Here are further ideas on how to take advantage of VOIP.
Assuming that you subscribe to a mobile broadband plan (as discussed in my previous post) and you also have a home phone line (that allows you to make cheap or free calls) plus broadband internet, you can forward calls between your home phone line and VOIP. This should prove to be quite economical since many people would already have a phone line and broadband internet to begin with. In any case, a phone line + broadband internet combo is relatively cheap. Here are samples of available plans:
US – AT&T Double Pack US$65 includes 1.5Mbps broadband and nationwide long distance calls
UK – Tiscali Broadband and Talk Â£14.99 includes 8Mbps broadband and UK phone calls
Singapore – Singtel Mio Plan S$55.80 includes 3Mbps broadband, unlimited local calls and 100 mins mobile plan
To forward calls between a phone line and VOIP, you need an Analogue Telephony Adaptor (ATA). What an ATA does is to answer incoming calls on the phone line and initiate a VOIP call, or vice versa, make a call on the phone line when a VOIP call is initiated. This allows you to receive and make calls through mobile broadband and the home phone line, both of which are cheap, instead of your more expensive regular mobile line. Examples of relatively affordable ATA are the Linksys SPA 3102 and the Grandstream HT-503. These are even capable of handling Caller ID from both VOIP and the regular phone line so you will know who is calling you. Setting up the ATA to perform call forwarding may be a very difficult process though, so be warned. A configuration wizard is available here that may help if you are setting up the Linksys SPA 3102.
To avoid the hassle of setting up call forwarding that i just described, you could opt to sign up with a VOIP Service Provider (VSP) and have them handle all your VOIP calls. They will take care of routing calls to and from regular phone lines and calls will work almost exactly the same way as your regular mobile/cell phone, except that it goes through a VOIP client application running over mobile broadband. If you deem the mobile broadband connection to be reliable enough, you can even terminate your mobile/cell phone subscription and use VOIP on mobile broadband exclusively. To play safe though, you can take up a pre-paid pay-as-you-go mobile plan as a backup.
In the future all these will not be necessary as Telcos have no choice but to offer the very same VOIP services, as telephony transits onto an all-IP platform. The internet continues to level the playing ground for businesses and we are about to witness Telcos losing their monopoly over voice and messaging communication.