Is there a free VoIP service?

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The short answer: yes. There are free VoIP software and applications available which you can use to make and receive calls—even video calls!— over the internet. 

 

Some of the best free VoIP services on the market include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo and Hangouts, Skype, and Viber.

 

Of course, if you’re running a business, then the bigger question is whether these are enough to meet your communication needs. Would you be better off with a relatively cheap VoIP service that brings more to the table?

 

Before we answer that question, let’s find out what you’re getting with existing free VoIP applications:

What are the advantages of free VoIP service?

Even though they’re free, these VoIP applications do have some benefits that you can’t get from regular landlines.

Anyone can sign up

Getting a free VoIP service is so easy, anyone can do it.

For one thing, there are so many providers to choose from. You can simply Google them or search your app store (Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store) on your mobile app. From there, just download the app and register.

In most cases, you only need a valid email address (or a Facebook or Twitter account) to create an account. After registration and some general verification and validation steps, you’re ready to make VoIP calls!

They include chat, group chat, and easy sharing options

Aside from letting you make VoIP calls, most free VoIP apps have messaging options too. You can even create group chats with multiple users. As a bonus, you can also use these applications to share links, photos, videos, and files to other people either individually or in a group chat.

You can make video calls

Some free VoIP services also let you make video calls. Facebook Messenger, Skype, and most other free VoIP services use your computer or mobile device’s camera, speaker, and mic to make video calls over the internet. That’s definitely something that you can’t do with regular landlines.

They can accommodate conference calling and video conferencing

If you need to host VoIP calls for multiple parties, there are free VoIP services that let you do that too. Just create a group and start a call from there. Voila! You’ve just started a conference call. You could even level it up by doing a video conference call instead of a regular group audio VoIP call. It’s super convenient for people who can’t be in the same room, but need to be on the same page.

What are the limitations of free VoIP services?

Even with these advantages, there are still some things free VoIP apps aren’t able to do. And for businesses, these limitations can be pretty significant. It makes these apps unrealistic permanent substitutes for regular landline phones.

For example, here are some of the biggest limitations of most free solutions:

Unless people are using the same VoIP App, they can’t talk to each other

The main limitation of these free apps is that they only work when the person calling and the person being called are both on the same app. For example: people on Viber can’t call WhatsApp users and vice versa (unless they have both apps downloaded). That’s pretty limiting, especially if you need to call prospects or customers who aren’t using the same apps as you.

They can’t dial phone numbers (for free)

Most of these services are only able to make calls within the application, which means you can’t call phone numbers directly. Of course, Viber and Skype do have that function—but you’d need to buy call minutes to use them, which makes the service paid and not free.

You can’t get a phone number (for free)

Another big disadvantage of free VoIP apps is that you can’t really connect a phone number to the VoIP phone service. Remember how the app can’t call landlines? Well there’s also no way to make calls from landlines to the free VoIP—unless you’re willing to pay, of course. Skype can assign you a temporary telephone number from different countries but, again, it’s an extra charge that negates the “free” aspect of the service.

They’re highly dependent on the quality of internet connection

All VoIP services, paid or not, need an internet connection to work. But the quality of the calls for free VoIP apps is more easily affected by the quality of internet connection used—by both the person calling and the person being called.

With paid versions, specifically the ones catering to businesses, the service requires less internet bandwidth to get a quality call. This is because it uses high-quality codecs to compress your voice.

Think of it as putting your documents into a zip file so it’s easier to send them through email. The codec converts your voice into a smaller file size so it can travel faster over the internet. Before signing you on as a customer, VoIP providers for business usually test the speed and quality of your company’s internet connection to see if it can handle VoIP calls. They also use QoS (Quality of Service) routers that prioritize internet-based phone calls over other internet traffic.

There’s no VoIP E-911 feature

The thing with VoIP is that you can attach a phone number to the service, but it doesn’t have to reflect your actual area code. That is to say: you can use a number that makes you seem like you’re from another state or even another country without actually being there.

That’s why federal law requires business VoIP providers to register the address of the VoIP customer. This is so that first responders know where to send help during emergencies. And another thing—since it only works within the app’s network of users and has no business phone number, it won’t have the ability to call 911 during emergencies. That’s a pretty serious issue.

Do I need a free VoIP service?

That depends on what you plan to use VoIP for. If you only need a service that lets you connect with family and friends, then a free VoIP service is more than enough to help you keep connected.

If, however, you need a home phone that can replace your traditional phone or landline, then free VoIP services may not be adequate because, again, it doesn’t let you communicate with people who don’t use the service’s app.

