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GigaPlus Argyll Community Broadband, Craignure, Isle of Mull: Frequently asked questions about VoIP/faq_voip

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Frequently asked questions

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What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a standards-based technology for carrying telephone calls over a data network. From the user's perspective, the "telephone" used to make and receive the calls can be a conventional wired telephone handset, a cordless telephone handset (e.g., DECT), a VoIP handset plugged into a PC, a headset plugged into a PC that has a "soft phone" app running on it, or a mobile phone or tablet with a "soft phone" app running on it. Dialling another person is done in the usual manner - enter the phone number on the handset, or into the app, and make the call; from the receiver's perspective, they are receiving a normal telephone call.
GPA and Vonage

GPA has partnered with Vonage to offer a VoIP service that will run over the GPA broadband service, and offers the potential to replace your fixed phone line altogether, thereby reducing the cost of your phone service (see Vonage vs BT price comparison). GPA will also offer a rebate of £25 to GPA subscribers that take up the Vonage VoIP service - this effectively reduces the connection fee for your GPA broadband by £25.

Features of the Vonage VoIP service include:

  • Free pre-configured "Vonage Box" (a VoIP router) that you plug a normal phone into.
  • Free apps that allow use of your mobile phone to make Vonage calls whenever you have a broadband connection, even when you are away from home. (This works in a similar way to the "TuGo" service offered by O2 (see: What about mobile phone support?)
  • There are various call packages, starting at £8/month for unlimited UK landline calls. There are other call packages that are appropriate to users that make a lot of international calls or calls to mobile numbers.
  • All packages include various goodies at no extra charge (which BT would charge for) such as caller display, 1471 Call Return, and voicemail/Answer 1571.
  • You can keep your own phone number or be assigned a new phone number, whichever you prefer.
  • Emergency (999/112 etc.) calls are supported.
  • More detailed Vonage FAQs can be found here
Can I keep my own phone number?
Generally it is possible for you to transfer your own number across to the new GPA Vonage VoIP service. However there are some minor exceptions depending upon who currently "owns" the number being transferred.
What about emergency (999/112) calls?
The GPA Vonage VoIP service does allow emergency calls to be made.
How do I connect to VoIP?
If you are using a conventional wired or cordless phone, you will need to plug it (or its base station in the case of a cordless phone) into the GPA Vonage router that in turn plugs into the GPA Broadband router. The GPA Vonage router that is supplied by Vonage is pre-configured for your VoIP service.
If you are using a VoIP app on a PC/phone/pad, this will need to be connected to a Broadband network either via an Ethernet plug on the router or via WiFi, and the app will need to be configured for your GPA Vonage VoIP account.
What is a VoIP service like?
The service experienced by the user should be closely similar to a conventional telephone service, although the call quality is highly dependent on the quality of the broadband service that you are running over. A single VoIP call needs approximately 100Kb/s of bandwidth in each direction, so even on the lowest service level offered by GPA, which is 2Mb/s there should be more than enough bandwidth to run a VoIP call, even several simultaneous calls if need be.
Who can I call using VoIP?
VoIP calls can be made to other VoIP subscribers, and also to subscribers on other phone networks - conventional telephone networks such as BT, mobile phone networks such as O2, Vodafone, etc. etc., both within the UK and worldwide. In other words, if you would expect to be able to make a phone call to someone using a BT phone or a mobile phone, you will be able to call that person using VoIP.
How much do VoIP calls cost?
VoIP calls are generally cheaper than calls using land lines, and in many cases, overseas calls are not much more expensive than UK calls. There are various call packages, starting at £8/month for unlimited UK landline calls. There are other call packages that are appropriate to users that make a lot of overseas calls or calls to mobile numbers. All packages include various extras at no extra charge (which BT would charge for) such as caller display, 1471 Call Return, and voicemail/Answer 1571.
What about VoIP service during power cuts?
One of the features of BT's telephone services is that the telephone can often still be usable if power to the house is interrupted by a power cut, as long as you connect a simple phone to the BT line, or a cordless phone that has a battery powered base station. As VoIP is dependent on the broadband service to make it work, if a power cut affects the broadband network, then it also affects the VoIP service. However, if this is a concern, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the problem, such as using an "uninterruptible power supply" (UPS) to power the broadband router, the VoIP router, and the cordless phone base station. A UPS suitable for this kind of use starts at around £60, depending on how long you want the devices to stay powered up. There is an article <> that goes into the use of UPS in more detail.
What about mobile phone support?
Mobile phone coverage in the GigaPlus Argyll area has always been an issue; at best, the coverage is patchy, at worst it is non-existent. The two major mobile service providers that cover the GPA area, O2 and Vodafone, now offer a means of supporting mobile phone service if you have access to a good broadband service. For some people, these technologies can offer a viable alternative to using a fixed telephone line. O2 offer the "TuGo" service; you can install a TuGo app onto your mobile phone, and as long as your phone is connected to broadband, you can make and receive calls and texts even if there is no mobile phone service. There is also a TuGo app that you can run on a PC. At the present time the TuGo service only works for monthly O2 subscribers, and doesn't work with O2 pay as you go; it also doesn't work with 3rd party mobile services that use the O2 network, such as Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff. Vodafone's Sure Signal device works slightly differently - it is a plug-in device that allows you to set up a Vodafone 3G "hotspot" that connects to your broadband service and supports up to 8 mobile phones, each of which have to be registered with the hotspot. Find out more...
Can I keep my BT phone line with GPA?
If you prefer to keep your BT telephone service rather than using a VoIP service, there is no problem with that - the GPA broadband service is completely separate from BT's phone lines, so you could keep your BT phone service for voice calls and just use GPA for broadband. However, there are potential cost savings to be made by switching over to VoIP, because the cost of a VoIP service is potentially cheaper than the cost of a BT phone line rental and calls plan (see Vonage vs BT price comparison).
Vonage VoIP vs BT land line price comparison
Depending on the BT service features that you currently pay for and the Vonage package that you choose, changing to Vonage can result in significant savings, as there is no line rental associated with the Vonage service, and many of the calling features are either cheaper or free. There is a comparison between Vonage prices and various other telephony providers, including BT, here.