availability. Enhanced 911 service (E911)
automatically provides the caller's number and physical address to
emergency personnel, but some software-based VoIP services cannot be used
to call 911.
number portability. Most companies allow customers to keep their original phone
number, but this sometimes incurs a charge.
or virtual numbers. By choosing an area code
separate from the one you live in, you may be able to save out-of-state
friends and relatives some money.
features. Free features may include call
waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice mail, caller ID, an
online call log, do-not-disturb setting and more.
with other equipment and services. For now, not all home security
systems, TiVo boxes and satellite TV receivers with internal dial-up
modems work with VoIP, so you may not be able to retire your landline if
you use it for these purposes.
Multiple lines. Some services only allow one line per
converter box, while others have multi-line offers.
Fax compatibility. Not all services support adding a fax
machine, and those that do may charge extra.
before you go
What kinds of calls do you make? You'll need to assess what
you're currently spending on local and long-distance calls to determine
whether VoIP will save you money. Most VoIP services charge a flat rate
for unlimited local and long-distance calls in the U.S., and many include
Canada and Puerto Rico.
the service, things can get more costly for international calls. Some plans,
such as Vonage, include some international calling, but be aware that only
calls to landlines are included in their unlimited calling plans. Calls to international
mobile phones cost more. Software-based VoiP like Skype and Google also offer free
keep your landline? Because E911 service isn't yet universally available, experts
say you should consider keeping a basic landline or cell phone for
emergencies. Be sure to include that cost in your usage estimates. In
addition, a landline will usually still work during a power outage; VoIP
will work only if it's hooked up to a battery backup.
hidden costs. Most VoIP services include an
adapter for your phone, but not all do, so be sure to check when comparing
plans. Many services charge fees up front for setup and/or shipping
equipment. Also, be sure to determine the costs you will pay for
international cell phone calls, which are not included even in
all-inclusive overseas calling plans. Also check the taxes and fees that
will be added for your area.
trial periods and cancellation policies. Usually, you will be refunded
your money if you cancel your trial within a specified minute usage and
time frame. However, you may still be charged for calls not included in
your plan, as well as for directory assistance, international cellular
calls and possibly for deactivation fees and shipping charges to return
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