Moshi moshi, this is VoIP calling

Is the above title Greek to you? No, my uber WBVO editor was not sleeping on the job when I slipped in a gibberish title! The phrase “Moshi moshi” is how the Japanese answer a telephone call and it roughly equates to “Hello” in English. Wouldn’t this be a good question for my favorite TV quiz show, "Jeopardy"? Who knows Alex Trebek’s phone number?

Speaking of phone numbers ... “To VoIP, or not to VoIP, that is the question” is repeated often these days. It may not be important to understand the whole inner workings of VoIP, which stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol,” as it can become too geeky. So here’s the crib sheet on what may matter to consumers:

  1. VoIP saves money by putting calls through the internet.

  2. VoIP depends on internet availability at your home to make/receive phone calls.

  3. Traditional telephone networks, commonly referred to as “landlines,” are still relevant and not going away anytime soon.

Before the internet, telephones were connected to a web of wiring that crisscrossed nations and continents around the globe. When calls were made from point A to point B every city, county, state, and country between those two points added fees and tariffs that our telephone companies collected. Those fees and tariffs, especially on long distance and overseas calls respectively, made the “per minute” cost of a phone call quite expensive.

But upon internet’s arrival early disruptors saw the opportunity to bring the cost of a phone call down by moving the calls through the internet instead of the traditional telephone grid. VoIP continues to evolve and today everyone, including our cable TV company, is hawking telephone services! Even tablets with only Wi-Fi connections can make free telephone calls using VoIP.

Since it is highly probable that you are already getting your broadband/internet service as part of a “package” (or “bundle”) alongside your cable TV service from a single provider like AT&T U-Verse, Time Warner or Wow! Cable, you may have been already approached by them to bring your telephone service into the bundle; this normally means leaving your landline and converting over to VoIP.

Although saving money is the catalyst for ditching one’s landline and going VoIP, it may not be appropriate for seniors and people with chronic health issues who need a dependable line of communication. Internet service goes down during power outages, and having a dial tone during blackouts and other emergencies may outweigh the VoIP cost savings.

There are ways to mitigate that risk, for example by having a mobile phone handy so you can still make/receive calls when your internet is down from blackouts and technical issues. Whether that is enough risk mitigation of VoIP’s dependency on the internet so you can ditch your landline is a question only you can answer. Many young people are skipping the landline and VoIP altogether in favor of a single mobile phone number.

One thing I know for sure, I don’t miss the $2.50 per minute telephone calls to my parents living in Japan!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart consulting, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 9:46 AM, 11.11.2014