VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is an increasingly popular technology that enables you to talk to people over long distances much like a telephone. But you don’t talk to others using a phone line. Instead, you talk through the Internet. If you’ve used a program like Skype, then you’re using VoIP.
Right now, approximately 1 in 3 business and 1 in 4 home callers use VoIP, and it is predicted that the popularity of the technology is on the rise. In fact, one research study suggests that over a billion people will use VoIP by 2017. The study has also predicted that by 2018, the Public Switch Telephone Network (which oversees traditional landlines calls) would be largely extinct.
How does VoIP work?
When you talk, your voice is digitalized (converted into a digital signal) which then travels over the Internet. The person you’re talking to then hears your voice through their own equipment, and then their voice is also digitalized and hear them with your VoIP equipment. If you are calling a regular phone number such as a landline, your digital signals are converted back into a regular telephone signal before it reaches the person you’re talking to.
So what kind of equipment is needed?
The first and probably the most important requirement is that you have to have a very fast and stable broadband Internet connection. This would mean a DSL connection or a cable modem connection. Dialup connections are simply too slow to enable a fulfilling VoIP experience.
After that, you then have several options on the equipment you can use. You can use a special VoIP phone made especially for this purpose. This phone connects directly into your broadband Internet connection instead of a landline, and you use it pretty much like a regular telephone. You can use your computer by plugging in a microphone and installing special software. You can even use your regular phone by connecting it to your computer through a VoIP adapter.
Why is VoIP so popular?
The most common reason attributed for the rising popularity of VoIP is that it is so much cheaper. You may be able to cut as much as 50% or even 80% off from your phone bill. Some VoIP phone service plans for businesses can cost only $20 a month for unlimited calls, and residential users can use VoIP for as little as $10 or even $5 a month!
Some businesses are attracted to VoIP because it is also much easier to manage, while others prefer to merge their data and voice networks. For residential users, another attraction is that some features of traditional phones for which you’ll have to pay extra (such as call waiting and caller ID) are already part of the standard subscription package.
So what features are offered?
This all depends on the VoIP phone service you subscribe to. You may be able to get extra features such as call forwarding, voice mail, multiple phone lines, and even hold music. Each VoIP service provider offers different subscription rates and features, so you need to choose the right one to provide for your telecommunication needs.