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Is VoIP beneficial to everyone or just large enterprises?

With, it seems, everyone lauding the benefits of VoIP technoloy, some wonder what all the fuss is about. VoIP and IP telephony expert Jon Arnold discusses his thoughts on who will really benefit from VoIP.

If VoIP is so much better than my regular phone service, why isn't everybody using it? I see commercials for it everywhere but I don't know anyone who has it. My phone service works fine, and I use my cell phone most of the time anyway. Why bother with VoIP?
You raise a lot of good questions here, and I ask the same questions myself. In some ways VoIP is more beneficial to the phone company than subscribers, as it lowers their operating costs considerably and makes it easier to create new services. However, not everyone has broadband, and VoIP still has some shortcomings compared to conventional phone service. For most people using it, the cost savings more than offset these concerns, and they'll never go back to their phone company.

That said, your phone company is in no hurry to offer you VoIP because they have so much invested in the service you have already, and they are naturally averse to killing off the goose with the golden egg. On the other hand, your cable company sees VoIP as the perfect ticket to go after the phone company's subscribers, and they're having a lot of success doing just that. So, you're more likely to hear about VoIP -- and subscribe to it -- from them. However, you'll typically be buying VoIP as part of a bundle that includes cable TV and Internet service. Most people don't normally associate telephony with their cable provider, so it will take some time for this to become a more mainstream idea.

Interestingly, under optimal conditions, VoIP is actually superior to regular telephony, and that would be a great reason to buy it. However, it will be some time before IP networks totally displace the PSTN, and until then, it will be difficult to sell VoIP on this basis. Today, VoIP's main appeal is cost savings, but for many people, their telephony dollars are better spent on cell phones, and as such, VoIP often comes out a distant second when these decisions are being made.

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