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Swapping to Broadband VoIP from a UK Copper Home Phone Line

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 37,758
phone_voip_uk_internet_calling

Generally all you need for a VoIP service to work is a stable internet connection and it doesn’t usually need to be particularly fast. For example, Vonage recommends an upload speed of 90Kbps (0.09 Megabits per second) for the best voice quality, but they can support less optimized calls at a lower rate of 30Kbps (i.e. slower than an ancient dialup modem).

On this point we should add that there are various different voice codecs for handling the conversion and compression of your analogue voice stream into a digital packet (e.g. GSM, iLBC and G.711 to G.729), all of which have different requirements, but voice traffic is generally not a major concern. You’ll most likely find G.728 or G.729 to be fairly common if setting up VoIP via a broadband router.

Arguably latency (the time delay as data travels between servers) is going to be more of an issue than connection speed, but for the most part this is only really a consideration when dealing with Satellite broadband (i.e. extreme delays can cause calls to go way out of sync or to even disconnect) and in business environments (multiple channels). Some mobile data connections can also suffer from latency issues but this isn’t so serious.

The Primary Methods of Using VoIP

1. Software and Apps (inc. Web Based)

Software based VoIP solutions (e.g. Skype) will usually enable you to make calls via a web-browser, mobile app (iOS, Android) and / or desktop software (PC / MAC). But not all of these are true VoIP or will give you SIP details, which are required to setup hardware (see below for more on this).

The advantage of software VoIP is that it’s very easy to setup and you usually only need to login in order to use it.

2. ATA – Analogue Telephone Adapter

As explained earlier, if you you want to keep your existing analogue or DECT phone but use it with VoIP then what you need is an ATA adapter, which acts as a bridge between the handset and your broadband connection. Some VoIP providers, such as Vonage, will supply their own form of branded adapter but you can also buy and configure your own (e.g. Grandstream HT802 for c.£35).

Essentially you plug the ATA via an Ethernet (RJ45) cable into your broadband router and then the RJ11 (FXS / FXO) ports on the back of the adapter can be used to connect your analogue phone. At this point you’ll need to configure the ATA for your VoIP service, which can be done via a web-based admin interface and some models also allow you to do the setup via voice prompts on your handset (clever but tedious).

At this point you’ll need the SIP account settings from your VoIP provider (login, pass, SIP server IP/domain addresses etc.) and you may also need to select the voice codec (if in doubt try G.729) for the phone port being used. Obviously if you use an ATA provided by your VoIP service (assuming they offer one) then most of this should be pre-configured, otherwise you’ll need some basic IT skills to do all this.

grandstream ht802

3. VoIP Integrated Broadband Routers

A growing number of broadband routers now come with the equivalent of a built-in ATA adapter, which allows you to plug your old analogue or DECT phone directly into the back of the router’s RJ11 FXS / FXO port(s). After that you can configure the SIP / VoIP details directly via the router’s web-based admin interference.

See below for what this looks like on a DrayTek v2762vac router with two phone ports, which in this example is using SIP details from the company’s own DrayTel VoIP service.

draytek v2762vac voip settings example

Going forward we’d expect all of the major ISPs to eventually bundle broadband routers that include FXS / FXO phone ports on the back (many already do) and these will also become much more common in cheaper third-party devices. The ability to skip the need for a separate ATA certainly makes this setup a lot cleaner.

4. Dedicated VoIP Phones

Another option for domestic consumers is to forget about using your existing analogue or DECT handset entirely and buy a dedicated VoIP phone, which will connect directly to your router via either an Ethernet cable or even over WiFi.

Phones like this tend to be quite sophisticated and may even support video calls and email, among other things. The downside is that a good one can be quite pricey and most of these are perhaps more intended for the office environment, although you can get cheaper models.

One thing to be aware of here is that a fair few VoIP Phones are dependent upon the Power over Ethernet (POE) standard (i.e. they get both data and power over the Ethernet cable) and a lot of consumer broadband routers do not support this. If in doubts its very easy to buy a cheap POE supporting “Switch” hub that can sit between the router and phone, which as a bonus will also give you more LAN ports.

voip phone and poe switch

One final option is to purchase a USB based VoIP handset, which simply plugs into the USB port on your desktop or laptop computer and then you can configure the VoIP settings via software. However this isn’t ideal because it is dependent upon your computer being switched-on in order to function (i.e. you may be better off installing VoIP software on a Smartphone).

