Is there a free VoIP service?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
PAY ANNUALLY AND SAVE UP TO 33%.
- Up to 20 users only
- Business phone or toll-free numbers
- Unlimited calls within the US/CA*
- Unlimited business SMS
- Team messaging
- Document sharing
- 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,
- 24/7 support
Message, Video, Phone, Open Platform
- Automatic call recording
- Single Sign-on
- Multi-site admin and management
- Up to 8-digit extensions with site codes
- Hot desking
- Advanced call handling including whisper, barge, and more
- Video meetings with up to 200 participants
- Real-time analytics
- Popular CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, and more
- Industry-specific integrations with Canvas, Smarsh, and more
- Developer platform and custom integrations
Business phone or toll-free numbers
Unlimited calls within the US/CA*
Unlimited Business SMS
Visual voicemail and voicemail-to-email
Call management and phone system
- Answering rules
- Call forwarding
- Call transfer
- Call screening
- Call flip
- Call logs
- Shared lines*
- Call park
Call log reports
Unlimited internet fax
Unlimited audio conferencing
Video meetings and participants
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)
G Suite, Slack, and more