FAQs - About VoIP & Porting numbers
VoIP- Frequently Asked Questions
--------General questions about VoIP--------What is VoIP?
-------Porting your existing number-------
General Questions about VoIP------------------------------
Voice over Internet Protocol is a technology that allows voice to be sent over the Internet. Using a broadband Internet connection and subscribing to a VoIP provider allows a person to make phone calls over the Internet.
First, voice is converted by a device from an analog signal to a digital signal. It is then sent over the Internet where it will be converted back to an analog signal for the remaining distance over a traditional circuit switch (PSTN).
You will need a broadband Internet connection such as DSL or Cable or others (T1, wireless, etc.). Generally, depending on variables such as the Codec in use, a connection should have at least 100kbps on both the upload and download.
Yes, you can work on the computer while on the VoIP phone. They should not conflict with each other.
There are several advantages to VoIP over a traditional phone service, such as, price, portability, and extra features. Many VoIP providers allow unlimited calls throughout the US and Canada at one low monthly fee. The taxation and regulation of VoIP is less than traditional phone service making the cost cheaper. A person can pick a number, rather than be locked into certain area codes and prefixes. With many providers, numerous features are offered as part of the basic monthly fee, such as call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail, call forwarding on busy, etc.
Using a non-compressed G711 codec (which would require the most bandwidth) and you talk about 1000 minutes per month you would be use at about 1.5GB per month. For more information about VoIP Bandwidth consumption.
There are several things you should consider, depending on if you are a small business or a residential user. Some of these would include integration of other services such as faxing, alarms, TIVO and credit card machines. You may also need to consider how much bandwidth you have available from your Internet provider if you are looking for multiple lines. Then you will also want to pick a provider that offers, not only the features that you may need, but especially excellent customer service and technical support. We have included quite a lot of information on our Planning page for your consideration.
A Hosted PBX or an Internet Business Phone System is a VoIP business phone system where the "PBX Hardware" resides at the provider. Usually rich in features, a hosted PBX can save significant upfront hardware charges because the PBX software/hardware sits remotely at the provider's facility and connection is made through the Internet.
IP-PBX is a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) that switches calls between a
traditional telephone user or between two traditional telephone users in the
same way that a conventional PBX does but has the capabilities to switch calls
over IP or VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), and in most cases use Ethernet
IP connections throughout the organization much in the same way that PCs connect
to the LAN.
Asterisk is an open source PBX software that has revolutionized the telecom industry. Traditional PBX companies have proprietary software and hardware and charge special licensing fees to use their products. Asterisk is free and has been being used by millions of businesses as an alternative to more traditional PBX companies. This new open source IP-PBX software is allowing competition, where now companies can offer lower cost systems with more features without the license fees that have been part of traditional PBX companies. An Asterisk IP-PBX is an excellent choice for many companies.
In many cases regardless if you currently have an IP-PBX you can still use SIP Trunking to connect to an ITSP (Internet Telephone Service Provider) as one trunk (one line) or more trunk lines, to save money on long distance, International calls and/or heavy call volume by adding a ATA or gateway device that sits between the current phone system and the Internet and connects a SIP Trunk over your broadband Internet connection.
Although Hosted VoIP can and is a great solution, it may not be the best solution for certain businesses. Check out our Hosted VoIP 10 Questions you may want to ask, and our information on comparing hosted VoIP to an in-house IP-PBX. Hosted VoIP, where the PBX resides off premise, can be deficient due to several factors, one of which is the quality of the Internet connection from the business to the hosted VoIP provider's servers. If this WAN connection, including your ISP and the peering Internet partners that your ISP uses to pass your data, is not of good quality your signaling and voice quality of your VoIP calls will be poor. Latent signaling could cause features to work erratically and poor network conditions, including latency, jitter, and insufficient bandwidth can all add up to make for poor performance. Hosted VoIP is an excellent choice for small companies looking for a low initial cost business phone solution (check out our What Size Company is Right for Hosted VoIP), but only if they accept that there could be some quality issues. In many cases these quality issues may not out weigh the other benefits including significant cost savings. Each business is different and how an occasional dropped call or a poor quality call can affect it varies.
An on premise business VoIP phone system is where the PBX, is both an IP system and resides right on premise. This IP-PBX will most likely be an Asterisk system, but could be a more traditional PBX companies' IP-PBX, as well. The advantage of an Asterisk IP-PBX is cost, open source and having a business phone system that escapes the traditional cycle of having to replace the entire system for upgrades or expansions, because the proprietary manufacturer wants to keep you buying entire new systems. An Asterisk on premise system has all or more of the advantages of Hosted VoIP with on premise signaling, which is much more reliable, a lower total cost of ownership when measured over 3 to 4 years, plus the ability, in many cases, to expand the system or add extensions at a fraction of the cost of other systems, including Hosted VoIP.
