Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

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VoIP, which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, is a general term used to describe different technologies used for the delivery of voice communications over IP networks or other packet-switched networks. Put in simple terms, it is most commonly used for technology which allows users to use a telephone over the internet.

VoIP Phone technology has been around since the early 1990's, but only recently has the service become widely available for commercial and residential use. VoIP relies on high speed Broadband Internet connections to work properly. The widespread increase in the availability of Broadband Internet connections is the reason VoIP phone services has risen dramatically since about 2004. Many Broadband carriers now mass market VoIP services as part of their technology packages and product offerings.

VoIP Configurations

There are three common methods of connecting to VoIP service providers:



VOIP Box
(typical analog telephone adapter (ATA) for connecting an analog phone to a VoIP provider)

  1. An Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) which is connected between a broadband network and an existing telephone line. This type of service is usually offered by broadband Internet providers. It is generally less expensive than traditional phone service from the phone company and provides a connection of similar quality.
  2. Dedicated VoIP phones are phones that allow VoIP calls without the use of a computer. Instead they connect directly to the IP network (using technologies such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet).
  3. A softphone (also known as an Internet phone or Digital phone) is a piece of software that can be installed on a computerthat allows VoIP calling without dedicated hardware. The greatest advantage of using a softphone is the ability to use the same phone number anywhere in the world. If you have a laptop that has the softphone software, your phone can literally travel where ever you can take your laptop.

VoIP Benefits and Restrictions

A huge benefit to VoIP is reduced cost. VoIP services can cost up to three timesless than traditional phone service. In addition, more than one call at a time can be transmitted over a VoIP connection allowing usersto forego adding additional telephone lines when multiple lines are needed. And finally, most additional fee services such as call waiting, conference calling, and call forwarding are included free of charge with most VoIP plans.

VoIPdoes have it limitations though. First and foremost, VoIP call quality is only as good as the broadband network on which it is carried. So during peak internet usage periods, VoIP call quality can suffer and broadband connection become overloaded and therefore slow. In addition, if your power or internet connection is down, your VoIP service will be down as well unlike traditional phone lines. And finally, because of the difficulty in locating specific IP addresses, it is much more difficult to track a 911 or other emergency call than with traditional phone service.

Overall

Overall, VoIP phone service can provide a reliableand much less expensive option to traditional phone service. The reliability and quality of VoIP phone service continues to improve as new software and hardware technologies are added and as broadband networks become more widespread and faster.

If you are considering VoIP, please visit one of the quality VoIP providers listed on this page. In addition, you may want to first test the quality of your potential broadband VoIP connection using our free VoIP Connection Speed Test.