The way people use home phone services is changing and many of us will eventually end up replacing our old analogue voice service with a Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) alternative, which uses your broadband ISPs internet connection to make calls. But how do you set it up and move (port) your number? We explain.
Firstly, a little context is required. According to Ofcom, during 2012 UK people made a total of 103 billion minutes of landline calls and this has since fallen to just 54 billion in 2017 (here). Much of this change, which has had a negative impact on fixed line call revenues, is due to consumers making greater use of Mobile phones, internet messaging (Whatsapp, Facebook etc.) and VoIP services.
On top of that the roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP / FTTH) based ultrafast broadband networks across the United Kingdom will eventually result in the retirement of old copper phone lines, which for many decades have been used to carry analogue phone (voice) signals (PSTN / POTS).
As a result of all this many operators around the world are now in the process of switching to a broadband-by-default approach. In other words, in the future you will only buy a new fixed line for broadband and the voice service will become optional (i.e. supplied via VoIP over an internet connection).
Aside from the fact that fixed lines will all inevitably adopt an all-IP network approach (as above), there are also plenty of other reasons for why you might want to use VoIP. The biggest one is cost because the price of making a call over an internet connection tends to be significantly cheaper than via a traditional fixed line or even mobile plan, particularly if you’re contacting somebody in a different country.
For example, the standard charges for calling Pakistan from a normal UK landline or mobile can vary between around £1 to £2 per minute (less with special discounts). By comparison the same call over a VoIP network may only cost you around 10-12 pence per minute and it could even be free if the end-user is using the same VoIP platform as you are (VoIP to VoIP calls on the same platform are usually free).
A good VoIP platform will also give you a wide selection of different ways to access their network. For example, you may be able to install special Software (Apps) on your Smartphone and Laptop, or you could even make VoIP calls over your old analogue phone handset (requires SIP details – see further below for details). In short, you can use your VoIP phone number almost anywhere there’s an internet connection.
The other reason is that many VoIP platforms will throw in a lot of useful features for no extra cost, which might otherwise attract a cost on an old copper landline. A good provider will thus give you access to things like Caller Display, VoiceMail, Call Divert, International Call Barring, Anonymous Call Blocking and much more.
However for home broadband users the best advantages is that you’ll no longer need to worry about the inevitable admin hassle of having to tell everybody your new phone number, which often occurs when swapping between certain fixed line networks or during house moves into a different telephone exchange area. By porting your home number to VoIP you can keep it separate from all that.
Finally, most VoIP providers won’t lock you in to a long contract term (standard 30 day contracts are much more common).
The Confusing State of VoIP
The concept of VoIP is easy to understand. Sadly the market and terminology that exists around it, which is filled to the brim with a plethora of sometimes wildly different choices, can easily create confusion. As if to make matters worse, the process of moving an existing home phone number to VoIP isn’t well understood by ordinary users and can even vary, depending upon the network platforms involved.