What is VoIP or Voice over IP?
Voice over Internet Protocol, otherwise known as VoIP or IP Telephony, is a broadband Internet phone service.
Voice over Internet Protocol calls do not work the way landline calls do. It uses the Internet instead. VoIP is the transfer of IP packets from router to router until the packets reach their destination. Often, packets are assigned with addresses so that they’d know where they’re supposed to go.
Nowadays, more and more people are shifting from landline use to VoIP service. VoIP became popular when people started to seek alternative ways of placing long distance calls without incurring the same landline cost. The good thing about VoIP is that you can use it without paying a single cent. Various software can be used to place the calls.
Two Ways to Use VoIP
There are basically two ways of using VoIP. The first way is by linking to another VoIP service. This is free of charge. The other one is by connecting to a regular landline. This would require payment. The cost, however, is cheaper than the cost of using a landline phone.
Features of VoIP
VoIP is similar to a regular landline phone when it comes to service features. It also offers 3-way calling, caller ID, call waiting, fax, voicemail and many more. There are other advanced features that are not common to landline phones. For example, there are VoIP providers that would allow you to store your numbers and keep them even if you move. Another feature is the “unlimited calls” feature. This allows you unlimited VoIP use to specific countries or areas. Not surprisingly, many business owners are resorting to VoIP use when placing long distance calls. This Internet feature allows them to save a lot of money on business calls. You can call whoever you want. It doesn’t even matter if the recipient of your call uses or does not use VoIP. You’d still be able to save a lot of money. There are VoIP providers in the United States that do not even require people to be residing in the United States in order to use their service.
How VoIP Works?
There are various technologies used in VoIP setup, which includes packet switching technology, broadband technology and computer technology.
Technologies Used in VoIP
In order to understand how you are able to place those or cheap calls, you have to understand the technologies used in VoIP.
- Packet switching technology
The primary technology used is the packet switching technology. This is primarily the reason why VoIP has been quite successful. It does not use circuit switching like a regular phone does. What makes packet switching different from circuit switching is that it allows several packets or calls to occupy the same space in the circuit network. This allows providers to save space, bandwidth and money. This is also the reason why they can afford to charge less than what landline providers charged.
It basically starts with you initiating a phone call which prompts a signal. The call would be then converted into computer-readable digital data. The VoIP provider would then send in the number your calling to their processor which would then map out the number and direct it to an IP address. The two computers are then connected using the packet switch.
- Broadband technology
VoIP also uses the broadband technology. In fact, this technology is crucial to the whole VoIP setup. Without broadband, you will not be able to place calls or make connections. Dial-up does not work with VoIP. Connecting with a dial-up Internet is difficult. The voice quality is horrible. That is, if you can even hear the other person.
- Computer technology
Computer basically acts as the intermediary. It allows the passage of voice messages from one IP to another. If you are calling another computer from your own computer, you wouldn’t have to pay for the call. You could also talk for as long as you like. All the while, your computer, the Internet and the packet switch technology would be passing voice messages from you to the other line and back. It only takes a second or so for all these to happen. No wonder VoIP is considered a communication revolution.
The Difference between VoIP and Landline Phone
There is a huge difference between how VoIP works and how a landline phone operates. First and foremost, VoIP does not need a dedicated line. The packets also transfer from one route to another without following a fixed direction. They go to whatever is accessible. VoIP does not have dead air or dedicated lines. Routers remain open for other packets. This is the primary reason why it is free; or if you are charged for the use of VoIP, the cost is minimal.
The great thing about VoIP is that you don’t have to be actually holding a phone in order to connect. As long as the area has an Internet, you can use the VoIP. Fortunately for many people, you can access the Internet almost anywhere. If your business or your job requires that you go on frequent trips abroad, you will be able to place calls as long as you have your laptop with you or as long as you can find an Internet access. You will be able to save a lot of money. You do not have to pay a lot of money for your long distance or overseas calls.
