If you are interested in starting a VoIP service, or changing VoIP providers, you may be concerned with the portability of VoIP equipment. Should you decide to change providers in the future and can you take your VoIP equipment with you?
What is VoIP?
VoIP refers to voice over internet protocol – a communications system that uses your internet connection in place of traditional infrastructure. Voice and video calls, and data transmissions, are completed over the internet, eliminating the need for the purchase and maintenance of PBX systems and phone lines.
Customers are choosing VoIP in greater numbers, both for business and residential use, with the number of VoIP subscriptions in the U.S. tripling from 2010-2018 . This growth has been driven by the benefits of VoIP services: communications can be streamlined, and system scalability and flexibility is improved. Services are mobile and available remotely, are highly reliable, and often present significant cost savings.
VoIP equipment may include:
Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs): if you have an existing system with desktop telephones and want to keep it for use with VoIP, you will need an analog telephone adapter (ATA). If you are using PC-to-PC VoIP, without using existing phone systems, ATAs are not required.
If you are using an analog phone system for VoIP, and want to switch VoIP providers, you may need to purchase a new ATA. It is not guaranteed that an ATA will be portable from one VoIP provider to another.
Hardphones: If you do not wish to adapt analog phones to VoIP use, you may purchase IP/SIP phones that have been designed specifically for IP telephony. Hardphones are familiar, like a traditional phone in appearance, but may have advanced features such as the ability to make video calls from an in-built camera.
Should you decide to change VoIP providers in the future you will likely be able to continue operating VoIP hardphones already in use. There may be a setup process, where the new provider maps numbers to different hardphone units by user account, but the actual hardware should be transferable.
Softphones: If your business does not require a traditional desk phone for each employee, you may elect to use VoIP softphones instead. A VoIP softphone is essentially an application that enables communications between PCs or smartphones. Skype is a popular VoIP softphone service, but many are available.
VoIP service providers often have their own softphone apps, which are configured to work with their VoIP systems and are proprietary to their services. Should you use a proprietary VoIP softphone, you will need to change your selected service when you switch providers.
Related readings: Should Small Businesses Use VoIP Softphones?
PC Handsets / Headsets: A PC handset resembles a phone, but connects with the VoIP service through the computer using a USB device or sound card. A PC headset uses headphones and a microphone to connect to the computer and transmit communications. Headsets should be portable between VoIP providers, but a change in handsets may be required depending on the new VoIP provider’s constraints.
Phone Numbers: If, as a business owner, you’ve invested in marketing materials with your existing phone number included, you may be more concerned with bringing your phone number than bringing your equipment with you to a new provider.
Most VoIP providers allow number portability, so that the same phone number can be used even with a different service provider. However, some providers have an extra charge for this service, and it may take several days to transfer a phone number, so be sure your change management plan accounts for this possibility.
VoIP presents an enormous opportunity for customers to save money, streamline communications, and access features that are not available with traditional phone systems. However, customers may be concerned with investing in VoIP equipment without knowing if that equipment can be transferred to a new provider, should they switch VoIP companies in the future. The good news is that VoIP does not require a large investment in equipment; but if you do decide to purchase hardphones, handsets and headsets, they should be portable between providers, except under specific circumstances.