On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell changed the world with his famous quip, “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you.” The day marked the beginning of the telephone era. Once considered an unnecessary luxury and now a standard part of life used by individuals the world over, the telephone would revolutionize communication. Imagine Bell’s reaction were he able to see how his invention has evolved.
What is VoIP?
One of the latest applications of Internet Protocol (IP) is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In simple terms, VoIP is a service that allows users to make telephone calls over an Internet connection. Unlike a traditional telephone service that uses a regular (analog) phone line, VoIP utilizes a broadband Internet connection that allows users to place phone calls through their computer using a special VoIP telephone or an adapter attached to a regular phone.
What equipment does VoIP require?
One of the biggest advantages of using VoIP technology is the lack of necessary equipment. An individual with a computer hooked up to the Internet can place a phone call using the high-speed connection. Using one of the free VoIP software programs, users can make calls completely independent of the phone company.
Consumers who want or need a more traditional means of placing phone calls can still take advantage of VoIP technology by using an analog telephone adaptor (ATA). An ATA is a converter that allows a user to plug their telephone in either to their computer or directly to their Internet connection. Simply attach the ATA to the Internet connection, then plug the phone into the ATA, and VoIP is ready to go.
Specialized phones are also available. The IP phones are equipped with an RJ-45 connector and plugged directly into the Internet connection.
How does it work?
By capitalizing on the digital signals used to send information and data over the Internet, VoIP converts calls into a compressed digital form that can be transmitted via the Internet. This is accomplished through the use of a codec, a computer program or device that samples audio signals at a rate of several thousand times per second. Each sample is compressed, transmitted, and then reassembled. When reassembled, the audio is nearly seamless, providing the listener with the continuous audio signal to which they are accustomed. Based on the codec used, samples are taken at different speeds (from 8,000 to 64,000 times per second)
Traditional phone users may be surprised to learn that they are most likely already using VoIP technology. The majority of phone companies have made the switch to VoIP, particularly for long-distance phone calls. Routing calls through switches allows phone companies to reduce the amount of bandwidth being used, in addition to reducing the amount of infrastructure needed.
What services does VoIP offer?
VoIP offers many of the same features that standard phone services offer. Users can take advantage of call waiting, Caller ID, three-way calling and more – all at reduced costs.
Who uses VoIP?
While VoIP technology has distinct advantages over traditional telephone services, not everyone has made the transition to the VoIP protocol. Primarily used in business environments, VoIP has filled a niche for businesses looking to create and use their own networks. By controlling every aspect of their IP telephony, companies can increase security and ensure that call quality is of the highest standard.
Residential users will also appreciate the benefits of flexibility and cost reduction. As technology continues to evolve, VoIP will most likely become standard for both residential and business use.
What are VoIP’s benefits?
One of the primary benefits of VoIP is the reduction in cost associated with making phone calls. In a traditional phone network, a long-distance call would require the exclusive use of a cable connecting the two ends of a telephone call for the duration of the call. Thus, a long-distance phone bill would reflect the “rental fee” for using the service. With VoIP, digitizing a call means that thousands of calls can share the cable at the same time — improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Another benefit to this technology is the flexibility that VoIP offers. Unlike a phone network that is limited to the location of hard wired connections, VoIP can be used wherever there is bandwidth available. Users can access their VoIP network on any broadband connection, allowing them to make and receive phone calls as if they were in their office. Particularly for the mobile workforce, this level of flexibility will make VoIP an essential part of business.
What are VoIP’s weaknesses?
Despite the benefits, there are some weaknesses that must be addressed with VoIP. Traditional phone lines are not dependent on electricity — a feature that is useful during power outages or in areas where the electrical supply is not consistent. VoIP technology using broadband signals must have electricity to work.
Additionally, some users have expressed concern over the security of the VoIP system and its vulnerability to hackers and viruses. Due to the system’s use of broadband networks, many users wonder about the safety of using the network.
Dependence on traditional phone lines will be another issue that VoIP will have to face. Multiple systems are based on hard-wired phone networks (alarm systems and emergency/911 networks, for example) and will not easily transfer to a broadband network.
Alexander Graham Bell’s device continues to evolve, pushing the limits of both technology and resources.