Internet Phone Services

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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When Internet phone services were introduced nearly a decade ago, they offered little more than garbled conversations and randomly disconnected calls. However, in the last few years many improvements have been made, making Internet phone services a viable option for your long distance needs. These services can be accessed in a variety of ways, from PC-to-PC calling, to PC to phone, and even phone to phone, thanks to new Internet phone adapters.

The main attraction of Internet phone services is that they can save you a lot of money compared to your existing long-distance and cell phone bills. Instead of running up large monthly bills, these services usually provide you with unlimited access to local and long-distance calls for a small monthly fee. In addition to flat-rate long distance, most of these services also offer international calling rates that are drastically lower than traditional phone plans. As an added bonus, Internet-based calling plans usually extend domestic long-distance to Canada and South America, alleviating additional international fees.

Types of Internet Phone Services

Internet phone services can be hardware-based, software-based, or a combination of the two. Hardware based services require either the installation of a phone adapter, or a separate stand-alone unit, which includes an adapter. In addition to the hardware and/or software, you will also need a reliable hi-speed connection in order to take advantage of Internet phone services. Dial-up connections may have been acceptable in the days of experimental PC-to-PC calling, but their sluggish data transfer rate would make any Internet based phone conversation a chore. Your hi-speed connection also needs to be reliable, as any slight service interruptions, no matter how brief, could cause you to lose an important call.

Some Internet phone services ease the transition from cell and landlines by offering "local number portability." This allows your existing phone number to be transferred to your Internet phone account. Although it usually takes several weeks for the transfer to finalize, a temporary number will be provided for the wait. Thanks to "Voice over Internet Protocol" (VoIP) phone adapters, once your home number to receive calls to your home line wherever you go. VoIP adapters can connect any phone to any hi-speed connection, allowing you to receive calls to the same number at home, the office, hotels, or on the road without having to deal with a high cell phone bill.

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