The VoIP Technology
VoIP is a technology that allows users to talk, chat or make calls using the Internet.
VoIP uses packet switching, a network technology not used by the standard landline system. Packet switching makes VoIP calls cheaper and often free. If you have a good VoIP provider and your Internet connection is great, you will have the same quality of calls similar to landline calls. VoIP enable audio communications via IP networks. Not surprisingly, an industry based on VoIP has been created over time. VoIP software is being sold online. Telephone and mobile services are adopting VoIP as an additional service feature.
VoIP technology is the crux of many operations from voice-chat software to full-blown IP network-based telecommunications. Investing in VoIP opens the door to various revenue streams. The difference between this technology fro the conventional landline phone setup is the cost of maintenance. Setting up and maintaining VoIP service is cheaper for providers. To a large extent, the consumers of VoIP are already paying for their broadband connection. Since VoIP uses the Internet, service providers do not have to pay as much as they would for a regular landline service.
Different Types of VoIP Service
There are basically three different types of VoIP service. These are PC to PC, PC to phone and vice versa, and phone to phone.
Types of VoIP Service
- PC to PC
PC to PC VoIP is a software-based service. It is a free service. PC to PC VoIP allows people using their computers to place calls to each other for free. Of course, you both need to be using your computer in order to place the call.
- PC to phone and vice versa
PC to phone VoIP is a software-and-hardware-based service. It allows you to use your PC to call a landline or mobile phone. This type of VoIP does not come for free, however, but the rates are considerably lower.
- Phone to phone
Phone to phone VoIP is a hardware-based service. For phone to phone VoIP, the caller and the call recipient can use their phones to call each other using the Internet. VoIP converts audio sounds into data packets and transfers these packets over the Internet. The packets would then travel from one open router to another following the built-in packet address. Once the packets reached the call recipient, they would be converted back to audio sounds.
The Pros and Cons of Different Types of VoIP Service
You would have to assess your needs and purpose before you decide what kind of VoIP service you want.
For instance, if you want a completely free service, then PC to PC VoIP is your option. The drawback, of course, to this type of service is that you will not be able to call any landline or mobile phone. The recipient of your call would need to be online in order for you to get in touch with him or her. An example of this service is Skype. As long as the other person is using his Skype account and is online, you will be able to talk to the person without paying anything. You would need a headset and a USB phone to make calls or receive calls. The great thing about this is that it’s free and incredibly easy to use.
If you need to make landline or mobile phone calls but you want to cut back on the call cost, the PC to phone service is your choice. This service allows VoIP providers to make money. This is a good option for people with businesses. You would be able to place overseas calls without incurring the same amount of cost you would incur using a landline phone. The great thing about this is that your call recipient wouldn’t have to be online to receive your call. The drawback to this, however, is that you still need to use your computer when making calls. You cannot make emergency calls.
However, the last of the different types of VoIP is great for emergency allows you to make emergency calls. The phone to phone service allows you to make phone calls using the Internet protocol. This last type of VoIP is likely to be developed over time. You have the benefits of a landline phone and VoIP service with this last option.
Pros and Cons of VoIP
The VoIP as an alternative method of making calls is gaining rapid grounds. However, like everything else, VoIP technology has its own share of pros and cons.
Pros of VoIP
- Money savings
When people talk of VoIP, the first benefit that comes to mind is the savings. You would save a lot of money from using VoIP. Calls are cheaper, if not free. If you are using VoIP to call another VoIP user or anyone within your network, chances are you wouldn’t be paying a single cent for that call. If you place a call to a landline phone or a mobile phone, you would be required to pay for your calls. However, the rates are incredibly cheaper than your landline phone rates. You’d also be charged for the exact number of seconds used. So, you’d save a few cents or dollars. You would also be able to call anyone in the world.
- Features similar to landline phones
VoIP also has features similar to landline phones like call forwarding, callback service, 3-way calling, caller ID and others.