Calls coming from landline phones or even other VoIP apps won’t work. You’d be better off getting a residential VoIP service, since it’s at least designed to mimic general landline functions for a much lower price.

If you’re a business, both free VoIP services and residential VoIP probably won’t be enough. (Even regular landlines won’t cut it for most businesses.)

If you get a decent number of phone calls, you should look into getting an advanced VoIP-based business phone system with advanced call management features, which makes sure that your business doesn’t miss any calls.

For example, this could include an auto-attendant that answers all your incoming calls and a PBX component that routes calls to the right department or extension. This would be on top of the VoIP service that allows your team to make and receive calls from anywhere, as long as you have internet connection.

What is the best VoIP service for business?

The best VoIP service for your business should be judged based on a few qualities:

1

Mobility – The main advantage of VoIP is that it can be used from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. Check with your provider to see if they allow you to access the VoIP service through computers, mobile devices, and personal networks as well as a physical VoIP phone at the office.

2

Scalability – There should be options for your business to not only scale up as it grows, but also scale down when it streamlines. Check how easy it is to add, delete, or reassign phone numbers and extensions. See if the same business phone system can be used across multiple locations. Are there commitments and contracts within your current plan? Are you allowed to upgrade or downgrade your plan during a contract period? These are just a few of the questions it’s important to know the answers to.

3

Usability – How easy is it to manage, configure, and use your phone service? Today, VoIP phone systems are slowly but surely moving towards “unified communications.” This is where every type of communication, like voice, SMS, fax, voicemail, and video meetings, can be accessed from one dashboard or platform.

4

Security – Ask your provider about the security measures they use to protect their VoIP system. Look for a multi-faceted approach that combines high-level security measures like encryption (basically hiding information from unauthorized users) with best practices against cyberattacks and fraud.

5

 Reliability – It’s all about redundancy when it comes to cloud-hosted business phone systems. Redundancy is when a service is hosted on multiple servers in data centers based in multiple locations. This way, when one server or data center goes down, others can take over. RingCentral, for example, is hosted in bi-coastal data centers and has a 99.999% SLA, which means that customers are pretty much guaranteed that the phone system is always up and running.

Interested in seeing what a VoIP-based unified communications solution can do for your business? Why not try RingCentral for free? For more information, you can check plans and pricing below.

RingCentral plans for your small business

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Essentials

Message, Phone

$29.99
$19.99
/user/month *
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  • Up to 20 users only
  • Business phone or toll-free numbers
  • Unlimited calls within the US/CA*
  • Unlimited business SMS
  • Voicemail-to-text
  • Team messaging
  • Document sharing
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Standard
Message, Video, Phone
$34.99
$24.99
/user/month *
Everything in Essentials PLUS
  • No limit on number of users
  • Business phone numbers in over 100 countries
  • Unlimited internet fax
  • Unlimited audio conferencing
  • Video meetings with up to 100 participants
  • Up to 24-hour meeting duration
  • Quality-of-service reports
  • Popular integrations including
    Office 365, G Suite, Slack,
    and more
  • 24/7 support
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Ultimate
Message, Video, Phone, Open Platform
$59.99
$49.99
/user/month *
Everything in Premium PLUS
  • Device status reports
  • Device status alerts
  • Unlimited storage**
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Business phone or toll-free numbers

One phone number for calling, team messaging, and video meetings access.
Each user gets a dedicated phone number at no additional cost. Essentials edition doesn't include video meetings.
Toll-free minutes
Toll-free minutes are per account regardless of number of lines. Additional minutes are always available for automatic purchase, which bill at 3.9¢/min.
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100
1,000
2,500
10,000

Unlimited calls within the US/CA*

Unlimited calling/phone calls within the US and CA. Plus, choose from affordable and convenient international calling plans that fit your business. Terms and conditions may apply.
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Unlimited Business SMS

Use your business phone number to send unlimited one-to-one or group SMS/MMS.
Voicemail-to-text
Automatically convert voicemail messages into text form so users can screen messages easily and respond to the most important call first.

Visual voicemail and voicemail-to-email

Access voicemail messages from your desk and mobile phones, email, desktop app, and online account.
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Team messaging

Collaborate more effectively with colleagues, clients, and contractors with team messaging, task assignment, calendar sharing, and more. Also, utilize out-of-the-box integrations with Jira, Asana, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, and more.
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Document sharing
Access documents and files stored on your computer or your Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox accounts and easily share them with your team members.