Out of the above options we’d say that anybody looking to move from an old analogue phone to VoIP solution, while at the same time replicating the old approach as closely as possible, would probably be better off either adopting the ATA adapter (2) or FXS / FXO equipped broadband router (3) approach.

Transferring an Existing Phone Number

Ofcom have made it a requirement to be able to port phone numbers between providers, although on some platforms the technical restrictions and overly sensitive admin checks involved can still hamper the process. Nevertheless it should be perfectly possible to move numbers both between different UK VoIP providers and away from at least the major network operators (e.g. Virgin Media, BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk).

The caveat in all this is that at present, until the regulator comes up with a better approach (and boy.. oh.. boy do we need one!), porting your number away from an existing fixed phone line can be a slow and tedious process. Likewise the process is not without its negative consequences, but we’ll come back to that.

You can also expect to be charged a porting fee, which may be a small one-off charge of £20 +vat or more and of course there may be other charges for on-going use (you can’t use the number for free but most VoIP providers cover this via their various rental charges / plans).

What’s the Number Porting Process?
1. Setup an account with your chosen VoIP provider (they will most likely also give you a phone number by default).

2. Make sure the phone number you want to port is both owned by you and still in-service (you’ll need evidence of this, such as a recent copy of your telephone bill with the number and address on). We recommend the bill be less than 3 months old.

3. Make sure you haven’t started any kind of other change on the line (e.g. line cease, line stop or broadband migration).

4. Make sure you’re near the very end of your broadband and / or phone contract before attempting this (we’ll explain why further down).

5. Ask your chosen VoIP provider to send you a number porting request form or find it on their website. Sadly some VoIP providers don’t make this easy to find. The VoIP provider may also ask you to include a signed letter (Letter of Authority – sometimes combined with the porting request form), confirming your intention to port the number (make sure to include your VoIP account number on this).

6. Fill in the form/letter with details of your current operator, number and the date you’d like the port to take place. Send this back to the VoIP provider, alongside evidence to prove that you own the line (as above), and this will give them the authority to request a port away from your existing operator. This is Gaining Provider Led (GPL), so you don’t have to tell your existing phone provider first.

7. The process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a full month, during which time you should hopefully still be able to use both your old number and the number that your VoIP provider gave you when you first joined their service (if applicable). Consider this delay when choosing a date for your number port – planning ahead will save you a lot of trouble.

Now the bad news, as if having to wait several weeks wasn’t already painful enough! Try not to make any mistakes on that number porting form, even small ones, because if you do then it could result in your request being delayed or rejected and the latter may attract a failed port charge (usually costs a bit less than the original port request fee).

We’ve also found that some VoIP providers (e.g. Vonage) will expect you to, a) keep a working handset connected to both your old landline and new VoIP number during the process and, b) to have made and received at least one call on both services (particularly the VoIP account that you setup earlier). Failing to do this may delay the number port.

Continued over the page..

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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35 Responses
  1. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    If you transfer your broadband and phone to Virgin Media, you’ll pay line rental of £19 a month even if you get VoIP via the hub 3.0 – which seems a lot.

    • Avatar Bargain Hunter

      Thanks for that, did not know VM did VOIP at £19 that for a start will be a £11 a month saving over my BT Cloud Collaborate which costs me £30 with VAT per month. Will also have to check out all the other MarkJ mentions.

    • Avatar StevenNT

      While it’s true that the VM hub 3 has phone ports, but not all VM areas support this yet.

      Mine has the ports disabled at present. I was led to believe this is for VM new build areas where PSTN is not supplied with a view that it might be enabled in the legacy areas eventually when VM decide to close the original PSTN network down.

      I’m happy to be corrected on this.

    • Avatar bargain hunter

      Id likely be a business customer as i am with BT and take their solution which only requires “broadband connectivity”.
      https://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/applications/voip/

      Not interested in residential internet or Hub 3 i have my own equipment for VOIP.

    • Avatar Aaron

      @StevenNT
      All new installs of VM will be VoIP & they’ll soon be converting all current traditional landlines to VoIP.

