PC to Phone VoIP Devices
Ok, so you're sold on the idea of PC to Phone VoIP, but would like to make calls using something a little more conventional than a Headset and/or microphone. Well, read on because there are a range of options available to you.
USB Phones are quickly becoming the most popular VoIP device for PC to Phone users. Low cost and ease of use combined with the familiar layout of a conventional telephone handset contributes to the USB phones' popularity.
USB phones are quite simple. They are essentially an integrated speaker, microphone and keypad which interfaces with your computer via a vacant USB port. USB VoIP phones typically resemble their conventional telephone handset counterparts and function in much the same way.
The main drawback associated with USB VoIP phones is that your computer needs to be turned 'on' in order for the USB handset to function. Whilst this generally won't be a problem for the majority of 'high-speed' Internet users (i.e., users with 'always-on' Internet connections), for those of us on 'dial-up' Internet connections, this may prove more than a 'little' annoying.
Another drawback associated with USB VoIP Phones is that not all PC to Phone Service Providers support their use. Check with your vendor and/or PC to Phone Service Provider to ensure that your USB Phone is supported.
USB Phones typically start at around $25 USD and increase depending on the model and manufacturer. Expect to pay a little more for a USB VoIP Phone that incorporates an LED or LCD display.
Broadband Analog Telephone Adapters (ATA)
As the name implies, Analog Telephone Adapters are devices which convert the analog signals generated by your conventional telephone into digital 'data packet' signals that can be carried via the Internet. Conversely, they also translate the digital signals received by your Internet Connection into Analog signals that you hear through your conventional Telephone Handset.
The primary advantage of these devices is that they enable you to use your existing analog telephones to make cheap VoIP calls (this includes 'cordless as well as 'corded' models).
Analog Telephone Adapters come in a variety of models and interfaces. The majority of these devices are aimed at high-speed Internet Users insofar as they usually incorporate a Network or 'Ethernet' (RJ45) input and a conventional (RJ11) telephone jack output (into which you'd plug your conventional phone). The beauty of this design is that your computer doesn't need to be switched 'on' in order to make and receive calls.
Dial-Up Analog Telephone Adapters
If you don't have a High-Speed Internet Connection and would like to make cheap PC to Phone VoIP calls without a computer, you might consider a Dial-Up Analog Telephone Adapter (or ATA) . These devices differ from their 'high-speed' model cousins insofar as they usually incorporate a 56Kbps modem built-in to the design. They also include two RJ11 ports; one from the ATA to the telephone jack in your wall, and the other, an output jack into which you'd plug your conventional telephone. These devices are very popular in countries where outbound long-distance calls using the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) are very expensive (e.g., Fiji, Afghanistan).
To make a call using a dial-up ATA, one typically dials the same way in which you'd make a call using your regular telephone. Once you've dialed the number you're calling, the ATA then 'connects' into your 'dial-up' Internet Account via the built-in 56Kbps modem and PSTN, then routes your call through the Internet to the number you're calling. The manner in which your call travels is virtually identical in nature to a PC to Phone call except that you're using your own conventional telephone handset in place of your computer and Headset.
There are several Dial-Up Analog Telephone Adapters available on the market. Here are links to a couple of them:
ATAs are a terrific option if you'd like to use hardware (handsets) that you already have (e.g., a cordless phone).
Internet Protocol Phones (IP Phones)
IP Phones are devices which typically resemble your conventional telephone and function in much the same way. The main difference between IP Phones and conventional analog telephones is that the IP Phone converts your voice signal directly into a digital 'data packet' rather than the 'analog' signal produced by your conventional telephone. Again, the majority of these phones are aimed towards 'high-speed' Internet Users and usually incorporate an RJ45 interface to plug into your high-speed modem or network router.
Dial-Up IP Phones
Again, don't worry if you're using a dial-up Internet Connection as there are IP Phones designed just for you!
Similar to a Dial-Up ATA, Dial-Up IP Phones usually incorporate a 56Kbps modem directly into the phone itself with which to interface with your dial-up Internet connection. From external appearances, these phones are typically indistinguishable from their conventional analog telephone counterparts and even include a conventional RJ11 phone jack with which to 'plug in' to the analog telephone jack in your wall. Of course, looks can be deceiving and in the case of a dial-up IP Phone, you can enjoy the incredibly low rates of PC to Phone calls using a telephone that looks familiar.
Dual Broadband/Dial-Up IP Phone
I found one IP Phone which boasts compatibility with both Broadband and Dial-Up Internet Connections. It's called the 'DialAnywhere Phone' and incorporates a built-in 56Kbps modem as well as an RJ45 Ethernet jack for connection to a Broadband modem or router. The dual Broadband/Dial-Up IP phone is perfect for people living in countries where long-distance calls using the PSTN are expensive and high-speed Internet Access is unavailable. If high-speed Internet access becomes available and the user chooses to upgrade, no additional Internet Phone hardware is required as the dual broadband/dial-up phone will now work with their high-speed Internet connection.
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