VoIP is the newest advancement in audio communications technology, and has a
variety of different applications that make it useful. VoIP stands for Voice
over Internet Protocol, and how VoIP works is actually quite revolutionary
because it streamlines the process of sending analog audio signals by converting
them to a much easier to send digital form for transmission.
To understand how VoIP works, you'll need to understand the basic concept
behind regular analog audio communication as well, since this is the precursor
for VoIP. Analog phone calls are actually made via fiber optic networks by
digitizing your voice communications for sending the signal across thousands of
miles, but once it gets to the final destination (a home or office phone, for
instance), the signal is once again converted to analog.
During these calls, the switches remain open even while there is dead air and
no conversation is taking place; the circuit is also open in both directions
even when only one party is talking and the other is listening. This isn't
terribly efficient, and slows down the communication of information
Packet switching streamlines VoIP
VoIP works on a different premise -- rather than circuit switching, data
packet switching sends and receives information only when you need it instead of
in a constant stream. It also sends the information packets along whatever open
channels are available rather than a dedicated line, which is much more
efficient. The information is simply reassembled at the source.
The payload of each packet has a destination coded into it determining the
ultimate destination. When the computer at the other end receives all of these
packets, it will reassemble the information into useable form. This form of
sending audio data is extremely efficient because it always takes the cheapest
route that is also the least congested.
The compression of information and use of multiple routes in order to send
that information over the most efficient route makes sending audio over packet
switching quicker, much less expensive and more efficient. The number of calls
that can be sent is orders of magnitude higher than it was with the more
traditional analog circuit switching systems.
For companies, the savings in long distance charges can be in the hundreds or
even thousands of dollars per year. If companies also make extensive conference
calls, VoIP makes even more sense when combined with conferencing options such
as document sharing in systems offered by companies like Voxwire and iVocalize.
Different types of VoIP calling are available
- The most commonly used VoIP system is from one computer to another. To set
up this type of service, you will need to have a sound card installed in both
computers along with microphones and Internet connections. For practical
purposes, you'll want a broadband connection or DSL -- a dial-up modem will be
so slow the sound quality just won't be that good. Aside from that, all you
need is a software package that can set you up with everything you need to use
VoIP to make phone calls to whomever is also set up with the same system.
- You can also invest in IP phones if you want something that looks just
like your standard analog telephones but with VoIP connectability. These
simply replace the old-style RJ-11 connectors with Ethernet connectors
(RJ-45). Hardware such as routers and the needed software are built right in.
- Analog telephone adaptors (ATA) enable you to connect a standard telephone
to your computer Internet connection in order to take advantage of VoIP
options. ATA converts analog signals to digital so that it can be transmitted
properly via the Internet.
- The newest option on the market is the Wi-Fi phone, which uses
short-distance Internet transmission of VoIP to replace cell phones calls.
Wi-Fi broadcasts over the radio spectrum to cover short range areas for users
in certain areas, and these "hot spots" have popped up across the U.S.
The upshot of VoIP is that standard long-distance charges may soon become a
thing of the past. As more and more consumers turn on to VoIP and broadband
connections make it easy and inexpensive (as well as practical) to make phone
calls over the Internet, fewer individuals will be willing to pay high rates to
make a telephone call they can make for free or next to nothing via their
VoIP saves you money on long distance
There's no by-the-minute charges with VoIP, no set-up fees, and no "time of
day" or overages. That's the great thing about VoIP plans. You just pay a
monthly fee and get to make all the calls you want over your computer for one
monthly fee. It's so simple and elegant, and it's the solution that everyone's
been wanting and waiting for far too long.
You don't have to wait for a certain time of day of day of the week to make
telephone calls with VoIP. There's also the advantage of being able to use your
VoIP connection from anywhere -- remember, you're not tied to a phone jack to
use your number, but an Internet connection, so you can call from anywhere with
many calling plans.
Some of the companies that offer excellent VoIP plans with unlimited calling
are listed below with their most popular options:
- Vonage currently offers a $24.95 per month unlimited VoIP package
to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. It includes voicemail, call forwarding,
three way calling, call waiting and caller ID.
- Packet 8 can provide unlimited VoIP for $19.95 a month in the U.S.
and Canada with a variety of features like call waiting and three-way calling,
and can also give you video phone service for about $29.95 per month.
- AT&T's CallVantage provides the usual U.S. and Canada broadband
calling with voicemail, call waiting, etc. along with email, a call log and a
'do not disturb' option, all for $29.99 a month. You also get to keep your
phone number for life, no matter where you go -- a great feature for some who
move around a lot.
VoIP in web conferencing packages
VoIP is used in almost all web conferencing services as an alternative to
standard conference calls, and looking into these packages will give you an idea
of some ways to combine VoIP with extras such as white boards, document sharing
and video. For less expensive options, many companies can provide strictly audio
VoIP conference calls combined with text messaging and document sharing without
Some companies that offer VoIP in web conferencing packages separate from
video conferencing are:
- Voxwire offers voice communication with features like auto-queue,
mute options, individual speaker adjustments and moderator controls along with
a "follow me" browser system so that all participants can view a shared
desktop. Two persons can use VoIP for $9.95 a month, or up to ten in a
conference environment for $29.95 per month.
- VoiceCaf? provides similar services with a wide range of options
that vary from packages with VoIP capability for five people at a time on a
conference call to up to 500 in one conference call, all for a flat monthly
fee. The prices vary depending upon what package you choose, and there are
- iVocalize offers VoIP along with Internet conferencing options like
PowerPoint presentation capabilities and presentation recording for future
playback. They also provide optional Unicode translation in thirteen
languages. The most basic VoIP package begins at $10.00 a month with a prices
going up incrementally depending upon your needs and how many will be involved
in your conference calls.
It is obvious that conference calling as well as standard long distance
calling will be changing greatly in the near future as VoIP changes the
landscape of telephone service. "Land lines" for long distance calling will
eventually become obsolete as broadband becomes more common and makes VoIP just
as commonplace as any other type of telephone call.
And with the greater portability of soft phone options built into laptops and
the use of ATA phone adapters, the use of VoIP in the average home will arrive
sooner rather than later.
This article on the "How VoIP Works" reprinted with
Copyright ? 2004-2005 Evaluseek Publishing.
About the Author
Lucy P. Roberts is a successful freelance writer providing
practical information and advice for consumers and businesses about everything related to audio conferencing services and VoIP providers. Her numerous articles include tips for saving both time and money; product reviews and reports; and other valuable insights for persons searching the Internet for information about the history of the telephone and related topics.