Most people have heard of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology, and many are even vaguely aware that it has something to do with phone calls, but most people have never heard a good explanation of what it really is. This discussion will hopefully remedy that, and point out why the technology is widely considered to be the future of communication. Here are some of the biggest technological strides made by VoIP technology.
What VoIP Is
Voice-over-IP involves having calls travel over a data network like the Internet rather than over traditional phone lines. The “IP” in “VoIP” refers to Internet Protocol, which is the method by which data is sent from one computer to another over the Internet. A Voice-over-IP telephone system converts voice signals into data signals which can then be easily routed anywhere in the world using the infrastructure of the Internet. All that is needed to make this work is a computer connected to the Internet, a digital handset for making calls, and a service to make calls compatible with traditional telephones. VoIP has drastically improved telecommunications the world over, making it far easier to communicate with people across the globe in real time than ever before.
How It Can Be Used
This technology can completely replace an existing phone system without loss of quality or service, and as a matter of fact it is in some ways far more capable than traditional phone services are. For instance, because it is routed over a broadband network, there is sufficient bandwidth to also transmit video signals with the phone call, as long as both parties have a service such as Skype and an inexpensive webcam available. This is just one of the many advantages that VoIP offers compared to standard phone service.
Technical Advances Made by VoIP
Voice-over-IP is a non-proprietary standard agreed upon by hardware and software developers, which means it is not copyrighted and is in the public domain, free to be used by anyone. This is important because, unlike the closed system of circuit-switched technology used in standard phone systems, Voice-over-IP has an open architecture that will encourage new hardware and software development in the future.
Telephone companies charge extra for long distance and international phone calls, and that cost increases the longer a call goes on. By contrast, a Voice-over-IP call carries only the charge imposed by the service vendor. This is typically either a monthly charge, if one don’t buy their equipment, or a one-time equipment cost with no further charges. The bottom line on this is that the cost of making calls is much, much lower with VoIP than with traditional phone services.
As mentioned above, video calls are possible using Voice-over-IP in tandem with video software like Skype, because the VoIP technology sends the video signals to the other party right along with the voice signals. No more trying to coordinate patchy conference calls!
Some sophisticated services are available with Voice-over-IP technology, such as the call-hunting service. This is very appealing, particularly to businesses, because it causes several different phones to be rung in succession until someone picks up, which means that far fewer business calls will be missed. Because it is connected to a computer, a Voice-over-IP system can also send email alerts when the company receive voicemails, and clicking on the email will then play the voice message, which is much more convenient than a traditional voicemail inbox.
The Future of Communication
It seems very likely that Voice-over-IP communications are poised to become the new standard in the future. Because it uses the infrastructure of the Internet and equipment that most individuals and businesses already have, setup costs and ongoing service charges are minimal. Coupled with its low cost are the advantages it offers, like video calls and more sophisticated services. The area that offers the greatest potential for the future is its open architecture, which will allow limitless possibilities for development of new hardware and software that can be added to VoIP technology to make it even more useful.