, normally that provider keeps voice packets on a network over which the provider includes Quality of Service to assure your voice quality will be equivalent to that of POTS service. With that said, many small businesses use independent low cost VoIP services and experience good quality voice most of the time if they have a good solid internet connection. The quality in this situation is typically between the quality of land line service and cell phone service.
Porting of Existing Numbers: You may port your current land line phone number(s) to your VoIP service. Porting success rate is about 80%. Not all VoIP providers can service numbers in all rate centers. Also, if you have DSL service from certain carriers, they do not allow you to port the number associated with the DSL service unless you cancel the DSL service. There is also a flavor of DSL known as Naked DSL that is not associated with any phone number; however, not all carriers offer this option in all locations. A few years ago, porting numbers to a VoIP service would often take more than a month and would sometimes took several months. The process has been improved to where porting today typically takes place within a month - two weeks is not unusual.
For more "VoIP De-Mystified" info for residential and small business users, see the VoIP Slide presentation (PowerPoint Presentation).
In many cases, unlimited VoIP service to the USA and Canada costs less than local phone service (including taxes and fees) from your local phone company. Each VoIP plan includes either low cost or unlimited domestic long distance calling and low cost worldwide long distance calling. The "Unlimited" plans discussed here do not actually allow truly unlimited calling. Each carrier has their definition of "unlimited". Some examples are "amount of calling done by typical business customers", "amount of calling done by normal businesses that are not call centers", "3000 minutes per line per month", "50,000 minutes per month per T1", and "101,000 minutes per T1 per month". In some cases, carriers charge a specified overage rate if the monthly "unlimited" maximum is exceeded. In other cases, the customer's plan is retroactively changed to a per minute plan and all calls since the account was open are retroactively billed at the per minute rate. In summary, if you purchase a "residential unlimited" plan for a business or a "business unlimited" plan for a call center type operation, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
A business VoIP plan very attractive for many small to medium size businesses is a Hosted PBX plan. A Hosted PBX plan typically includes an optional business quality phone system with features found in large office PBX systems, for example, an autoattendant. A successful business VoIP implementation, especially with a large number of phone lines, may require a better connection to the internet than some small businesses have today and/or an improved office network. Especially with a hosted PBX, improved latency, jitter and Quality of Service (QOS) may be required for satisfactory operation. Go to the last paragraph on this page for information on testing your internet connection for VoIP.
SIP Trunking is growing as the technology of choice for those organizations that make a lot of outbound calls and/or receive a lot of toll free calls. From the discussion above, you can see that "Unlimited" plans are generally not the solution for call centers and other businesses that have a lot of toll calls. SIP Call origination and termination can be the solution for high traffic customers, for customers who have significant changes in call volumes from time to time, and for customers who would like diverse DIDs in different parts of the world. SIP Trunking is raw IP Telephony service that is used with a IP PBX or gateway connecting to the Internet. The PBX used is typically designed with a SIP interface. Otherwise, a gateway can be used to do the conversion. Depending on call volume and other characteristics of the requirement, per minute rates can be in the vicinity of a penny per minute. Some SIP service providers require that their SIP customers use an internet connection also supplied by the same provider. This way the provider can assure that the SIP voice packets are given priority over other data traffic. However, there are SIP service providers which allow the use of any internet connection. As long as there is plenty of available bandwidth for the SIP traffic, this is usually not a problem. Most SIP implementations use Codec G.729 which requires 20 to 30 Kbps per voice channel. If higher quality voice is desired, Codec G.711 can be used; it uses 80 to 90 Kbps per voice channel. For faxing, T.38 is recommended. It has been found that some PBX specialists seem to be able to readily set up PBXs for T.38 use and others do not seem to be able to get their PBXs to work on T.38. It's not clear if the limitation is in the PBX or has more to do with the expertise of the PBX programmer. For further details on SIP Trunking, request Voice quotes at t1guy.com, select SIP in step 2, and a consultant will contact you to discuss options for your situation.
Alarm Systems that work on standard analog phone (POTS) lines may not work over VoIP lines. If you have an existing Alarm System, it is recommended that you keep a POTS line for that system. If you are installing a new Alarm System, you could install an IP system that would work over the internet.
Fax machines generally work on VoIP systems. However, typically they can not be used over VoIP at speeds higher than 9600 baud and VoIP providers generally do not guarantee or recommend the use of Fax machines over their systems. Whether or not a fax goes through depends on such things as which model Fax machine you have and, perhaps, the phase of the moon. Although many of us use Fax machines successfully over VoIP, if your business involves the heavyfaxing, you should probably keep a POTS line for faxing; fax lines can also serve as backup lines in case the VoIP system is down. The best IP solution for faxing is to use T.38 which is supported by some IP Telephony providers.
VoIP 911 service There has been considerable discussion in the media about VoIP 911 service or lack thereof as provided by some VoIP providers. The FCC issued an order that states, "VoIP providers must deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator. This must be a standard, rather than optional, feature of the service". It also includes that "VoIP providers must provide emergency operators with the call back number and location information of their customers (i.e., E911) where the emergency operator is capable of receiving it. Although the customer must provide the location information, the VoIP provider must provide the customer a means of updating this information, whether he or she is at their normal business location or away from it". VoIP carriers who have not complied with these requirements must cease marketing and accepting new customers in areas where they are not connecting 911 calls with the person's location and phone number. Existing customers do not have to be disconnected if the 911 service is not yet operational in their area.
Shop and Compare VoIP Services Here is a link to a calculator which will help you find the best service for your situation and at which you sign up for service:
VoIP Services Calculator. Choose Hosted VoIP at step 2.
To see how suitable your broadband connection is for VoIP, go to
Best Tools to Measure and Prevent Network Quality.
For specific VoIP providers, contact us to learn how to check the quality from your internet connection to the provider's gateway.
For a good picture of the suitability of your internet access for VoIP, run tests a number of times during busy times of the day over a number of days.
If your internet connection (for example, cable, cellular, or fiber) is not satisfactory for VoIP, go to Broadband & Dedicated Internet Access Options to compare options, shop for
and order the one that best fits your needs.
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