Home Phone Service: Is VoIP right for you?

magicJack as a Home Phone Service??

Stalled car with woman calling for help on her cellphone The Wall Street Journal checked into magicJack, and found that:

  • it was cheap
  • it was “Way Overhyped”
  • it really worked!

Are you considering using an Internet based phone company such as magicJack for your home phone service? You should first ask whether your internet connection is good enough for phone calls. If you use the Internet to make and receive phone calls, you're using Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

Conventional providers of home phone service offer peace of mind – many consumers grew up with Ma Bell, and others rely heavily on the companies for  their mobile phones. If your Internet connection is fast enough to support VoIP home phone service, you can enjoy  new features and save hundreds of dollars each year. Before you port your phone number to magicJack, consider keeping your existing home phone  while ironing out any wrinkles with your new magicJack.

VoIP problems as a home phone service VoIP – Good for Home Phone Service?

VoIP is not for anyone who has dial up service or who is using a satellite dish for an internet connection. Dial up service isn’t fast enough to carry ‘real time’ audio, and there’s nothing quite so disheartening as trying to call home – only to hear static.

Satellite internet services are not good candidates for VoIP either. The signal has to travel to a satellite which is 22,000 miles above the earth – then bounce back to your dish. The signal travels fast, but the distance is so great there are significant lags in the conversation. If that wasn’t bad enough, satellite services are only speedy in one direction – from the provider’s dish to yours. Any signal sent back to the provider is much slower, and you'd find a lot of silent gaps in your conversation.

Cable or DSL Should Be OK

If you have DSL or cable internet service, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use a VoIP as a much less expensive home phone service. You should do a little more checking before dropping your check in the mail, though.

I first bought a magicJack in 2005 and wondered if I'd lost my mind. What was I thinking – how could I possibly make phone calls over the Internet using a small plastic dongle? I managed to sort it out though, and I've made thousands of VoIP calls since, saving a fair bit of money each month.

Woman tangled in phone systemBefore you take the leap though, I'd like to introduce you to the first hurdle you need to clear to use magicJack – your Internet connection. Dial up service won't do, and neither will satellite service. In fact, a lot of “high speed” connections aren't up to it. Here's how you can tell if your connection might cause problems.

Test Your Internet Speed

First, zip off to http://speedtest.net and click on the “Go” button in the middle of the page. Give it a few minutes, then take a look below to see how well your connection is for VoIP.

  • Ping – The time it takes your signal to get to the test service server is called latency. This is the downfall of any satellite connection. If your ping has to go to a satellite and be bounced back to earth to be heard, your conversation would be full of long pauses while the signal went tens of thousands of miles up and back – not a good experience. Even land based high speed Internet service has latency though, so the smaller the number you see here, the better. Keep in mind that 20ms is 1/50 of a second, which is perfectly acceptable. You have to be the judge here – how much delay can you live with?
  • Download – Generally this is the speed you were sold when you bought the plan. Typically, any high speed service is more than adequate to provide the meager 128Kb per second download speed required to have a magicJack conversation. Any dial up service will fail this test though!
  • Upload – Here's where some services lose their mojo, as upload speed is almost universally slower than download speed. It's not uncommon to have download speeds that are 5 to 10 times faster then the same service's upload speed. What does magicJack need for a good conversation? It needs 128Kb per second – in addition to any other uploads you have going on at the same time.

How Much Speed Do I Need?

So exactly what is 1kb per second? If you receive 1kb of data per second, you're receiving 1,000 bits per second. To carry voices clearly, magicJack needs to have a stream of 128kb per second. Many high speed Internet connections have speeds that are measured in Mb per second, or 1,000,000 bits per second, so there shouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world… take just a moment to test yours!

 

Questions or Comments?

Do you have a question or comment about using magicJack as your home phone service? Drop a note in the comment box below and put it out there for all to see! You may find the answer you're looking for – or perhaps you'll hear from another sympathetic user.