One of the fastest growing types of phone service is called Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP. In fact, The Forrester Research Group predicts that nearly five million U.S. households will have VoIP phone service by the end of 2006.
The biggest draws for the home and business users of VoIP are price and flexibility. VoIP is certainly less expensive than most traditional phone services, and offers many options not available through those services. For example, users have the ability to check voicemail or place calls from a PC outside of one’s home or business.
However, this relatively new technology still has a few hurdles which companies such as Vonage, AT&T, Comcast and Skype are working to address.
VoIP uses data lines that most people associate with Internet connectivity to route normal phone calls. Depending on the service being used, normal phones, special IP phones or even just a computer is all it takes to place a VoIP call.
One early concern about VoIP had to do with how 911 emergency calls would be routed. VoIP providers seem to have fixed this issue with Enhanced 911 that automatically sends the VoIP user’s location information to the 911 operator.
Power outages that affect Internet connectivity will also shut down phone service with VoIP. Comcast’s Web site claims that its VoIP equipment includes battery backup systems to address this, but consumers should confirm the availability of this feature, as well as battery life.
By definition, if a user’s home loses Internet connectivity, the service will obviously be unavailable.
VoIP providers have a great deal of money riding on this service, and it appears to be the direction that home and business phone service is headed. As the kinks get worked out, expect to see VoIP take a greater hold on the phone market.
Larry Fiorino is the founder and chief executive of G.1440, a Baltimore-based e-solutions firm.