The advantages of a hosted PBX are the lower upfront costs, usually associated with less hardware costs. The usual hardware need would be IP phones which would connect to the Internet through a router. The provider maintains the software and servers and should provide technical support. By connecting to the "PBX server" through the Internet a user is dependant upon their connections stability, as well as the quality of that connection. As many Hosted PBX companies are smaller, relatively younger companies and the technology new, some issues can occur which can affect the stability of the service. In addition, the contract may have "back end" costs, such as cancellations fess which would increase the overall cost of the service.
In most cases, you will probably need to get another ATA or VoIP hardware device, one that is supplied by the new VoIP provider themselves. Even though some providers use similar devices, they may have proprietary software (configuration files) on them which cannot easily be changed unless they you can gain access to the Advanced Settings pages of the ATA. Some providers allow a BOYD service which might be an unlocked ATA where you have access to the settings and parameters of the device. This would be an advantage for both a person interested in the more technical adjustments available on the ATA and being able to provide new settings to connect to a new provider.
A softphone is the general term used to describe a VoIP phone connection where software that is installed, is used to create a phone connection on a computer. The PC acts as the phone with a virtual phone displayed on the screen. A head set is generally needed for good conversations, one with both a microphone and head speakers. Although softphones or a PC application phone are liked and used by many people, they have not as of yet taken off in the business environment, which still prefer more traditional phones.
Yes, the VoIP service can be integrated throughout the premise by connecting to the existing phone wiring, already in place. Care will need to be taken to completely disconnect the previous physical telecom's connection to prevent voltage from being reintroduced from the original telecom. See Distributing VoIP throughout your House wiring.
Usually better, but the quality can depend on many factors like bandwidth, Internet connections over the routed call, and the Codec being used by the provider.
VoIP does not support the technology required for these types of connections as they use a dial up modem. In some cases older machines that have slower BAUD rates could work, but since your business depends on completing these transactions dependably you should keep a copper line for your credit card machine. (There are however newer credit card machines that can connect using a broadband Ethernet connection which would not require a copper line.) More on the topic, Credit Card Machines and VoIP.
Since, in most cases, your TIVO uses a dial up modem to connect and poll for information, no it will not work. We have heard of some people getting it to work by slowing down the modem to a very slow baud rate, but most VoIP providers do not support this type of connection due to the problems with modem to VoIP. Newer TIVO machines can use better broadband technology that connect via Ethernet.
In some cases, yes, but many alarm companies equipment cannot integrate correctly with a VoIP signal, although great strides have occurred in the last couple of years. There can also be the issue with a power outage, which in many cases will cause a loss of the Internet connection, resulting in the loss of VoIP service. You should contact your individual alarm company's technical support for exact answers about their services integration with VoIP. Some companies specialize in a device that uses a broadband connection to connect to the alarm company, and thus can be used with a VoIP connection. Elevator Alarms in many states are required by code to have a copper line and should not be connected to VoIP without investigation.
Losing power can cause your Internet connection to go down. If this happens you will not be able to make calls unless you are equipped with a back up UPS, which could power the connection for a limited short duration. Using a UPS to power your modem and VoIP ATA should allow an Internet connection to be maintained for a short duration and should suffice for short local outages, providing that your ISP is still powered up from your connection to their head end. For larger outages the loss of Internet may be more problematic, as for instance a cable company depends on amplifiers to power some of their equipment. If those amplifiers lose power then their system will go down in that area, including both TV and Internet.
Call forwarding on non-registration is a feature that allows incoming calls to automatically be forwarded to a predetermined number when your VoIP ATA is not communicating with your provider. For example, when your Internet connection goes down, either from loss of power or someone is working locally on the line, and your VoIP connection is lost, your incoming calls will immediately go to your cell phone. When the Internet connection resumes and your ATA registers again, then it will receive the calls, not your cell phone.
A virtual number is a second or third phone number that will ring in on the actual primary number's line. This can benefit callers, who by dialing a local number to them, connect with your primary number without having to incur long distance charges.
Depending on variables such as the Codec in use, a connection should have at least 100kbps on both the upload and download. Compressed Codecs, such as G729 use approximately 38kbps per connection, but even in these cases a broadband connection is needed for useable service and sufficient bandwidth would need to be available for both the voice and other data applications on both the upload and download.
Emergency 911 services should be part your VoIP providers services. FCC rulings have required VoIP providers to supply E911 numbers and service. You may want to contact your provider and ask about their particular service and have them check your physical address to verify E911 applies with their service. In addition, your provider should have services to update your location changes (Remember a call to 911 will show the physical address listed in the emergency 911 system. If you move your equipment, update the information correctly.)
