1.4. VoIP in the Home
A number of companies offer VoIP calling services that can be used in the home, more or less replacing conventional PSTN service. They deliver telephone calling capabilities using a broadband Internet connection. Not all of them permit placing calls to or receiving calls from the PSTN, but almost all allow you to call other users of the same service using the Internet instead of the PSTN. Some providers even have "peering" arrangements that allow you to call subscribers to other providers' services using the Internet.
Some of these services work only with proprietary telephone-calling software and don't allow you to use a hardphone. Certain providers can support the use of a special hardphone that connects to your PC's USB port and uses the PC as a gateway mechanism for accessing the network. Others provide an ATA device so that you can use one or more analog phones to place and receive calls using the service. Still others offer the ability to use IP phones.
Many of these services offer competitive calling rates, decent sound quality, and features that are close to that of the traditional phone company. There are solutions for adding more features and interesting hacks to a home-based VoIP network, too. Some of them are covered in this book.