What is VoIP?
The much talked-about VoIP technology has grown into a game changer in the digital communication space, putting more power in the hands of a consumer.
11:57 19 May 2017
Internet telephony is clearly on the up. The much talked-about VoIP technology has grown into a game changer in the digital communication space, putting more power in the hands of a consumer. Let’s dig in and find out more about VoIP in general, how different it is from the plain old telephone service, and why it is the new force to be reckoned with.
There's no denying that telephones have become an integral part of our lives.
Since their discovery in the latter half of the 19th century, they have been a key mode of communication. However, it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that not many changes have happened in the conventional telephone system since it was introduced to mainstream use.
Of course, there have been some advances and improvements in call routing and switching technology, but generally speaking, the telephone technology that is in use today is more or less the same technology that was used when the telephone was discovered.
It’s time for a change though.
Luckily, the recent advances in digital networking and internet telephony have enabled us to look beyond the traditional options of telecommunications technology. And VoIP, acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol, is definitely one of the right steps taken in that direction.
Even though VoIP is still at a maturing stage stages, it is burgeoning into a robust technology that could completely transform the way we communicate with others. And, experts are in agreement too. They are quite positive about the real potential of VoIP and feel pretty optimistic that we are in for an interesting journey with Internet Telephony — particularly how it could pave way for a better future of the telecommunications industry.
Without further ado, let’s delve deep and look at what the VoIP technology is all about.
What is VoIP?
Think about all of the communication channels/devices you use today to stay connected with your family and friends.
If you are like the majority of homeowners in the UK, you likely have a landline telephone, a broadband internet connection, and a cell phone connection.
Don’t you think that’s simply too much equipment for a home? Of course, more equipment in turns means more money for the cost of services.
What if I told you that there was a way to unite all of these separate communication channels to make it much easier and faster to stay connected all the time no matter where you go?
Now you didn’t see that coming, did you?
This sort of a convergence is possible with Internet Telephony, which essentially covers the transmission of voice, video, data, and fax through the Internet. What’s driving this change is the VoIP technology and it's already proving to be a game changer.
VoIP represents a major change from the conventional method of making and handling calls. In this technology, telephone communications happen over the internet rather than a dedicated/conventional telephone network. It struggled to break into mainstream a couple of decades ago, but it is happening big time now. Many telecommunication companies are already transporting international calls using this technology. And there is a good chance that you know someone who uses a VoIP application daily.
How does VoIP work?
Any conversation that uses VoIP begins just like any ordinary telephone conversation. However, the key difference between traditional telephone service and VoIP is the manner in which the voice signals are transmitted from one end to the other.
Broadly speaking, VoIP processes incoming analogue voice signals and converts them into digital signals that can be transported over the internet. This is, then, reassembled back to an audio signal at the other end.
Let’s consider voice conversations that happen over a telephone. What is called a typical physical line may not be used at all in the future when telephone calls are likely to be placed over the internet: your voice conversations are broken down into small bits called packets at the transmitting end and then repackaged into bigger packets at the receiving end to reproduce the original conversation.
This is how a VoIP call is transmitted from one phone to another.
To initiate a call using VoIP, your landline phone is hooked up to an analog adapter, which plugs into your router and helps it transport the voice signals to the internet. The adapter digitizes your voice by converting voice signals into small data packets which are transmitted to the call destination via the internet, no matter whether the person on the other end is using a conventional telephone service or a dedicated VoIP device.
Subsequently the packets carrying voice signals are encoded with basic information on how they should be arranged and decoded when they arrive at the destination. Upon successful arrival of the voice data packets at the destination, the encoded information is decoded and the packets are reassembled accordingly.
All of this happens in real time and that’s exactly how the person you’re calling hears your voice without any practical loss in quality.
If the latest consumer adoption reports are anything to go by, it is clear that VoIP is here to stay and is only going to get bigger.
But why VoIP?
There are many reasons why VoIP is becoming more and more popular of late, but a couple things stand out.
First, the cost of service. Placing calls over the internet is obviously a much more economical option than traditional voice communications that take place over a dedicated telephone line. What tilts the balance in VoIP’s favor is that it offers pretty much everything your landline phone does and more, but at a cheaper cost. Yes, with Voice over IP, you get to enjoy more flexibility and expanded set of features on top of the telephone communication service that you have right now and save half or more from the fees you usually pay. That’s why we think it wouldn’t be a surprise to see VoIP becoming more and more mainstream.
