Below you will find details on the requirements to have VoIP up and running at your Home or Business.
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The primary VoIP requirement is a Broadband Internet Connection. The most common form of Broadband Internet connection is an ADSL connection. In addition to DSL, there are also Cable, Wireless and Satellite broadband solutions. To ensure VoIP quality a superior broadband connection is required.
The second VoIP requirement is an analog-to-digital converter. This device converts your Voice to digital packets so it can be transmitted over the internet. If you wish to use your computer for making VoIP calls, then the Converter is usually implemented in Software and relies on a computer with a Sound card and enough processing power to perform the task. Thankfully, most of the computers available today are capable of this.
If you wish to use your Normal Telephone, then you will need a Hardware ATA (Analogue Telephone Adaptor). This is the most common solution and there are a number of devices that would be suitable depending on your budget and required features.
The last requirement is a VoIP Service Provider (VSP) also known as an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP). The Provider will supply you with an account and some form of "Telephone Number".
As discussed, there are a couple of Broadband options available, but the one I recommend is a DSL connection. The most basic DSL connection is called ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) while there are other flavors of DSL (SHDSL, SDSL) these are generally more expensive and more suitable to medium and large business applications. The major issue with ADSL is that the technology will only work if you are within 6km's of your local exchange. This distance will vary depending on the quality of the telephone cable running into your property. As there is no charge to apply for ADSL if a connection is not possible it is always worth applying for a connection before looking at other solutions.
Cable Broadband, in Australia, is generally provided by either Optus or Bigpond. If you have Optus or Foxtel Cable TV available in your area then it is an option for you. With your Cable modem you are always connected to the Internet as it uses co-ax cable (same as Cable TV). The major drawback with cable is that your cable connection is shared with everyone else on the same segment. If you are in an area with a high uptake of cable, you will generally suffer from congestion during peak periods. The major advantage to cable is that if VoIP works for you then you will be able to cancel your normal phone line and won't have to pay line rental again.
Wireless Broadband in another option that may be available if you are not able to qualify for DSL. Installation involves fitting an external aerial to the roof and "pointing" the antennae towards the base station. Generally the installation costs are higher but if this is the only way you can get Broadband, then it is worth it. Another consideration is that the available bandwidth for the Wireless Link is shared. This means that if there are a lot of people connected, then there will be delays during peak use. This may result in unacceptable voice quality during peak times. Some Wireless Broadband connections are very expensive as well and the net result is that you may not save as much as you expect because the Data Usage costs will eat away at you savings.
Satellite broadband is also an option. As far as VoIP is concerned, there will definitely be a delay during your VoIP calls because of the way the technology works. If you are considering Satellite then you should shop around for a provider that offers VoIP using specific ATM based QoS (Quality of Service) so the delays between your connection and the VoIP SIP server are minimised.
Virgin Mobile also offer a Broadband service incorporated with a Mobile Phone package. Virgin Broadband is delivered via the Optus 3G mobile network using HSDPA technology, which covers major metro areas across Australia including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast. Basically it turbo-charges 3G data, giving you broadband internet speeds of 512 kbps. They have a very attractive plan where you replace your normal Land line with their package. Just be aware that you end up with All your calls actually use the Mobile Phone network. This technology will probably not be suitable for VoIP as the data limits are a bit low and the way the technology works, you may not be able to maintain a constant signal all the time. (You connection can move from one tower to another depending on usage)
The equipment you need to cennect will depend on the type of Broadband connection you are using. For a DSL or Cable connection you will need a Modem and a Router. Generally both these functions are performed by the same device.
Although most Modems also act as a Router there are some advantages is using 2 seperate devices for each function. The most notable being that not all Modem/Router combinations are "VoIP Friendly".A Broadband Modem is an essential device for providing Broadband Internet access. Some Internet Service Providers offer Broadband Modems as part of a Broadband service. They are usually entry level Modems that may not deliver the quality service and additional features that you require. Compare Broadband Modem prices and products for ADSL, ADSL2+ and Cable services right here.
As VoIP has become more popular, the usual Hardware manufacturers have started to create VoIP equipment to suit a variety of requirements. Manufactures including Cisco, Linksys, Thompson, D-Link, Netgear, Netcomm, Billion etc are all producing Home grade and Business grade VoIP equipment. There has also been a number of new manufacturers, that specialise in VoIP equipment, come in to the market including .
If you are still unsure if VoIP will be suitable for you, then the most cost effective way to get started is to download some free VoIP software and install in on your computer and give it a try. One of the most popular software downloads is X-Lite from CounterPath. See the VoIP Providers page for a list of Providers that you can try for free. Note that generally Free VoIP will not enable you to call normal phone numbers.
If you have decided to use your computer as your main VoIP mechanism, then you will need to purchase a Headset and Microphone. Prices rang from as low as $5 for a Monaural Headset/Microphone with Noise-Canceling features, to over $200 for a quality Wireless Office Headset System. It is alo possible to purchase a USB Phone that will plug into your computer and work with Softphone Software.
The basic VoIP hardware device is called an Analogue Telephone Adaptor (ATA). This device enable you to plug in a standard analogue phone and use it to make VoIP calls. The ATA is also connected to the internet via an ethernet port. As VoIP has become more popular most of the major Networking Hardware manufactures have started to produce thei own ATA's with various features. See the ATA section of our VoIP Hardware guide for the ones that we recommend.
For a Hardware VoIP solution, most standard Analoge phones should work. There does seem to be some combinations of ATA and phones that don't work well together so you ensure you are able to test the equipment and return it if it does not work.
Most Cordless phones available today will operate on one of three frequencies. These are 1.8GHz, 2.4GHz and 5.8Ghz. My personal recommendation is to go for the 1.8GHz frequency when ever possible. This frequency gives the longest range and does not interfer with other equipment. You should definately avaid the 2.4GHz range as this may interfeer with any Wireless networking in the vecinity and also, strangely enough, some microwave ovens. The 5.8GHz range is what most of the Telephone manufacturers are moving toward today and the only real problem is that the range (distance from the Phone and Base station) is limited.