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If you already have home network and you want to add VOIP capabilities, you can probably get away with using your current router, without having to purchase a VOIP router. Instead, look at VOIP adaptors. The adaptor plugs into your network router and translates the VOIP call for digital transmission through your network. This can help, especially if you've just invested in an updated wireless router and don't want to switch again. However, you'll still have to pay at least $60 for an adaptor.
If you don't want or need a home Internet network, but want to use VOIP, there are some VOIP router-less alternatives. You can buy enabled VOIP handsets that look just like regular phones and plug directly into your cable or DSL modem. Good points: Simple, especially for the computer-phobic. Not so good: It will usually cost you a lot more than if you went with a router/networking set-up.
You only need a VOIP-capable router if you're using a VOIP service that requires a VOIP-capable router. If you purchase a hosted VOIP service, where the provider runs all routing off its own server, all you have to do is connect a VOIP-enabled phone to your Internet connection, or use a standard phone with an adapter that attaches to your cable or DSL modem. No router required.
Who makes the best brand of VOIP routers? It's like asking who makes a better car -- Mercedes or BMW? As long as you stay with the established names in VOIP routers/networking, you'll be fine. Look for LinkSys, D-Link or Motorola. You want to make sure the provider is big enough and well-known-enough to offer a solid product backed by good customer service.
When you sign up for VOIP service, your VOIP company will likely want to sell you a VOIP router as part of package. This isn't a bad thing. You're going to need a VOIP router or adapter that works with the service you chose. And you can often get a good deal if you buy directly from the VOIP service. But you are not required to buy a VOIP router from the provider. You can buy one from an electronics store, or EBay. The important thing to remember is to get a router that will work with the particular service you have chosen.
The first thing to think about when you're looking at VOIP routers is how the purchase is going to fit into your overall networking plans -- do you need your VOIP router to fit into an existing network? Will you be setting up your first network? Wireless or wired? If you already have a network running off a cable Internet connection, you probably don't need a new router and can simply add a VOIP adaptor. If, on the other hand, you've been wanting to set up a wireless Internet network in your home, you can do both the wireless network and the VOIP network at the same time, if you get the right wireless VOIP router. A little planning now can help you make the right purchase, expand your networking capabilities, and even save money in the long run.