Cons of VoIP
- Power interruptions
VoIP calls may be subjected to power interruptions. This is bad if you are in the middle of a very important business call or teleconference.
- Sound quality affected by internet speed
Data packets may be dropped if you have slow Internet connection. This results in poor sound quality. If many people are using the Internet in your network, this may cause the Internet connection to lag and the packets to be dropped. People would complain of poor voice quality, delays, weird noises and echoes. These problems, however, can be resolved by a fast Internet connection and good VoIP hardware.
Despite the disadvantages, the future for VoIP technology is promising. The benefits certainly outweigh the few disadvantages of using VoIP. Voice quality can be fixed. Power interruptions can be restored. The development of VoIP is continuous. Sooner or later, these VoIP drawbacks will be resolved.
How to Choose VoIP Provider?
The first thing that you would have to consider when switching to VoIP is your VoIP provider. How do you choose your VoIP provider? There are a lot of options out there.
It is easy to find a list of VoIP providers as you only need to go online to get it. However, it may be difficult for you to decide which package to choose from. Your choice would depend on your requirements for VoIP providers. There are websites that can help you make your decision. They offer reviews of various service providers. They give blow-by-blow comparison of prices, service, quality, features, et cetera. They will not tell you what’s better but you’d have an idea what to choose by studying the comparisons. It is also a good idea to get a feedback on VoIP providers. If a friend or a family member is using VoIP, perhaps you can ask for feedback and recommendations. It is important that you carefully consider all your options before making your choice.
Things to Consider when Choosing a VoIP Provider
- Sound quality
There are service providers that could offer better sound quality than the others. Of course, the price is a tad higher.
There are service providers that may not offer the best sound quality but offers the lowest package price. It’s a tradeoff and you make the choice. Are you willing to trade off the quality for the price or are you willing to pay for a better quality?
- Customer support
Does the VoIP provider have a good customer support?
What kind of features do you want?
What kind of hardware do you prefer?
You would take into account your purpose for getting the service. Do you need a residential VoIP or a business VoIP?
Things to Ask when Choosing a VoIP Provider
When making your choice, there are some specific things that you should look into and inquire about. Make sure that you are satisfied with the answers before you choose a VoIP provider.
If there is a contract, it is advisable that you check the term of the contract. How long will you be bound by it? What’s the penalty for its early termination? Sometimes, people find themselves stuck in a contract for a service that they would like to get out of. However, they cannot get out of it because they cannot afford to pay the penalty.
- Cost of installation and setup
Are you going to install everything yourself or do they provide assistance? Do they charge you with installation cost?
Business VoIP Phone Systems
VoIP phone system is the latest phone system technology. Business VoIP phone systems usually require an equipment to be installed at your business with the purpose of routing internal calls over your computer network.
VoIP phone systems can work efficiently from the smallest offices to the biggest enterprises. If your company happens to have multiple locations which are all linked to a company Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN), then you should know that a VoIP phone system is suitable for your company. No matter where your other branches are located, this gives you an opportunity to make a call by means of extension dialing, therefore giving you a zero cost call. This will as well allow you to save some cash if you’re running new wiring because there is no need to run different cabling.
What do You Need for Business VoIP Phone System?
Several components are needed to set up a business VoIP phone system.
- Central device which manages the calls
This can be an IP PBX, IP-enabled regular PBX or a server running specialized software.
- Phone and data network
You may be able to use the existing digital phones and computer network, but sometimes upgrade to your network hardware is necessary.
How does VoIP Phone System Works?
The way internal calls are routes will depend on your phone system setup, either over existing phone network or computer network. However, internal calls will usually be conveyed over phone network while outgoing calls to other company locations will be routed over computer network.
On the other hand, outgoing calls to external phone numbers will be sent through the network to a gateway that connects to the public telephone network. All of the VoIP calls connect seamlessly to any phone user. Therefore, there are no compatibility issues to worry about.
