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Voice Over Internet Protocols (VoIP)

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What You Need to Know About VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

How VoIP/Internet Voice Works

VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the Internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination. VoIP can allow you to make a call directly from a computer, a VoIP enabled phone, or a traditional phone connected to a special adapter. In addition, wireless "hot spots" in locations such as airports, parks, and cafes allow you to connect to the Internet and may also enable you to use a VoIP service wirelessly.  

Different Types of VoIP Service

Local VoIP Call/Fixed Address where a VoIP customer places a call from a fixed location within an ILEC-defined exchange area (incumbent local exchange carrier) and with a telephone number corresponding to that exchange. If the ALI (automatic location identification) database is populated with the customer's information and the ANI(automatic number identification) is provided to the PSAP(Public Safety Answering Point) then the 9-1-1 service will operate in the same manner as it does today (i.e., with traditional wire line service).

Foreign Exchange (FX) VoIP Call/Fixed Address where a customer places a call from a fixed location outside of the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) boundary normally served by the customer's telephone number. The VoIP service provider utilizes an IP network or the Internet to carry the call from the customer's calling location to the exchange corresponding to the customer's telephone. In this scenario, conventional 9-1-1 service would not function correctly because the call may not be routed to the appropriate PSAP.

Nomadic VoIP Calls where the VoIP customer does not make calls from a fixed location. In this scenario, calls can be made from anywhere that the customer has access to a broadband Internet service and the appropriate software or hardware to use that service. 9-1-1 services would not work.


If you're considering replacing your traditional telephone service with VoIP, there are some facts you need to know:

  • Some VoIP services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power
  • Not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1 

Traditional phone services associate a particular phone number with a fixed address. Portable interconnected VoIP service enables consumers to take their home or business phone service almost anywhere. Because certain interconnected VoIP services can be used from virtually any Internet connection, the location of the caller cannot automatically be determined. This portability raises a number of challenges for 9-1-1 first responders.

Things Consumers Need to Know

When you call 9-1-1 from a traditional telephone, the call, in most cases, is sent to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that is responsible for helping people in a particular geographic area or community. PSAP personnel often can automatically identify your location and direct the closest emergency personnel to that location. They can also automatically identify your telephone number and can call you back if you are disconnected.

Because VoIP service works differently from traditional phone service, consumers who use it should be aware that VoIP 9-1-1 call services have significant disadvantages:

  • VoIP 9-1-1 calls may not connect to the Public Safety Answering Point (9-1-1 Center) . VoIP 9-1-1 service does not automatically transmit the user's phone number and/or location information
  • VoIP 9-1-1 may connect to a VoIP answering centre which then transfers the call for service to a Public Safety Answering Point (9-1-1 Centre)
  • VoIP customers may need to provide location or other information to their VoIP providers, and update this information if they change locations, for their VoIP 911 service to function properly
  • VoIP service may not work during a power outage, or when the Internet connection fails or becomes overloaded 

To reduce these differences and any possible risks to the public safety posed by interconnected VoIP 9-1-1 service, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) has imposed notification obligations on local VOIP Service Providers. For more detailed information the obligations of local VOIP service providers, please visit 

Tips for VoIP Subscribers

If you have or are thinking of subscribing to an interconnected VoIP service, you should:

  • Provide your accurate physical address to your VoIP service provider to ensure that emergency services can quickly be dispatched to your location
  • Be familiar with your service provider's procedures for updating your address, and update address information in the event of a change
  • Have a clear understanding of any limitations of your VoIP 9-1-1 service
  • Inform children, babysitters, and visitors about your VoIP service and its 9-1-1 limitations, if any
  • If your power is out or your Internet connection is down, know that VoIP service may not work. Install a backup power supply, maintain a traditional phone line, or have a wireless phone as a backup
  • If you have questions about whether the phone service you are receiving is an interconnected VoIP service, contact your service provider for further information