  2. Avatar Fabrizio

    Great article! I’m in the process of moving away from Vonage to Sipgate ( no charge for leaving but Sipgate wants £30 to port in which isn’t too bad because I won’t have a monthly fee with their basic option ); I’ve written an article about my experience of porting away my previous landline number to Vonage a few years back, scary moments. Please forgive my atrocious English as it’s my third language.

    https://hubpages.com/technology/Is-the-UK-market-competitive-enough-for-Voip-Decoupling-my-phone-number-from-a-BT-line-experience

    • Avatar Jack

      Good choice! I’ve been a happy Sipgate customer since 2014 and they’ve been brilliant with me. No monthly costs and I have my basic account linked with my PBX on a raspberry pi.

    • Avatar Fabrizio

      Glad to hear it Jack 🙂

  3. Avatar chris conder

    On our fibre network the majority have gone with Vonage or Sipgate, no real issues as long as the instructions are followed. We do find however that many are just using their mobiles and not bothering with a landline. Great article Mark, thanks.

  4. Avatar Graham Long

    Mark, You don’t mention that now that many mobile phones support WiFi Calling, using your mobile as if it were your landline phone, makes the old landline redundant. Many of us who use one of the altnet fibre broadband suppliers (Gigaclear, BARN, Hyperoptic etc) can not only dump the old copper landline, we don’t even need to use a VOIP service provider and can just use the one mobile phone for all calls, even in areas where the mobile phone signal is poor. In my experience however, the mobile networks and mobile manufacturers do not do a good job at telling customers which mobile phones support wifi calling and the networks make you jump through a couple of hoops to get wifi calling enabled on your account. (Same applies to VOLTE – the ability to make make voice calls over the 4G network rather than only using it for data)

    • Good point, although I’ve found WiFi Calling to be quite patchy on my phone and the voice connection wasn’t always stable. In any case this article is about VoIP rather than alternative methods.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      I have a Samsung Galaxy J4+ (Android) which has never failed to offer wifi calling from my home wifi powered by Gigaclear fibre. When out and about it also offers wifi calling (by showing a handset symbol with the wifi symbol above) when ever I am logged on to a free wifi service in cafe’s, shops etc. If you find wifi calling patchy Mark it is likely to be because the wifi service you are connected to is patchy.

    • In this case it’s more likely to be an issue with the phone / settings itself or my strict network security controls.

    • Avatar Joe

      @Mark Think we’ve all hit the proper security breaks stuff dilemma 🙂

    • Avatar Phil

      @Graham Long

      I’ve had several issues with Wi-Fi calling with EE but now they seem pretty stable.

      Trouble we find if only using a mobile phone is you only have one mobile, whereas the home phone we have 3 (DECT) in order to hear the phone over the entire house. This means if I leave my mobile in another part of the house and someone calls my mobile, I don’t hear it ring and miss the call. Often, family if failing to get an answer on a mobile will ring the home phone as a backup. Also some more elderly relatives can’t bring themselves to ring a mobile number under the assumption its more expensive, even if that isn’t the case with their call plan. Admittedly as time goes on this becomes less of an issue.

      So I understand why people like to keep a home phone even if it isn’t strictly necessary, and overall it just seems more reliable, although that will not be the case with VoIP as you have more things to go wrong. When your internet goes down and you pick up the VoIP phone to call support, that isn’t going to work, and if you are on Wi-Fi calling, neither is that! So off to the phone box if you can find one, then the problem is out to make an outbound call using a defibrillator 🙂

  5. Avatar RICK OLIVER

    vonage – one to avoid…. port 5060 potentially pricey….. having tried both these providers with mixed results i decided to try sipgate basic…… support is via messaging system only but they are cheaper than the vonage equivalent. Costs me £9.95 monthly for unlimited land line and mobile calls anywhere in the UK 01,02,03,07 can also access the emergency services. Set up is a bit convoluted as they send an activation code by post (in order to confirm your address for the emergency services) which can take up to 4 working days to arrive; web based user interface is basic but does the job. I wanted a cheap way to call mobiles and this service ticks all the boxes in that regard ….. have got rid of my mobile (android) as a result (bye bye google)

  6. Avatar Joe

    The obvious Q is what is AAISP doing that others can’t replicate?

