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Best Cheap VoIP Service Providers
Cheap VoIP Phone Service Guide
Cheap VoIP services transmit calls over the Internet instead of through traditional landlines (the acronym stands for (Voice over Internet Protocol). Some use free software installed on your computer and others require an adapter that connects your phone to a modem or PC.
The main player on the software side is Skype, which also is our top pick due to its high-caliber call quality and very inexpensive calling plans (free PC-to-PC calls; $3 per month for unlimited calling to the United States and Canada).
All these VoIP options offer tremendous savings on your phone bill, but your choice of a cheap VoIP service ultimately depends on which one delivers the call quality and customer service you deem acceptable, along with the best deal given your phone usage patterns. The price differences among these companies are relatively small, but our research uncovered large differences in customer satisfaction.
As for features, the first decision point is whether to go with a hardware-based VoIP service that requires an adapter on your landline phone or a computer-based service that runs on free software. To a certain extent, the technologies limit the functionalities. Software-based providers such as Skype and Google Hangouts, whose core functions are PC-to-PC video calling, voice calling, and chat, are meant to supplement an existing landline or cell phone service, whereas hardware-based VoIP services can replace landline service completely. The critical distinction, and one reason that militates against using software-based VoIP as your primary phone service: no emergency 911 calls.
Once you've settled on the technology, consider each service's calling plans (fees and calling areas) and the specific functions the plans include. The usual array of phone features -- e.g., caller ID, voicemail -- may or may not be part of a basic or even a premium package; details depend on the provider and the various plans on offer. Also note: Some hardware-based services assess an upfront fee for the adapter; some cheap VoIP services charge for a dedicated phone number; and some let you transfer an existing landline number but may charge for doing so.
Finally, any cheap VoIP phone service depends on having a fast, reliable broadband Internet connection, such as DSL or cable. If you don't have a broadband Internet connection, or if yours is unreliable, consider upgrading your Internet access before looking into VoIP service.
Best Cheap VoIP
Good Cheap VoIP
Google offers a potentially excellent and free alternative to Skype. Hangouts is the only option we researched that offers free, unlimited calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada. However, the service is still in its infancy and some features require a Google Voice account, which is available only in the U.S.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
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Use a VPN to keep data secure and private. We give the low-down on available free and cheap fee-based services.