Another important reason why VoIP is growing more popular is because it completely simplifies all of your communication channels. What that means is that all you will ever need is only one device to place calls over the telephone, surf the internet, access email, send short messages, etc. The convergence of all these communication channels is likely to become much more advanced, and, whenever that happens, communicating with others will be a completely different ball game altogether.
And, it will be much faster and could cost less. For example, with a traditional telephone service, your voice is transported as an electrical signal over a wide network of physical wires. Whilst this setup works pretty well and gets the job done, this is pretty inefficient mainly because the only thing that can pass through the wire is your voice, and each kind of conversation, say, a fax message, requires a dedicated wire/line. Put simply, if you place a telephone call, you can’t send out a fax using the same line simultaneously.
On the other hand, with VoIP, many conversations can happen within the same space-all at once-with other typical activities such as surfing the net, sending fax, streaming audio and video etc. This is precisely why VoIP is a more efficient mode of communication than conventional telephone setup.
Finally, VoIP scores big on flexibility. VoIP is not just about making or taking voice calls; it stands for a completely new way of communicating with your friends and family. As indicated earlier, it integrates voice, video and data applications to run over the internet and gives customers more options. But one thing about VoIP that customers can’t stop talking about is its portability. They find it pretty exciting that VoIP gives them the power to be mobile and agile.
Overall, all these benefits of VoIP are quite astounding to those familiar with the conventional way of using telephones.
VoIP - The Past, Present, and Future
The first generation of VoIP was just not good enough and left a bad impression on many people who embraced it early to try and see if they can make calls abroad more regularly and keep communication bills low whilst doing so. Quite clearly, the technology was still in its early days and there were just simply too many glitches and constraints to worry about- a sign that the VoIP was not ready for mainstream use: the calls had to be placed using a computer, and, typically, users had to spend a lot of time dealing with call drops and basically repeating themselves due to problems with voice delay, frequent disconnects, lack of synchronisation, and poor quality of incoming audio. What’s worse, these calls were also restrictive-meaning you can’t make VoIP calls unless the person you are calling has the same software installed and activated on their computer.
Flash forward to now, the quality of a VoIP service is much better than what it used to be. It goes to show that the VoIP technology has grown leaps and bounds of late. In fact, the technological infrastructure- both hardware and software- has matured well, offering greater flexibility, better call quality and more options than ever.
VoIP is generally taken to mean what it states- voice calls transferred over the internet. When VoIP technology was developed, it was designed to work that way. Today, VoIP technology includes all main types of network-not just the internet- showing how far it has come. Yes, it is a clear departure from those days when VoIP was supported by a sluggish, low bandwidth dial-up Internet connection.
And, there are many ways in which VoIP services exist. Even though there are differences in the way phone calls are placed with them, the underlying technology that facilitates the transportation of voice is basically the same. To put things in perspective, you can now make calls between two PCs, two internet phones or IP phones, a PC and a phone - all with the latest VoIP technology. And that is a radical shift from the past when it was absolutely important that two computers have the same calling software to be able to connect via VoIP technology.
The future of VoIP is going to be very exciting. Advancements in consumer technology such as voice recognition, artificial intelligence and the internet of things could drive the demands of VoIP technology into a whole new level, creating a lot of exciting possibilities and applications.
Many applications are already facilitating VoIP calls as part of their overall package. Apparently, there are a lot more features in the pipeline. Maybe one day we could get a meal delivered right to your home all by placing an order through the chatbot that works with the VoIP tool. Or, perhaps, we could get our IoT devices to drop voice alerts to our mobile with the VoIP technology.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless and exciting.
There could be several reasons why you still need to hold on to your landline connection, but there is absolutely no reason why you should continue to use the voice services that it was originally designed for.
Recent research suggests that switching to VoIP could help telephone users save up to 50% on their monthly telephone bills.
If you’re looking to trim the fat from your monthly budget, your landline connection could be a good place to start. Before you consider switching your landline telephone call provider, take into account the potential savings to be made by going VoIP.
So, when are you making the switch to VoIP?