What are the differences between Skype and other VOIP solutions such as Vonage, Viatalk and Phonepower?
Skype has a number of differences over most SIP VOIP providers. Some of these may be important to you. Read everything before you decide which way to go.
A typical SIP provider supplies you with an incoming phone number. Skype does not include a phone number unless you purchase a SkypeIn number. If you only want to receive calls from within the Skype network then it's not needed. Click here to get your unique SkypeIn number or see pricing information.
Hardware and Installation ease
Skype does not provide you with a hardware device. You have to buy your own if you don't want to be stuck by your computer. Click Skype devices that don't require a Computer to view some options. SIP providers supply you with a telephone adapter when you sign up with their service. They usually require the device to be returned if you cancel the service or you will be charged a fee (around $40.00). Many SIP providers charge a setup or activation fee. Skype has no such fee. Skype is able to penetrate through most firewalls with little or no user configuration. SIP devices sometimes need router or firewall configuration to work properly. A common issue for SIP VOIP is one way audio but can usually be resolved without too much trouble. Skype will sometimes work with an ISP that is blocking SIP VOIP. SIP communications is easily blocked unless setup to tunnel through a VPN.
Skype has monthly SkypeOut plans as low as $2.95 per month that allow up to 10,000 minutes a month (Maximum of 6 Hours per day with no more than 50 different numbers). The cheapest SIP providers with "unlimited minutes" are around $12.00 per month (for the first 2 years paid up front and taxes etc.) or more and their definition of unlimited is usually around 3,000 minutes per month. Obviously this is a lot of minutes either way, but if you are a big talker then it might be an issue. Most SIP providers have better international rates than Skype. This is a big issue for me. I am forced to use SIP for my international needs. Skype does not even come close for the countries I call (not in their calling plans). If all of your long distance needs are within one of Skype's calling plans then you have no issue with this. Make sure the plan you choose includes the countries you call. Skype allows free in network calling and the same is true of any SIP provider I have seen.
Skype encrypts your voice before being sent over the internet. Most SIP providers do not encrypt your voice. This means an unscrupulous provider can monitor your calls as well as any internet node with packet sniffing technology. While it's true that Skype has allowed monitoring of traffic to and from China, it is still much more secure than SIP.
One disadvantage to Skype is the lack of 911 service. You will need to have some other method available if you require 911 service. U.S. SIP providers are required to have at least e911 service.
Phone Number Portability (LNP)
Skype allows you to select from a list of countries and pick your phone number. From what I can find out, you can not port your existing phone number to Skype but you can port it out. U.S. SIP providers are required to allow number portability in most cases. With a SIP provider you can opt to port in your existing phone number, they will give you a temporary phone number until your old number is ported in. That usually takes a few weeks.
Most SIP providers include voicemail with their service. Skype includes voicemail with the purchase of a subscription. A pay as you go plan does not include voicemail.
Skype uses a proprietary protocol to communicate. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage is it's encrypted as stated earlier and they can change their software to suit the needs of their customers as they see fit without the red tape of dealing with standards compliance. The disadvantage is you are restricted in your choices of software and hardware options. As time goes on this is becoming less of an issue as more hardware devices are being created. Nowadays you can buy devices that connect to the Skype network without the requirement of a computer. This just wasn't possible before.
The requirements for a successful VOIP installation are pretty simple. You must have sufficient internet bandwidth to support the audio streams in both directions. For SIP providers you generally need 128kbps upstream and downstream per line unless using a compressed codec. The Skype software is adaptive, 30kbps up/down will be enough for top voice quality.
Skype can be a substantial savings over regular voice over IP. For one year of Skype service - SkypeOut: $2.95/mo * 12 = $35.40 + SkypeIn: $30 year - comes out to only $65.40 year. Even the most inexpensive SIP provider is around $120 per year. Both will provide a substantial savings over traditional PSTN phone service.
Click download Skype to get started with Skype right now or check out a SIP provider below
ViaTalk - Broadband Phone Service