Here they are right now, the four phone and internet package issues that are so important. Then I’ll explain how to pick ‘em and when it’s a good idea to buy a package, rather than an “unbundled” VoIP phone service plan, OK?
Four Key Phone and Internet Package“Must-Haves”
- One throat to choke
- Solid service provider
- Dynamic bandwidth allocation
- Local Number Portability (LNP)
One Throat To Choke
Be advised this is not a hard and fast rule. This item refers to one of the main reasons to buy a phone and internet package, rather than an “unbundled” VoIP telephone service plan.
When something goes wrong, you don’t want a bunch of finger-pointing between the ISP (Internet Service Provider) and the VoIP phone service provider. If they are one and the same, this is a good thing, one call does it all so to speak (or it should – more on this later)
Another benefit here is one bill for your phone and internet package, especially if we’re talking larger business service. Who wants to have multiple bills? This can be compounded when there are multiple business branches involved, all with different ISPs and VoIP providers.
Regarding the one bill option – there may be times in the smaller business scenario where we use modem for our VoIP Internet connection, but still use a separate VoIP phone service provider because we want the cheap cable internet access, but desire to avoid poor “cable company” phone service or want advanced features offered by a specialty VoIP provider.
“Choose a single or phone and internet package provider when possible for simple needs, pay a small premium if required for integrated phone services so as to have one throat to choke if service issues arise”
Solid Service Provider
This is actually the single most important thing when purchasing a phone and internet package. We talk with people every day that just can’t believe they got “taken” by a cheap, non-working VoIP telephone service provider. Alas, the price was so low; they couldn’t help themselves and get stuck with substandard phone service.
Cheap phone and internet package plans, promising free or almost free calls are all over the place. Don’t get burned!
Common sense says you get what you pay for, so stick with the quality providers.
Note that many of the cheaper providers require to Bring Your Own Bandwidth (BYOB) which seems to violate the “one throat” recommendation above.
The reason for this is cost and enhanced services, which is important to some people. If you’re reasonably comfortable with VoIP, this stuff works great (as long as you have a decent internet connection, to begin with) and shouldn’t be an issue.
“Choose a proven, solid provider that has good value (generally not the cheapest) and a decent level of customer service”
Dynamic Bandwidth Allocation
This really only applies to T1 and greater speeds for business integrated phone services. As a business, you can actually get many of the advantages of VoIP business phone service and not have to pay for it!
That’s right, you get to use your existing phone equipment, and the phone and internet package service provider will actually do the VoIP for you (integrated phone services). They then provide a “magic box” on your end to let you enjoy almost all the benefits of VoIP like lower taxes, free branch to branch calling, low cost or unlimited long distance and various calling features.
This box also then provides an Ethernet handoff for your business’ Local Area Network (LAN) for internet access to your organization. So in this way you get the benefits of “converging” the voice and internet on one pipe, be it T1 or whatever and dropping those expensive phone lines (the main cost driver of business VoIP phone service to begin with)
These phone and internet package services go by many different names but look for terms like “Integrated T1″, “Integrated Access”, ” Integrated Phone Services” and the like.
Dynamic bandwidth allocation refers to the ability of the service provider to provision integrated voice and data (internet) service on a “pipe” (T1 or similar access) that allows for maximum speeds to the internet if no one is on the phone.
Most quality phone and internet package carriers in this day and age should be able to provide integrated phone services. If your business is now on an older “TDM” integrated T1 service, ask to be upgraded to dynamic bandwidth when you renew your contract, so you’re getting the maximum internet speeds when possible.
Here’s an overview of available TYPES OF SERVICE available as INTEGRATED services using a phone and internet package provider implementation of VoIP on the local loop available via T1 or broadband Ethernet:
- Internet with analog (POTS) handoff. Generally, a smaller (business) key system is involved here as the equipment on-premise at the business, or maybe even a bunch of stand-alone phones.
- Internet with PRI or digital service. Same as #1 above, but with PRI or digital handoff to the PBX.
- Here we will have an actual PBX, larger or more sophisticated phone system.
- PRI allows for DID (Direct Inward Dial) allowing us to call DIRECTLY into the organization, bypassing any attendants and ring directly to the phone or person we dialed.
- We must have a PRI card in our PBX. You generally know you have PRI if you need to dial “9″ to get an outside line when making an outgoing call.
- Internet with SIP (Session Initiated Protocol). Same as #3 above, but SIP handoff, this is the “native” VoIP protocol if you will.
- You must have an IP ready or “IP enabled” PBX to use SIP.
- Many advantages here like DID functionality without having to buy the PRI card.
- Many, many other cool VoIP functions like true convergence of the voice and data, Unified Communications capability (which also uses the SIP “language”).
- Unlike options #1 and #2 above, here we can unbundle the service and do internet with one provider and SIP with another, which might be important due to business drivers (primarily cost and / or quality)
- Internet with Hosted PBX.
- Basically you don’t have a PBX on-site, but use your internet connection to deliver all services, dial tone and calling features to IP handsets inside the organization. Even a small one or two-line home or SOHO deployments can use hosted PBX.
- Like SIP, because this option requires IP handsets or ATAs (devices attached to our phones and fax to allow you to do VoIP)
“When required, let a phone and internet package service provider implement VoIP for you so you can use your existing equipment. Have good quality bandwidth; get what you’re paying for by assuring you’re enjoying dynamic bandwidth allocation.”
Local Number Portability AKA LNP
This really shouldn’t be a big issue because it’s federally mandated, and is mentioned here only to set the record straight and assure you know your rights under the law.
LNP refers to the ability of a phone subscriber (you or your business) to “port” or take their phone number(s) with you when you move from one phone service provider to another.
One word of caution here is simply asking the question when dealing with a VoIP provider. Make sure they are an “interconnected” VoIP service provider and therefore subject to Federal laws concerning LNP.
Another important issue for businesses is asking if any toll-free numbers that might be assigned for your use are also portable. Occasionally you’ll find this is not the case, as toll-free numbers are not subject to LNP laws, so beware.
Nothing is worse than publishing your toll-free number all over the place, on business cards, directories, etc, just to find out that you cannot take it with you because it “belongs to” the phone and internet package VoIP provider when you’re ready to move on to another provider.
Now, there are a few rules here dealing with geography and LNP, but in a general sense even if you’re moving across the country and porting your number to a VoIP service provider, there shouldn’t be an issue.
So here we see the ability of VoIP to allow us to have “local” numbers from any rate center in the USA, more on this in other articles.
Because porting or taking our numbers with us is required by Federal law, there won’t be many issues here other than “what does it cost” and “how much of a hassle” will it be.
Federal law even mandates that porting occur within ONE DAY after the request is received. The law also requires you be able to keep your number from one TYPE OF SERVICE to another i.e.: landline number to cell number to VoIP and so forth.
” Quality VoIP phone service providers will not have issues allowing you to port numbers you’re using, whether they assigned them, or you brought them with you. Beware of providers that will not allow you to port toll-free numbers away from their service.”