    I’m sure it will fix itself in time but atm I do think swapping to VoIP is a pain for average users.

    • Being both a VoIP provider and broadband ISP no doubt plays a role, although not every provider does both.

    • Avatar Joe

      Fair point; I’d expect all the fibre providers to see an obvious synergy in providing bb and VoIP. The old copper resellers of OR or LLU copper I can see the issues or even disinterest atm…

  7. Avatar 5G Infinity

    Did this in February, ported from BT to Voipfone, painless process and the Cisco ATA that Voipfone provided (GBP40) was already set up.

    The only challenge I have noted is that if you put the softclient on your mobile, it takes precedence over the VoIP connection to the house. What is useful is going on holiday and still being able to take calls to the house line and also use it to make calls with no surcharges.

    Great article and appreciate the explanations, it is interesting to note that Voipfone also spend a lot of time in the ‘tech side’ of VoIP, which is great if for instance you have both a business number and home number on same VoIP connection and use the PBX features. Works well, and all setup is via web browser but its still wrapped in tech language.

  8. Avatar Charles Smith

    A good article and a useful basis for those considering the leap from POTS. One recent development is that Google have started to offer Google Voice numbers in the UK to their GSuite business users. I’m tinkering with it now and am impressed so far. Otherwise we use SIPgate team which is pretty reliable and relatively low cost. We used to use Vonage but on some of the international calls we get poor voice quality, scarily it was our clients telling us our voice was choppy even though they sounded okay to us.

  9. Avatar t0m5k1

    Great article.
    I’ve been waiting for naked xDSL/FTTP(C) for years but all ISP’s seem agnostic or ignorant to it, one even said it is not possible!

  10. Avatar Meadmodj

    Not all VoIP are the same (both functionally and technically) and the direct comparison of the general VoIP providers with the new services that will be offered instead of the PSTN (BT, Virgin, Talk Talk) may not be totally valid. Latency and network congestion will play a big part in the quality of voice calls and it will be easier for ISPs to manage QoS of voice and hence the use of the term VoBB is now being used. Clearmode cannot be guaranteed over IP but new standards will minimise issues. VoIP providers independent of the ISP will still need to route via general IP networks. So whilst VoBB will use VoIP there will be a difference.

    All the main providers already have both TDM and IP platforms. These will be consolidated overtime along with mobile. Longer term mobile/fixed will merge in their use and functionality.

    As Landline call use has fallen over the years the costs have migrated to the “Line Rental”. The physical line is now invariably included in the BB charges and PSTN facility differs in cost and package. BT include their Weekend Call package in their BB product. Other ISPs do similarly and the package content can differ widely. Much will change when BT launch their Consumer Digital Voice products and Virgin/TalkTalk etc announce their equivalents. The main suppliers will be in a better position to peel off VoBB traffic to their switching platforms for interconnection UK and Internationally. I also see Mobile converging with the fixed phone service as a single offering.

    The issue for the consumer will be how each ISP approaches the issue. BT is initially proposing the SOGEA faceplate and a cable from the ATA socket on the router back to the existing house wiring and existing phones. Whilst for business it is more likely to continue to be IP Phones connected to the router. OR are likely to continue to support VFA on the ONT. So each ISP will have a number of options and will need to explain to their consumers exactly how it will work going forward.

    The current cost comparisons above may be completely different as we enter the PSTN closure period. But I agree using Mobile only may suit certain lifestyles and 4G data can now be competitive particularly on poor broadband service.

  11. Avatar Robert March

    If you are interested in a very economic worldwide VoIP provider with the additional benefit of being based in Canada, I highly recommend voip.ms. They have been my residential and business provider for many years. Excellent support throughout and servers located in all the major continents.

  12. Avatar David Ford

    Having been granted the opportunity to ditch BT in it’s entirety by a combination of B4RN and some hard work, we decided not to opt for the simple Vonage box solution.
    Instead we’ve had great service and a very flexible interface (suitable for business/home/handset differentiation and call routing) from Yay.com.
    It’s worth checking them out – reliable service (last three years no outages) and good customer service.
    Excellent technical support when setting up our Snom hardware too.

