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Voice over IP
Voice over IP (or VoIP) is a popular term for internet telephony – the routing of voice conversations over the internet or other data network. It's possible to use VoIP to speak to another person using VoIP, or someone using a public switched telephone network (PSTN, i.e. a landline or mobile telephone). The conversation is converted into digital signals which are converted back into sound at the receiver's end. There are several benefits to using VoIP.
The Benefits of VoIP to VoIP
- VoIP to VoIP (people using their computers to speak to one another, rather than ordinary mobile or landline telephones) is free on many VoIP protocols. That means you can make free voice calls to anywhere in the world, as long as you and the person you want to speak to have access to the internet, are logged onto the same VoIP protocol, and are both "online" at the same time.
- Many VoIP to VoIP clients provide additional functionality, including IM chats, video streaming and other features, which are integrated with the VoIP function.
- VoIP to VoIP over an encrypted internet connection avoids many of the possible security problems involved with landline and mobile telephone calls.
- The same ID can be used in any location, as with a mobile telephone – so long as the user has access to a computer with their VoIP client installed, they will be able to make calls with their own ID.
The Benefits of VoIP to PSTN
- International and local VoIP to PSTN calls are often cheaper than landline calls. Unlike with VoIP to VoIP, there is no need for the call recipient to be "online" - they just need to have their mobile phone switched on or their landline telephone plugged in, as with calls from ordinary telephones.
- VoIP to PSTN offers many features for no additional cost which cost extra using landline calls: for example, three-way calling, caller ID and call forwarding.
- More than one call can be transmitted on the same broadband connection simultaneously. This makes adding extra telephone lines very simple.
- Again, the same ID can be used to make calls VoIP to PSTN whatever the location of the user, so long as they have access to a broadband connection. This means that telesales workers could work from home.
Problems with VoIP
- Sometimes you could experience echo using VoIP to VoIP if you receive messages through your speakers rather than through headphones.
- There can also be some loss of quality due to packet loss, such as latency and jitter. There is no Quality of Service guarantee with VoIP because it relies on the speed of the users' broadband connections. However, that said, sometimes the quality of VoIP conversations can be of a higher quality than landline or mobile telephone calls.
- In the event of a power cut, landline telephones continue to function by way of backup batteries or generators at the telephone exchange. VoIP relies on home electricity supplies and so will be cut off in the event of a power outage.
- Emergency calls cannot easily be traced when VoIP is used rather than a landline or mobile telephone, which could be problematic if the caller is unable to give an address.
How to Use VoIP
You can use a software-based VoIP service or a computer-independent device to make VoIP calls.
- Software-Based VoIP Services -
Skype is probably the most popular and best-known software VoIP service. It was designed with VoIP specifically in mind, and the basic version of the software is available for free. Skype offers users the ability to make free VoIP to VoIP calls and also sells credits to make VoIP to PSTN calls and send SMS. You can also pay a fee which allows people to call your Skype number from a mobile phone or landline at their local rate. The Skype software VoIP service also features video chats, user searches and IM capability.
There are also free VoIP to VoIP services available on many instant messaging protocols, including MSN over IP, Yahoo!, Google Talk etc. Some of these also offer VoIP to PSTN at a cost.
If you're using software-based VoIP, you will need a microphone and headphones (to avoid echo from speakers). An alternative to this is to use a traditional phone handset, plugged into your computer via an ATA (analogue telephone adaptor).
- Handheld VoIP Devices -
Many landline telephone providers, including BT, offer a VoIP service and will be happy to sell you a handset to go along with it. IP telephones look much like ordinary phones, but they plug directly into an Ethernet port on your router and utilise your broadband connection to make calls instead of your telephone landline. You can buy IP telephones from many VoIP providers.
Nokia has produced a mobile phone model which supports VoIP via wireless internet.
By Brian Jackson