Call management and phone system
administration

Sophisticated call management, enabling you to configure your phone system across the entire company, regardless of location or device. Optimize communication with custom admin and user configurations online or using the mobile app.
Call management features include:
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  • Call forwarding
  • Call transfer
  • Call screening
  • Call flip
  • Call logs
  • Presence
  • Notifications
  • Shared lines*
  • Call park
  • Intercom
  • Paging
*Not available with Essentials.
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Mobile apps for iOS and Android
Whether you're an Apple or Android user, you can use your smartphones and tablets to make and receive calls, join and host meetings, team message coworkers and partners, send and receive faxes and texts, set up and join conferences, and configure phone system settings, notifications, and voicemail.
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High-definition (HD) voice
To consistently deliver the highest HD quality possible, RingCentral utilizes the Opus Interactive codec for audio and video, as well as the G.722 codec for audio.
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Call log reports

Get a complete record of all your inbound and outbound calls and faxes. View the name of the caller, the number or extension dialed, as well as the time, date, and duration of the call.
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Phone rental options: desk and
conference phones
Rent any desk phone or conference phone for a low monthly price.
Contact sales for details and pricing.
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Unlimited internet fax

Send and receive faxes from your computer, mobile device, Microsoft Outlook, cloud storage providers (such as Dropbox), and more.
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Unlimited audio conferencing

Host an unlimited number of audio conference calls, with up to 1,000 attendees per conference. Each user gets unique host and participant access codes.

Video meetings and participants

Hold video meetings with screen sharing, in-meeting public and private chat capabilities—anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Maximum number of participants varies by the video platform:
Premium with RingCentral Video (up to 200)
Premium with RingCentral Meetings (up to 100)
Standard with RingCentral Video (up to 100)
Standard with RingCentral Meetings (up to 4)
Up to 100 people
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Up to 200 people
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Up to 200 people
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High-definition (HD) video
RingCentral delivers crystal-clear HD quality video and voice.
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Quality-of-service reports
Gain the ability to proactively review overall RingCentral system health and diagnose quality issues impacting users. A holistic overview of quality measured by location, endpoint, codec, ISP, and more enables easier monitoring and faster troubleshooting.
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Popular integrations including Office 365,
G Suite, Slack, and more
RingCentral offers the largest ecosystem of integration apps in the communications and collaboration space to maximize productivity and efficiency. Get integrations for bots, AI, analytics, archiving, automation, productivity, and more.
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24/7 support
Unlimited chat and phone support.

Multi-level auto attendant

Answer callers automatically with customized greetings, and ensure every call is directed to the right employee or department.
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Professional implementation
Get the most out of RingCentral with a portfolio of professional and personalized services, ranging from planning, designing, and implementation to project management, ongoing support, and consulting.
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Call recording

Automatic call recording: Set your RingCentral phone system to automatically record inbound and outbound calls for individual users or inbound calls for departments.
On-demand call recording: Allows Users to manually record phone calls anytime using an IP Phone provisioned with RingCentral, Forwarding Number, or RingCentral Phone for Mobile.
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On-demand
Automatic
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Single Sign-on
Users can log in to RingCentral automatically with their corporate credentials. Reduce the IT cost of assisting in password recovery and benefit from a central authentication point that securely accesses your RingCentral service from any device.
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Multi-site admin and management
Get the flexibility to manage and support your branch offices based on their unique operational needs.
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Up to 8-digit extensions with site codes
Simplified intra-site dialing for large multi-site customers.
Hot desking
Allows users to log in to shared phones to access their own RingCentral extensions, voicemail and greetings, and other features.
Advanced call handling including whisper, barge, and more
Advanced call management controls (monitor, whisper, barge, takeover) to allow authorized users to listen in on employee calls with clients to monitor the conversation, provide coaching, and facilitate discussion.
Other features include overflow call queues, user groups, and role-based access control with customized roles/permissions.
Real-time analytics
Gain real-time insights into your RingCentral system and gather business-relevant data, alerts, and reporting metrics.
Popular CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, and more
Bring the functions and features of RingCentral Office into your business apps such as Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, etc.
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Industry-specific integrations with Canvas, Smarsh, and more
Bring the functions and features of RingCentral Office into your vertical's business apps such as Canvas, Smarsh, etc.
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Developer platform and custom integrations

RingCentral APIs let you create your own custom applications and seamlessly integrate business communications into your key business processes, so you can automate workflows, drive efficiency, and gain valuable insight from communications data.
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Device status reports
Monitor hard phone registration status globally and gain visibility into your devices' history.
Device status alerts
Set up automated monitoring rules and receive notifications when devices are offline.
Unlimited storage**
Store an unlimited** amount of documents, spreadsheets, presentation files, contracts, invoices, images, videos, and recordings. **Retention period applies.
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