Even if you don’t work in or around the telecoms industry, you will probably have heard the term VoIP mentioned over the last few years. Many of us are probably using this technology already without realising. So what exactly is VoIP? How does it work? This guide should tell you all you need to know.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is essentially a way of conducting phone calls using the Internet as opposed to the traditional telephone system.
VoIP works by converting traditional telephone audio data into a digital format that can then be transmitted via the Internet.
VoIP has actually been around for a lot longer than most people realise. It initially emerged around 1995 when a company called VocalTec created the first widely available VoIP phone, called InternetPhone.
The best-known VoIP service is probably Skype. It also offers a VoIP app. Many of the main telecoms companies now offer VoIP, including (but not limited to): CISCO, Verizon, AT&T, and Vonage.
There are numerous advantages of switching to VoIP, and many businesses have already done so. The key ones are:
VoIP allows businesses to make calls either totally free or at a much lower cost than traditional calls. With VoIP unlimited calls can be made for free between numbers on the same system (i.e. internally). It also requires far less up-front investment compared to a traditional PBX system. In many cases, all you will need to pay for up-front is a VoIP phone. Many businesses which have switched to VoIP have seen their telecoms cost reduced by in excess of 40% per year.
With VoIP, there are very few physical limitations. Indeed, calls can be made from anywhere with an internet connection. Numbers are also portable so you don’t have to change your number if, for example, you were to move from office to home working. This boosts the potential for remote-working and can, therefore, save on office rental costs.
VoIP is ideal for new and rapidly-expanding businesses. There is no need to purchase expensive hardware and the system can be easily scaled up to deal with a spike in demand or a new branch/office being opened. Adding extra numbers is very simple, as is scaling back once a spike has passed.
VoIP phone services come with a range of useful features that are often included in the monthly charge. These include: find me/follow me call routing, voicemail to email transcription, call screening, call-forwarding, auto attendant, conference calls, and video conferencing.
Provided that your Internet connection is stable and fast, voice quality should be crisp and clear. This is not always the case with mobile calls or long-distance landline calls especially.
Because VoIP allows you to decide where calls are forwarded (and how), local power outages or similar issues do not have to take you “offline”. For example, if an office phone can’t be answered, the calls can be forwarded to assigned mobiles instead.
It is believed that as much as 50% of a standard voice conversation is actually silence. VoIP does not use bandwidth when nothing is being said, thus freeing it up for other uses.
When it comes to the negatives of VoIP, there are very few. The major ones revolve around connectivity requirements, call quality (latency and jitter), and issues with power outages and emergency call tracing. Many organisations now use VoIP for business purposes. This is because of the many advantages mentioned above.
Most VoIP providers (including Skype) will allow you to access the system from your mobile device/phone. They will usually have their own bespoke VoIP app to enable this.
Yes – and this is becoming more common, even in residential premises. There is a way of doing this that can eliminate call costs.
The majority of VoIP phones require only a network connection or router.
A VoIP WiFi phone is a specially designed device that can be used where there is no ‘hard’ Internet connection. This means that it can be used in offices or homes where there is only WiFi and no Ethernet cable connection. If you opt for a VoIP phone, you can choose either WiFi-enabled or standard.
As you will need a line in order to receive broadband anyway, you will probably want to keep your landline. You may not need it if you only use a VoIP phone but even in this instance, it can be useful to keep a landline as a backup.
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