VoIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol (IP).
What does that mean? VoIP is a way of using your high speed Internet connection as a telephone. Rather than using the wires your telephone company has run into your house to make and receive phone calls, a VoIP service provider will provide you with equipment to make those phone calls - in the same way - over your Internet connection.
Why would someone want this? There are two primary benefits of VoIP service. First, it tends to be cheaper than traditional "landline" telephone service, for both domestic and international calling.
Second, it allows your telephone line to travel with you, or for you to set up a local number in a country where you are not physically located. For example, if you live in Chicago and travel on business or go on vacation to Rome, you can bring your VoIP adapter with you, plug it in to your hotel room's high speed Internet connection, and make and receive telephone calls just as if you were at home in Chicago. This is not only convenient for many people, but it also saves you from exorbitant international and hotel long distance charges.
Because of this, for many people VoIP technology is replacing their traditional "landline" entirely. Others are maintaining their home phone service, but also signing up for VoIP service to provide a second or business phone line, for travel, or to cut down on long distance charges.
How does it work? Your VoIP telephone service provider will send you a simple adapter that you can plug into your high speed Internet connection and standard home telephone. That's right, you don't need to buy a special phone - you can use the same one you're using right now. You can even wire the system so that all of the phones in your home are connected to the VoIP service. (This is slightly more complicated, but it can be done.) eCOST.com has the greatest selection and the lowest prices on brand name computer hardware, software, peripherals and electronics.
In many areas you can choose to move your existing phone number over, so your friends, family or business associates do not need to update their address books. Or, if you'd like a new number, you can choose which area code you'd like it in.
When you pick up the phone you get a dial tone, as usual. Simply dial and talk. When someone calls you, your phone rings just like it always does. Enhanced services such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, three way calling, call transfer, call return and repeat dialing are available, and typically many of these features are included in your plan for free. Also available are toll free numbers, additional phone lines, fax services, 411 information and the ability to use your laptop as a telephone.
VoIP telephone service is rapidly gaining popularity. In fact, by the end of 2006, Forrester Research predicts that over 5 million US households will be using VoIP technology. Visit the community forum to read how others feel about the different VoIP providers such as (Vonage, Skype, Time Warner, etc...).