When you’re looking at a new phone line for either home, or business use, your two options are VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) or a traditional landline. They both have their pros and cons, so deciding which to go with can be a tough call (pun intended), especially if you don’t know all that much about either. Here’s a basic breakdown of what each one is and how they stack up.
A traditional landline, otherwise known as a PSTN – public switched telephone network – is the analog standard that’s been around since the late 1800s. Signals run on twisted pair copper wiring, through physical switch boxes (exchanges) that connect calls from one phone to another.
Voice Over IP, rather than using physical wire connections, uses broadband internet connections to transmit calls. Rather than relying on the physical connections of landlines, VOIP phones convert sound into digital signals within the phone before transmitting it. The digital signals are sent to another phone over an internet connection, then converted back into sound.
How do they Compare?
For private home use, a landline may be more cost effective if you’re not making long calls or international calls – your bill will be limited by your use. After installation, maintenance fees are negligible and a landline is pay as you use. If you’re using a landline for business use, you’ll likely need multiple lines, which requires a PBX, which can be quite pricey. You’ll also pay higher rates for international calls.
A VOIP system, even a basic package, usually offers multiple lines without requiring a PBX. International calls are much cheaper and they often come at a fixed monthly rate relative to the number of lines.
Until recently, landlines have been more reliable, as traditional telephone lines don’t rely on normal power, so if your power goes out, you don’t lose your phone too. With VOIP, if your internet connection goes down for any reason, including a power outage, so does your phone. However, thanks to better ISPs and more stable internet connections, the reliability gap between landline and VOIP is rapidly closing. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, your phone should be ok too.
The features available with a standard landline are better than they used to be – caller ID, domestic and international calls, call blocking, call forwarding voicemail and three-way calling. VOIP typically offers all the features of a landline, as well as several others. For business use, it can be advantageous to have access to recorded calls for liability purposes. Additionally, a VOIP line can be accessed from a computer, cellphone or tablet, rather than just the phone itself.
Different phone service providers will offer a range of options depending on your personal or business needs. Once they have an idea of how many lines you’ll need, or may need to add in future, how many local and international call you typically place, and how flexible you need your phone access to be, they’ll help you find the best option.