  13. Avatar Phil

    Naims.net have been providing a basic VOIP solution for £2.99 per month plus extremely low cost calls inc Voice mail which can be sent to your email if necessary for at least 5 years. You can port your existing landline number over to the VOIP service or select a new geographical phone number. The VOIP service can also be set up on a Smart phone via Apps like Bria so calls can be made and taken over Wifi or 4G. I made a call to my local council in the UK whilst in the US, I was on for an hour to them and the call cost be 30p. When they called back on my local number they thought I was actually at home.

  14. Avatar Andy K

    Originally I had BT Phone and Internet. I took out a Virgin Media internet only connection (no phone or TV) to start with and ran it in parallel for a month. I tested SIPGate using a Siemens Gigaset VOIP to DECT box. It worked well, so I then I ported my BT Landline to SIPGate Basic and cancelled my BT Phone and Internet.

    I was quite ready to ditch the landline but you do still need a land line number for some things.

    As far as SIPgate goes, I like the way that I get emails on my iPhone when there is a missed call or voicemail (with the voicemail as an attachment). Part of the number transfer and registration process was to set up the geo-location for the number so it can be used for emergency calls.

    I run the Virgin Media Router and the Siemens Gigaset VOIP-DECT box from a small UPS, so I still have telephony if the power goes off (for a while).

    One year on, I’d say I’m very happy with it. The £20 credit at SIPGate seems to last forever.

  15. Avatar John H

    I am with Sipgate now that I have dual WiFI and a 3 sim card in a router. No issues at all, one phone plugged into a B525 and a second into a Cisco SPA112. Emails when a call is missed and can listen to voicemail on the mobile by clicking on recording.

  16. Avatar Robert Stonehouse

    Another happy sipgate basic user here.

    If you only use the landline to contact a few people then you might consider changing phone number. With sipgate you can get an new VOIP number in any UK area code with no monthly charge.

    I use a linksys/cisco pap2t to reuse a DECT handset. <£20 on ebay and lots of guides on how to set it up. Ensure you buy one with a UK plug. You don't want the phone to turn off easily if the plug is knocked.

  17. Avatar John Holmes

    Anyone noticed all the spam/scamster calls nearly stopping as soon as you transfer from BT to Voip. I thought they would continue at the same rate as I kept the same number and I thought they called numbers sequentially from a block but nothing at all on the new sipgate number and 1 in 3 months on the old BT number ported across. It was several a week before.

  18. Avatar Jon Norris

    Just switched to Vonage from my copper Post Office service. Very impressed with Vonage’s efficient tech support for their advice and number port only took a week. £ saving of £20 per month. Thank you ISP Review for the helpful article.

  19. Avatar I Papworth

    In rural north wales working from home is difficult and we would benefit from Voip but unfortunately BT will not supply it – mobile phone cover is non existant. We cannot transfer to another supplier as BT will not release the Fibre cable. Result is £62 per month – anyone got a solution other than move?

    • Avatar Rustifer

      Same scenario here, but I switched from a VERY shoddy BT service around 5 years ago after they had an “incident” at the exchange, dropped my service and then couldn’t get any higher than 25kbps line speed to the homehub = no service.

      I switched to a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) provider who went into administration, but were picked up by Bogons.net. There is also Airband who are moving into residential service after delivering business services for some time now.

      All very affordable, and although not as high performance as FTTC/FTTH Services, pretty good all round.

      I am mulling over moving to VoIP to remove BT landline from the house, as have had nothing but poor service and high costs from them over the years.

  20. Avatar Claire Holt

    Recently, I changed my home phone and switched to VoIP. I’m seeing that mobile companies are working on providing the facilities of cloud telephone system to their users at cheaper rates. It will be an innovation for the world to use cloud telephone system, It uses internet protocol or broadband ISPs internet connection.
    https://www.voipbusiness.com/voip-features/cloud-pbx/

  21. Avatar Roy MacDonald

    Great topic,
    I swapped from copper to FTTP with BT, which I love but when I took it I was not given the option to not have the copper too, with line rental etc.(which I have not used for years).
    I have my voip with Voiptalk on a call package which is great, never had any issues with them and bill never over £5.99 a month. with geographical number.
    K

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