The confusion with VoIP

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Voice Over Internet Protocol (or VoIP as it’s commonly know) is exactly as the name suggests – Internet telephony. But what exactly does VoIP do and how does it differ from normal landlines?

We get a lot of calls from people asking about VoIP, but they very rarely understand what it really is. One of the main reasons for interest is that we offer free call forwarding to VoIP (except on 0800 numbers) which really draws people in. After all, why would you want to pay for call forwarding when you can receive calls for free using a different system? Unfortunately, not many of these callers can actually benefit from the free call forwarding.

To understand why there is so much confusion, we have to look at what VoIP really is. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, it's Internet telephony. Or in other words, calls that are made over the Internet as opposed to the traditional copper wiring of your landline or via your mobile network.

But I have a Skype number

Now upon hearing about this you might immediately think of Skype. And why not? It is one of the biggest and most well known VoIP services in the world after all. When a customer asks a question about VoIP, you can almost guarantee that Skype will be mentioned at some point.

"I have a Skype number and Skype is VoIP, so surely I can benefit from free call forwarding?"

I'm sorry to inform you, but I'm afraid you don't qualify. When you get a number from Skype it will either be an 01, 02 or 03 number (we've heard of people getting 05 numbers in the past, although I couldn't find this myself). So can you spot the issue here? That's right; these are the same as landline numbers (or UK wide in the case of 03), which means they are subject to the normal landline rate. Plus, you may also be charged by Skype on top of this.

But I have a BT VoIP Line

Another cause for confusion, although a less common one, is how BT now label their landlines. From what we can gather, BT are moving away from the traditional copper wiring and are now combining their broadband and phone lines together. Which means their phone lines are now using VoIP technology.

The problem is that BT tell people that they have a VoIP line, rather than a standard landline in their house. Everyone knows what a landline is so why confuse things by mentioning VoIP?

And despite using VoIP technology, they're still landlines, so are subject to call forwarding charges.

So how would I qualify for free call forwarding?

By having a VoIP service of course!

Ok, perhaps a little more explanation is needed here. To benefit from free call forwarding you need to divert your calls to either a SIP or an IAX address. Forwarding to any other destination will incur a cost (at least on most number ranges).

So how do you get a SIP or IAX address? Well, firstly you may have an internal system in your office. Speak to your IT guys to see if they can set up any addresses for you to forward to.

Secondly, there are a number of VoIP providers out there who can provide the service for you. However there's a good chance you'll be charged for this service, so this may end up more expensive than forwarding direct to landline or mobile through ourselves.

Trying to understand VoIP can be a real pain. I've only covered the very basics of the technology in this blog and a couple of the more frequently asked questions. Despite getting no call forwarding charges when diverting our numbers to SIP or IAX, having to pay out for the VoIP system/service can far outweigh the savings when forwarding direct to a physical handset with us.

David Orrell