Tech Speak: VoIP

Tech Speak: VoIP

NFC, SMS, PNG… the tech world’s list of acronyms is never ending. One acronym that’s shot up to rockstar popularity in recent years is VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, a form of communication you’re likely already using and loving.

So what is this “VoIP”?  It’s a way of making voice calls over an Internet network. Sometimes it’s called IP telephony or broadband phone service. Whatever your name for it, VoIP allows for voice — and, depending on the service, video — communication via an Internet network rather than the old school analog telephone lines we grew up using. FaceTiming or Skyping with a friend from your phone or computer is VoIP in action. Mobile apps may be how we’re familiar with VoIP, but it’s also a legitimate home alternative to pricey landlines.

(There’s no general consensus on the pronunciation, by the way— I prefer saying, “Voyp! Voyp!” like some sort of dysfunctional robot… so have fun with it.)

Some at-home VoIP services will provide you with a phone that works with the digital network, kind of like how a cable company will provide the receivers for your TV to get 500+ channels. Others may offer an adapter that puts a home phone on the digital grid. Xfinity Voice and Vonage offer packages with unlimited nationwide and local calls, caller ID, voicemail, conference calls, among other features for about $30 a month. If, like me, you’re never more than arm’s distance away from a computer, smart phone, or tablet, an app service like Skype or Google Hangouts is the provider you’re after. It won’t use precious wireless plan minutes, but keep an eye on data usage if your contract doesn’t have unlimited data. U.S. Skype subscriptions start at $2.99 per month, and unlimited calls around the world are only $13.99 every month.

Sounds like a perfect alternative to data plans and scratchy land calls, right? Before dropping your household’s current services, know that since VoIP communication depends on that whole Internet and electricity thing, when there’s a power outage in your area, usage is effected. A landline or your cell’s phone talk minutes will see you through to an emergency call if ever necessary.

What tech speak do you want me to decode next? Drop me a line and let me know what baffles you.

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