If you have technical savvy and like to involve yourself with helping others by explaining the benefits of advanced communications, then yes. There are affiliate programs, reseller programs and even wholesale programs offered by VoIP providers. You may want to do some research if you are considering selling VoIP as a home based business and good list of what points to consider when picking a VoIP provider as a reseller can be found here.
Yes, typically you would need to make sure your VoIP provider supports multiple ATAs. In most cases, you would need to connect them behind a NAT router and have the individual lines configured to use their own SIP port, so they do not conflict with each other. Even though information should be routed by the physical layer (MAC address) complexities in the routers routing tables can lead to calls going to the wrong address or device. This can be especially true if the router ATAs are daisy chained. Add to that the fact that most users buy lower end router equipment which do not always behave perfectly. Some providers may have the capability to set different SIP signalling ports other than the standard 5060 and 5061.
Porting of Numbers--------------------------------------------
This refers to moving your telephone number from one provider to another provider.
In most cases your VoIP provider may have some experience with your current telecom service and may be able to tell you with a high probability if your number can be ported to their service. Rules have become more allowable for porting and will continue to become so as 2101 proceeds, but as rate centers and other information may be CLEC dependant, speak to your customer service rep at the porting in provider if there are any questions about your particular number. In some cases features that may be included with your number may have consequences on its portability, specifically if they happen to be business a business number and for instance that number is part of a hunt sequence on a business account. Additionally, the FCC has imposed new rules on interconnected VoIP providers recently that impose stricter policies and mandate more rights to consumers to keep their telephone numbers.
The traditional process once formally started has taken typically two weeks and sometimes even longer in the past, but as new FCC rules have been enacted the times for ports have become significantly less (these rules are in effect now - 2010). Some ports can happen in just a few days and interconnected VoIP providers are under more scrutiny to follow FCC mandates, specifically for "Simple Ports". Typically new FCC LNP rules have resulted in quicker ports and allowed more customer "ownership" of their numbers and required VoIP providers to follow stricter rules.
Important new FCC rules (2009 & 2010) mandate that LNP include VoIP providers. This ruling states numbers must be able to be ported both in and out of VoIP providers. Further, these FCC mandates require interconnected VoIP providers to follow LNP guidelines and not impede a customers right to port their numbers in many cases, allowing them to port numbers, which until these new rules, they might not have been able to. Even if your VoIP provider is not a CLEC, which many are not, this does not release them from falling under the FCC LNP mandate, as they are interconnected (Interconnected VoIP providers would be providers whose services allow either inbound or outbound calls to the traditional PSTN telephone network.). The exception would be a VoIP provider who only allows calls to other VoIP customers and does not connect with traditional telephone customers.
Your DSL provider may require you to keep an active number with them to qualify for DSL service. Before porting your DSL provider's numbers make absolutely sure that your DSL service will remain intact. Some DSL providers will allow "naked DSL" or dryloop, but the majority do not. If you find that your DSL provider does not, then you may want to consider keeping that one number with a low end service to reduce its cost.
A LOA or Letter of Authorization is a document that allows a VoIP provider to request your numbers on your behalf. This LOA would need to be filled out accurately, signed and faxed to your VoIP provider.
You should in most cases be able to port a toll free number. Toll free numbers use to take 30 days to complete the port, but now are more likely to be completed in just a few days sine the FCC as enacted requirements for interconnected VoIP companies to follow new LNP mandates.
The best next step is to have your provider that you are porting to request a CSR. This record shows most of the information needed and how it should be listed, specifically the exact name and address on the account. A mismatch in this information is one of the most common failures for a port to proceed on the initial application.
This can occur if your provider did a bulk port from one carrier (Clec) to another. To accomplish this the provider lists many numbers from various customers and places them all under one name, usually theirs. The new carrier will then have all the ported numbers listed with the VoIP provider's name and address. Unfortunately, this occurs and the end customer is not notified so is unaware of the event and would provide the winning port provider with information that was once correct, but not longer does, causing a name and address mismatch.
If this were to happen, depending on the length of time that elapsed, you can request a "snap back", where the port will go right back to the original carrier. This usually needs to be done in the first 48 hours after the port and you would need to initiate the request. If the length of time is past what would be possible for a "snap back", a new request would need to be started all over again by you with the carrier you want to port your number to. When and if this event, which is rare happens, it is due to poor planning and not considering the ramifications of a port. Such as, porting a DSL number and loosing Internet, or not realizing your credit card machine may not work correctly. This is why we have given you information on VoIP planning and suggested some things to consider on our VoIP Planning and Installation pages.
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