What Features Do You Get With VoIP?

The feature set included with your home VOIP phone varies greatly from carrier to carrier, so as you are comparing different offerings, make sure you are comparing apples to apples in terms of the feature set. Let's look at some of the standard features, then we can look at some of the features that some carriers are offering, which for your needs, may not amount to a hill of beans.

Unlimited calling

Almost all VOIP providers are offerings unlimited calling, but be sure you take this with a minor grain of salt. Unlimited does not really mean "unlimited" in the true Webster's Dictionary definition of the word. Almost all VOIP providers SAY unlimited, but for home VOIP use, what they really MEAN is "reasonably unlimited".

If you start using more than about 3000 to 4000 minutes per month of call time, that is thought to be unlike the typical residence and you may get a warning about it, or they may even shut you off. Using that many or more minutes for VOIP calling over the course of a month indicates to them that you are either a business that has a residential VOIP phone, or that you are using an automated auto-dialer to make telemarketing calls. The former is available for businesses at a higher price from many VOIP providers, and the latter is a definite no-no from ANY VOIP provider.

Even if you do not use that many minutes, make sure you understand what your calling area includes. Most VOIP providers only use the continental US for your unlimited calling. But SunRocket includes Canada and Alaska. Some VOIP providers also include Puerto Rico. Be sure you know what is included if you plan to call any of those places on a regular basis.

Caller ID

Caller ID is a standard feature of almost all VOIP carriers, and interestingly enough, it is almost always an "extra charge" item from your phone company. If this is important to you, be sure that the plan you are considering does indeed include it.

Call Blocking

With this feature, you can block certain calls from coming in. You can specify a number that you do not accept calls from, you can not accept calls from any callers who are blocking their caller ID, there are a wide variety of ways to do this. Again, this is usually also available from your phone company on your regular phone lines, but at extra charge.

Call Waiting

Most VOIP providers include a call waiting function. If you are talking on the phone and someone is trying to call, they will not get a busy signal, but you will hear some tones that alerts you about another call coming in. You can "flash" between the new caller and the person you were talking with to let them know that you will call them back shortly. Again, this is usually an extra charge item from your phone company on your traditional voice lines.

Call Return

Dialing a sequence of numbers like "*69" will return the call of the last person who called you, since the VOIP system will remember the number of the last person who called. With some services, it will remember that last 5 or 10 people who called.

In summary, VoIP features can vary greatly from carrier to carrier. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples in terms of the feature sets. DO YOUR HOMEWORK before buying a VoIP service.
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