The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home

Types of VOIP Services

There are five basic types of VOIP services.

Subscriber Phone

Subscriber services are just calling plans. You subscribe to a certain plan, and receive unlimited or restricted minutes per month. The benefit to you is you get the same phone bill each month, and it includes both local and long distance calling.

Dozens of calling features are at your disposal as well, including voicemail, caller ID, and call forwarding. There's no way you'd pay for all of these services with a regular phone company.

Compare unlimited local and long distance plans

Residential Plans

Most VoIP service providers are marketing something called a residential plan. This usually means:

  • Unlimited local and long distance calling within a specific geographic area such as within North America, the United Kingdom, or India.
  • Limited calling within a specific geographic area but restricted to the number of minutes (200, 500 minutes)
Small Business Plans

Be careful that you don't use a residential plan for a business. Small business plans are designed to accommodate more phone minutes per month and include business services such as fax numbers, extra virtual numbers, toll free numbers, free international minutes and 3-digit extension to extension dialing.

Normally, to get these features you'd have to invest in an in-office PBX (Private Branch Exchange) or rent these services from their local telephone company.

International Plans

Some providers, offer a specifically tailored plan if you make frequent overseas calls.

For example, if you make a lot of overseas calls, an international package includes these calls in the basic monthly fee.

If you receive most of your calls from a certain city, you can find a service provider that offers a local phone number in that location. which allows people to call you at local rates.

Free Softphone

A softphone is telephone program for your computer. You install it on your PC or Mac and it lets you make calls by dialing an onscreen keypad. Usually you can import contact names and numbers from Outlook or other email applications.

Free softphones don't charge you for downloading the software or for making calls to other registered users. Skype is a great example, but you can only make free calls to other Skype users. Gizmo Project is another popular softphone that lets you make free calls to Gizmo users AND users on other networks (MSN, Jabber, GoogleTalk)

Click for more about free VOIP software

Web Phone

Web phone is dialing from an actual web page. Make a Call from is a good example. You enter your telephone number in My Number and the number your calling in Call this number. The VOIP software first rings your phone, when you pickup, it connects you with the other number.

How do you pay? You just buy credits to call landlines or call other web phone users for free. You can try it for free as well with a 12-cent credit (about a 6-minute call).


Pay-as-you-go services are usually softphone companies that let you buy credits for calling outside their network. In other words, for making calls to regular phones, mobile phones, and international numbers.

Rates for pay-as-you-go are EXTREMELY low, and you'll find that $10 to $20 worth of credit lasts a long time. Only 2 cents/minute anywhere in the US and Canada. Skype is a good example.

Subscriber Softphone

If you like to use the computer to make calls, but you want the freedom to call any mobile or landline phone anywhere, the monthly subscriber softphone service is what you need. Skype is a good example.

Next... [ VOIP Service Plans ]

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