Tech 101: a basic introduction to VOIP

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Tech 101: a basic introduction to VOIP

VOIP can be a real money saver, but how do you decide which provider to use? Here is an introduction to the basics of VOIP.


After SIP Talk sent us a press release announcing new call costs, we decided to take a by-no-means-exhaustive summary of some of the major things to consider if you're choosing a VOIP service.
Firstly, VoIP can be a real money-saver for small businesses.
It also has features that are normally available only on larger phone systems, such as delivering voicemail messages to you via email.
But while some ISPs offer VoIP services, not all do.
And depending on your calling pattern, buying VoIP service from another provider may be a better deal.
Choosing VOIP: call quality
While an ISP is in a position to ensure that voice traffic over its own network is appropriately prioritised in order to provide decent sound quality, this doesn't seem to be a significant issue in practice.
Third-party VoIP services can work very well as long as you have reasonable bandwidth, especially if your router is able to prioritise VoIP traffic (and that's an increasingly common feature, often referred to as 'QoS' or quality of service).
ADSL and cable broadband provide much more capacity into your premises than out of it.
For example, I use two VoIP 'lines' over a router that prioritises their traffic, and my broadband connection provides 512Kbps upstream bandwidth - bandwidth and audio quality simply isn't a problem.
CHoosing VOIP: keeping your own phone number
An important consideration for some businesses is that they want to keep their existing phone numbers.
In that case it is important to check with theVoIP provider that it supports Local Number Portability. Internode and MyNetFone are among those that do.
Choosing VOIP: Call costs 
As mentioned above, VoIP can significantly reduce your call costs.
If you need to make lengthy overseas calls, eg to your suppliers, plans such as those offered by SIP Talk (which this week announced new charges) can be a bargain. 
So what sort of charges can you expect? We received a press release from SIP Talk this week announcing the company has recently revamped its systems and tariffs, which start with a pay-for-what-you use plan that now includes calls of up to two hours to India, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States for 40c.
Other plans attract monthly charges (starting at $4.95 including a dial-in number, or DID) and  increase the number of destinations and decrease the cost per call. Calls to countries not covered by the 40c rate start at 2c per minute.
Calls within Australia are relatively cheap too, with untimed local or STD calls from 15c to 8.5c depending on the plan, and calls to mobiles from 25c per minute to 12.5c per minute. 
For comparison, Internode''s NodePhone VOIP service charges 18c for local and STD calls, 29c per minute to mobiles, and international calls starting at 5c per minute plus 15 flagfall.
Obviously, saving a few cents per call only adds up to a significant amount if you make a lot of calls.


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