VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is digital phone service that uses a high-speed Internet connection to bypass your normal local telephone company. VoIP service can supplement your regular landline phone, saving money on long-distance calls. Some VoIP users eliminate their landlines entirely. Currently you can get VoIP service (commonly referred to as digital phone) through your cable company, from a dedicated VoIP provider such as Vonage, or by downloading software or a mobile app, such as Skype. You can even make phone calls through Gmail. Often you can use your own phone, although sometimes an adapter is required. A phone using VoIP service rings and has a dial tone just like any other telephone, although some VoIP services work through your computer or even your cell phone. Depending on your phone usage, VoIP may offer significant cost savings.
Consistent call quality is a big factor in nearly all the VoIP reviews we read. Cable VoIP (*Est. $12 to $60 per month, depending on package) traditionally has the edge here, since cable companies route calls over their own networks. Non-cable VoIP uses public Internet and is more subject to problems from crowded bandwidth. International calls and calls during peak hours can have glitches like echoes and dropped calls. A major consumer survey shows that these problems plague Skype, a free service, more than the paid Vonage (*Est. $10 to $25 per month) service.
We found a number of comparative reviews based on thorough testing as well as a few large surveys rating VoIP services. ConsumerReports.org is known for its scientific, unbiased methods, and its telephone service ratings are based on a nationwide survey of over 34,000 readers, who rate their experiences. PCMag.com also provides reliable guidance on both cable and traditional VoIP, based on its own 20,000-reader survey and its editors' expert VoIP tests. J.D. Power and Associates' 2011 survey of more than 20,000 customers concentrates on general telephone services but includes companies that provide digital telephone services. There are good comparison tests of traditional VoIP providers at SpotCoolStuff.com and The New York Times, while single-product reviews at CNET, MSNBC.com, The Wall Street Journal, PC World and ComputerWorld.com are also helpful.
We found the best summaries of user-written reviews and ratings of VoIP providers at DSLReports.com (also known as BroadbandReports.com). This site updates its chart of average VoIP-provider ratings weekly, tracking reviews for months so its awards are based on recent, consistent high ratings. We also analyzed user-written reviews and ratings of VoIP services at many other sites, including VoIPReview.org, NextAdvisor.com and Amazon.com.