Potential Drawback to VoIP Phone System
There are two main drawbacks to VoIP Phone system, i.e. network requirement and outages.
- Network requirement
High quality VoIP calls require high bandwidth and thus increases network demands. Networks which are fine for data might not up the demand of VoIP.
- Affected by outages
Since VoIP phones require power source to work and are network-dependent, power outages and server crash will have great impact on the phone system. However, these problems can be solved by having a mix of digital and VoIP. During outages, backup power systems can keep the PBX running and the digital phone system will operate.
Residential VoIP technology has a little different compared to business VoIP technology. It enables the real-time transmission of landline phone calls via your computer’s IP (Internet Protocol).
You can use the phone just like normal, including answering calls and making outgoing calls locally and internationally. Residential VoIP can also serves as an Internet chat device. Besides chatting, you can also share photos or data with your friends. And the best thing is your personal phone line won’t tie up while you are chatting.
What do you Need for a Residential VoIP?
If you have a broadband Internet connection, then switching to VoIP will be pretty easy. You only need to choose a VoIP provider online and sign up for their residential VoIP service. The VoIP provider would send you a VoIP adapter (ATA). This low-cost equipment provides VoIP functionality for your traditional phone service by serving as a bridge between the phone system and the Internet. You would then install the adapter, dial a number to activate the service, and then you’d be all set.
Features to Look For when Choosing a Residential VoIP Service
Many VoIP service providers offer residential VoIP service packages that come with features beyond your basic phone service function. Try to look for price cuts so that you have better features with a lower price. Also, look for some features which are included free, such as call waiting, voicemail, called ID and etc. Don’t forget to check on area coverage, upgrading cost and any hidden cost for canceling the service too.
Mobile VoIP – VoIP on Mobile Phone
Mobile phone companies have recognized the VoIP as a potential tool for a more efficient service. Many mobile companies are offering packages with mobile VoIP.
Before VoIP, placing long distance and overseas calls was a nightmare. Landline long distance calls are quite expensive. People do not have the luxury of making a long call. Often, they’d be rushing to say what they need to say so they could get off the phone fast. Every minute counts. What’s even worse is that you would be charged with a full minute call for a couple of seconds used. Luckily, the VoIP has changed all that. VoIP on mobile phones is even better. People are buying the idea of VoIP on mobile phones. The idea of being able to place calls without worrying about the cost is amazing. You don’t have to bring your computer with you. You can go anywhere you like and you’d have the luxury of placing cheap calls. It is the idea of convenience that sells. You can always put VoIP on regular landline phones but this doesn’t give you the luxury of movement unlike mobile phones. Not surprisingly, the mobile industry has jumped on the bandwagon.
What you should Consider before Getting a Mobile VoIP?
Before you rush out and get a mobile phone with VoIP feature, there are a few thing you need to take into consideration.
- Cost and use of the Mobile VoIP
If you do not travel much and you have access to landline phones, it might not be a good idea to get a mobile phone with VoIP. Mobile companies would charge extra fees for VoIP. The extra cost may not be really worth the VoIP access.
- Internet downtime
If you experience frequent downtime, your may end up with worse connections with a VoIP. You might be better off with your original mobile phone provider.
Who should Get a Mobile VoIP?
Mobile phones with VoIP are great for people who frequently travel. If your business or your work constantly brings you to different places where phone service is unstable or unavailable, you would certainly benefit from having a mobile VoIP. You would be able to save a lot of money by using this service. This service is also great if you are constantly using up your minutes. If you are constantly using your mobile phone, you’d certainly cut back on phone cost with VoIP.
How to Switch to Mobile VoIP?
If you want to use a VoIP service for your mobile phone, you need to unlock your cell phone. You will be able to use your cell phone but change your service provider. You can then apply for a VoIP service with your service provider of choice.