Analog Telephone Adapters (or ATAs) are one of the recent developments in VoIP technology. These adapters allow you to use your existing analog telephones to place calls over the Internet using VoIP. Because of these adapters, using VoIP is not much different today than using a regular telephone service. They allow your VoIP service to “act like” a traditional phone – you hear a dial tone when you pick up the phone and dial the number.
An ATA, like many of the devices in today’s digital world, is actually a small, highly dedicated computer. It performs several functions that are required for VoIP communications. One function is that of providing an analog interface for the telephone. This includes providing a dial tone to your analog telephone, as well as a ring signal for incoming calls. Another function it provides is that of converting the analog voice signal into a digital form that can be carried over the internet. Similarly, it must also convert the incoming digital signal into an analog one that your telephone can understand. The final function is that of handling the VoIP connection to the Internet. This includes the connection to your VoIP service provider as well as the routing of digital voice packets – the “protocol” portion of VoIP.
There are two basic types of ATAs available. Both types provide one or more connections to an analog telephone. The difference between the two types is the type of network connection they require. One type connects to the network via a USB port on a personal computer. This USB type of ATA requires a software program running on the PC in order to access the Internet. This requires the PC to be up and running in order to use the VoIP service, but may provide a more convenient way of connecting your analog telephones.
The other type interfaces directly to your high speed cable or DSL modem or directly to your home network. This type typically uses Ethernet as its connection to the Internet, and operates on its own – no software is required. This is the most convenient type of adapter, since it does not require your PC to even be turned on – as long as the high speed connection is active, you will have access to your VoIP service.
Using an ATA is quite simple. After plugging in the power supply to the unit, there are only two other connections to be made. One connector on the ATA provides a place to plug in the telephone cable from your analog telephone(s). The other connector is used to connect the ATA to either a USB port on your PC, or to your high speed modem or router (Ethernet connection). If you are using the USB type, then the software needs to be installed and run on the PC that the ATA is connected to. If you are using the Ethernet type, you are ready to start calling as soon as the connections are complete. www.letel.net
There are two other options that bear mention when choosing an ATA. One is the fact that some VoIP providers have available analog telephones with the ATA already incorporated into them. You may find this more convenient than a standalone ATA, but check with providers while you are choosing your service, as not all providers offer these phones. Another option offered by some providers is a cable or DSL modem or router with the ATA already incorporated. Again, this is not offered by all providers. Also, if you choose to go this route, you will need to make sure that the cable or DSL modem is compatible with your ISP’s service.
One other consideration is necessary when choosing an ATA. That is that all ATAs are not the same. They are not necessarily interchangeable between VoIP providers, as there may be differences in protocol, etc. So it is best to choose an available ATA from the VoIP service provider that you decide on.
As you can see, there are a number of options available to you when choosing an ATA for your VoIP service. By far the simplest solution is to use one of the standalone ATAs that connects directly to your high speed modem or router, as this type does not require any software or configuration – you simply plug it in and start saving money on your phone bill. But the other options do provide you with some flexibility when installing a VoIP solution.