Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) companies are making headway against traditional phone line offerings as a cost-effective form of broadband communication. Rising popularity has led to a market full of VoIP providers, many of which offer great services, low costs, and solid connections. Here are five of the top consumer VoIP providers on the market.
VoIP services fall into two broad categories: Those designed to replace “traditional” phone lines using familiar hardware and subscription services, and those focused on offering mobile, tablet or computer-based communication. Vonage is one of the best known hardware-based companies; they provide a $40 phone adapter (refundable if returned), a host of phone features like call display, call waiting and answering services, and stellar call quality. This is a great choice for homeowners who want to keep their existing telephone number, but are tired of local phone companies.
Lingo is another hardware-based service, but comes in as one of the more expensive – expect to pay around $22 per month. This subscription fee, however, gets you features like voice mail and three way calling in addition to a free second line. In addition, you get unlimited calls to anywhere in the United States, Canada and 22 other countries.
If long distance calling is what you’re after, Broadvoice may be the best choice since this VoIP provider offers plans designed specifically for international callers, and also allows users to connect their own mobile device , so long as it is session initiation protocol (SIP) enabled, for a fee of $5.95 per month. This gives customers the flexibility of a mobile plan coupled with the cost effectiveness of a subscription long distance service.
Skype is on the other end of the spectrum, still firmly a part of desktop and mobile devices. Now owned by Microsoft, this portable VoIP offering is gaining ground with a host of free features and for-pay options. Downloading the program or app comes with no cost; both voice and video calls to anyone else on Skype are also free. Calling mobile phones or land lines incurs a per call charge and sending text messages also comes with a small fee. This service is a great choice for tech savvy families or those who don’t want the hassle of subscription costs. Skype works best with a robust internet connection, so make sure you test your internet speed first before downloading.
It’s no surprise the search giant has a VoIP service – and at least until the end of 2013, this offering is virtually free. It costs nothing to make voice calls from PC-to-PC anywhere in the world, and free PC-to-phone calls within North America. International calls from PCs to land or mobile lines are charged according to a schedule posted on the Voice website. This service also provides a free US phone number (so long as users have an exiting US phone number) which can be tied to multiple devices, allowing them to all ring simultaneously. A mobile app is also available.
All five VoIP providers listed above offer benefits over traditional phone services – the best fit depends on your feature needs, budget, and phone preference.