The Disadvantages of Voice Over IP

by Ilene Tatroe, Demand Media

Feature-rich and low-cost, Voice over IP seems like a great calling option for homes and businesses alike. VoIP can save customers more than 60 percent over the standard Public Swtiched Telephone Network telephone bill, according to a VoIP Systems USA infographic. Some VoIP providers bundle in additional features at no additional cost — including call waiting, call forwarding, call transfers and voice mail — while PSTN providers charge extra for these same features. Yet even as VoIP matures, there are still several disadvantages to consider before taking the leap to this Internet-based phone solution.

No Power No Phone

PSTN services generally continue to work when the power goes out, so you can continue to make calls during black outs and brown outs. Unlike PSTN, which gets its current through the phone line, VoIP service requires a broadband connection fed through the same power lines as other electrical devices. VoIP services usually go out at the same time as the power does, although some providers provide backup systems. Businesses may want to purchase a generator or other backup battery systems so that phone lines can continue to work in the event of an outage. Residential customers will probably find these backup solutions costly. Mobile phones are a good backup solution, as long as you can keep them charged and you have reliable cellular service at your home.

Emergency Service Locations

Every child knows to call 911 in an emergency. It’s easy to remember and, with PSTN, emergency services can trace the call to the location, so a young child or panicked adult doesn’t have to know the address. In the past, VoIP customers couldn’t be guaranteed 911 service and, even if they did have service, the automatic location services might not work. The Federal Communications Commission now requires that VoIP providers resolve many of these emergency service differences, but some problems still exist. Make sure you discuss emergency services and any differences from PSTN with your provider before making the switch.

Voice Quality

Voice quality in VoIP systems have improved significantly in the past several years, especially as high-speed Internet becomes the norm. You may still experience voice quality problems, such as garbling and delays or even dropped calls. This concern is salient if VoIP is running over low bandwidth or is competing for resources with other applications on your computer (if you are using a PC-based VoIP solution) or other devices using the Internet. Increasing Internet bandwidth can help in some situations, but if you experience quality problems, you should work with your VoIP vendor to identify and fix the problem.


As with any Internet-based technology, VoIP presents security problems that PSTN does not. Identity and service theft, viruses, malware, denial of service attacks, spamming, call tampering and phishing attacks are the most common security challenges for VoIP. Your provider may be taking steps to secure the network on their end — they don’t want to make news with a major security flaw — but businesses in particular may want to take additional security measures to limit disruption of service and financial fallout caused by VoIP security breaches.

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