VoIP Service Provider

If you wish to use Internet telephony to replace or supplement your existing phone service, you need to sign up with a VoIP service provider. They will give (or sell) you the necessary equipment for VoIP telephony and assign you a phone number that can be used like a regular phone number in PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).

Your VoIP equipment includes a broadband modem and an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) or IP phone. Both the ATA and the IP phone connect directly to the modem but the ATA allows you to use older analog phones for VoIP. No matter which device you use, it has a unique number associated with it that identifies your current IP (Internet Protocol) address. If you are constantly on the move and connect to the Internet at various locations, your VoIP service provider keeps track of your current IP address which allows other people to contact you no matter where you are.

Even if you use your Internet phone from just one location, a VoIP service provider is still necessary for most people. The majority of residential Internet connections have ‘dynamic’ IP addresses — this means that each time you connect to the Internet you are assigned a new IP address by your service provider.

Even if you have a static IP address (a permanent IP address that never changes) the VoIP service provider is useful because people can contact you by entering your username rather than your IP address.

Does this mean you can bypass a VoIP service provider and enter IP addresses by yourself? In some cases, the answer is yes. Some hardware does allow you to enter IP addresses manually or with some form of shortcut, but this method is very impractical except for testing purposes. As we mentioned above, most people have dynamic IP addresses, so there is no way to know what the IP address is of a certain person at a certain time unless they first contact you and give you this information and then you initiate a VoIP call before they disconnect from the Internet.

So, VoIP service providers are very useful, and they are also very cheap. In fact, most providers offer VoIP connections free of charge. They make money by charging for calls to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Most service providers allow you to call any phone number in the world for a relatively low price.

Some VoIP service providers are Vonage, BroadVoice, Diamond, iConnectHere, Lingo, mywebphone, Packet8, and VoicePulse. Most of these companies are based in the United States but may also have offices in other parts of the world. For relatively low monthly fees (about $8-$20) they offer unlimited calls in certain geographic areas and offer features like voicemail, call forwarding, and conference calls at no extra charge.

When choosing a VoIP service provider, keep in mind the protocol they use. SIP seems to be the emerging standard and offers relatively easy connection routes between various VoIP service providers. Other protocols include H.323 and IAX — these are sometimes offered in addition to SIP. Skype (one of the most popular PC-to-PC VoIP systems) uses a proprietary protocol which means that it is not easy to connect to the Skype network from another VoIP service provider. Skype has a service called SkypeIn, however, which allows Skype users to receive incoming calls from PSTN networks.

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