What are the basic requirements for making phone calls over the Internet, and are there any additional requirements to use the basic MagicJack? It is already commonly used by tens of millions of people, but its extremely rapid growth and very low monthly charges have prevented its customer service department from keeping pace with the growth of its consumer base. For that reason, you're well advised to do your own research to prevent or fix any problems you may have rather than relying on their Customer Service department.
In the spirit of research, before you decide to purchase and install MagicJack, ensure you meet the following system requirements:
– Your computer must use Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or must be an Intel-based Apple using the Mac operating system, and
– You must be connected to the Internet using a high-speed cable, DSL, or wireless connection (more on this below), and
– You must provide your own corded or cordless telephone. In lieu of a conventional telephone, you can also use your computer's microphone and speakers to place and receive phone calls, or you can use a variety of wired or wireless headsets as long as they have both an earphone and microphone.
With regard to the required Internet connection mentioned above, note that neither dial up service nor satellite service is adequate for home phone service over the Internet (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP). Dial-up service is too slow, and any attempt to hold a conversation over a dial-up connection will be unintelligible. Satellite services have too much delay for reasonable conversation, as the signal has to pass from your dish to a satellite which is in orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth, and then return to your provider's dish. The satellite signal is fast, but the distances involved leave unnatural gaps in your conversation and make talking difficult – at best.
Many cable, DSL, and wireless services are fast enough for VoIP, but how can you tell if yours is among them? There are a number of ways to test your connection; one such test is free at http://myspeed.visualware.com/ and is designed specifically for VoIP services. Once you reach the site, click on the first window to indicate your location on the map of the world, then give a second, more specific location on the second screen. Use one of the gold or yellow pins if one is available near your location. On the third screen, ignore the button which says "Click to start test", and instead click on the VoIP link on the right side of the screen. This will bring up a fourth screen with a slightly different test, specifically designed to measure jitter, packet loss, and the overall speed of your Internet connection.
You don't need to be concerned with those technical terms though, as in the end it gives a color-coded result indicating the likelihood that your connection is adequate for VoIP phone service. To run the test, click the "Click to start test" button shown at the top of the screen. The test will conclude by showing you a connection summary in the form of colored dots and a brief commentary reflecting the results of the test. If your results show green, you'll know your connection is capable.
Congratulations! If you elect to take the plunge, your phone bill could plummet to less than three dollars per month.