If you're shopping for cheaper phone service, include companies that sell Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, services to small businesses.
VoIP can shave up to 30 percent off phone bills by routing calls over the Internet. Once a fledgling technology, VoIP will account for 75 percent of global voice services by 2007, according to consultants Frost & Sullivan.
VoIP treats all calls as local, so providers don't pay expensive access charges to the Baby Bells to use their networks. Cost is based on line capacity, not number of lines. One high-speed broadband line handles dozens of calls and data.
How it works. First, your company must have a broadband (high-speed) Internet connection. Then, plug a regular phone into an analog adapter, and connect it to a DSL or cable-modem connection. As an alternative, you can buy a
special VoIP phone or make calls from a PC or laptop. One downside: A power blackout cuts service unless you use a generator.
Savings examples: A retailer who installed a VoIP line and connected it to one phone with an adapter saved $80 each month, mostly on long-distance calls.
Free E-visory report: For answers to your VoIP questions (Is it right for me? Where do I turn?), access our free report, VoIP: Making the Switch to Internet Phone Service, at www.research-recs.com/extra.