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Sipura 2000

VoIP Providers and Equipment

So when a friend initially bought one the Soyo VoIP phones, I decided to take a look at VoIP. I've done a number of searches and some research by now and I thought I'd throw a page up about my travels.

What Is VoIP?

Voice Over IP (VoIP) is a technology which has been used by the phone companies for a while to transfer calls over their internal networks. Most telephone conversations use a relatively small amount of bandwidth (8-16 kilobytes/sec) which means that telephone companies can compress and pass a large number of calls onto one network connection.

More recently a number of VoIP services have used these capabilities to provide phone service to home users over their broadband internet connections. Basically, anyone with a fast[er] cable or DSL connection can sign up these days for VoIP services. There are three basic types of service each with its associated cost structure.

  1. VoIP device to VoIP device. Usually free to someone using the same provider. This can be either computer to computer using "softphones" or from one VoIP connected phone to another one using the same provider.
  2. Outbound VoIP service is where you can call people with "normal" telephones for cheap. Rates for continental US and to a number of other countries are usually US$0.03/min or below.
  3. Inbound calls from non-VoIP calls. You have to pay a monthly fee to get an incoming number because of US federal line charges and taxes. This can be US$8-$10 per month or rolled into some unlimited call package.

Providers

There are a number of VoIP providers out there these days. Vonage is certainly flexing their marketing muscle and is the big gozilla right now. If you've not seen one of their commercials then you don't surf the web enough. But there are a number of other providers including Broadvoice, InPhonex, iConnectHere, DialPad, and others. One of the things about the "second tier" providers is that they are cheaper, usually provide similar quality services as vonage, and do not lock you into hardware that only works on their system. This means that you can easily switch between providers.

Voxilla has a great provider comparison tool which lists a ton of providers and their services. After taking a look at the providers, pricing, and services, I decided to check out Broadvoice and InPhonex.

VoIP Hardware

Most providers publish a list of the recommended hardware that their system supports. Mostly these are VoIP adapters which plug into your LAN on one side and a normal telephone (corded or cordless) on the other. Some of the units are also network routers so they sit between your cable/dsl modem and your local LAN. Others are just devices which sit behind your router and act like any other network device. Here are a list of some of the VoIP devices with some estimated street costs (as of April 2005):

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