VoIP comes of age

Internet telephony has always been inexpensive. Now it's also reliable.

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(Fortune Small Business) -- Businesses large and small plan to increase their use of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony during the next two years, according to a recent British Telecom survey. Their objectives include increasing collaboration and lowering voice toll costs outside the office.

But is VoIP affordable, accessible and effective enough for today's mobile entrepreneur?

"Google, Skype, Vonage and other providers have made their applications available via the Web for both laptops and mobile devices," says Elka Popova, a program director with global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. "They can definitely address the needs of business travelers" - especially the need to save money.

In the past, VoIP services suffered from subpar sound quality and reliability. "Some people still have preconceived notions about VoIP," argues Joyce Kim, chief marketing officer of VoIP tech firm Global IP Solutions. "But that's a non-issue. Using VoIP is now as easy as throwing on a headset."

The headset is key, whether you access your service from a smartphone, a dedicated handset or a "softphone" interface on your laptop.

"Quality can be degraded if you don't have a headset designed for VoIP," Kim says.

Luckily, there's no shortage of wired and wireless VoIP headsets on the market, sold by companies such as Plantronics, Sony Ericsson, Nokia (NOK) and Telex. For travelers who prefer to work untethered and enjoy some audio entertainment on the go, Cellpoint's just-released Flamingo Stereo V2 headset offers excellent features. Its battery provides 12 hours of talk time, according to Cellpoint, and it ships with a nifty accessory that transforms it from a wireless VoIP headset into a pair of stereo earbuds that are snug enough to wear while running.  To top of page

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