One of the most common questions we get asked here at Just Telecomms is: “What is VoIP?” And as with most technological jargon these days, it can prove hard to get to grips with the meanings behind the terms that get thrown around. Few people fully understand what VoIP services are and how it all works, so we thought we’d provide a beginner’s guide to help you through the world of telecommunications. Enjoy!
First things first – what does VoIP mean?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.
Still confused? Read on.
Internet Protocol is the technical term for the language you’re using across the web for computers to be able to communicate with one another. Unlike humans who are still capable of having a basic conversation in two different languages if they share some common understanding, for computers to communicate with one another they have to know in advance exactly how information is to be exchanged and precisely what the format will be. Specific Internet Protocols, like exclusive languages, allow this communication to take place.
So where does VoIP enter the Protocol arena? Just like the “http” or Hypertext Transfer Protocol found at the start of a URL transmits web pages across the internet, or SMTP is used for email, VoIP is the Protocol, or “internet language” used specifically for telephony and all things telephone-related.
Sometimes referred to as Voiceover Networks or Voiceover Broadband, VoIP uses digital technologies to transform voice audio into digital information which can then be quickly sent across the Internet. In doing so, this system has dramatically transformed the way we communicate, as it is capable of reducing costs and enhancing productivity when compared to old telephone systems.
Whilst in previous periods, telephone-users had to pay a separate premium for both their telephone systems and their broadband, VoIP allows you to make free, or at least very low-cost telephone calls over the Internet all over the world, regardless of which network or equipment the person you’re calling is using. Calls can be free because you’re already paying for your monthly broadband subscription, so you don’t need to pay twice! And since most people have broadband in their homes already, such a service is a natural choice for Internet users.
Such features weren’t available until recently. Before digital networking became so popular, everyone had to use ‘plain old telephone service’, actually known as POTS. Voice communications had depended on POTS for decades, as every phone call, whether local or long-distance, had to travel over the Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN. These POTS systems were circuit-switched, which meant that they relied on circuit switches to connect callers at both ends. Whilst simple (all you needed was a telephone and a copper line in any building), this system also meant that if a line went down, the call couldn’t go through.
With the arrival of the Internet, however, everything changed. VoIP services are very different to the old style telephony. Instead of relying on the older circuit-switch set-up, VoIP uses packet-switched protocols. And what are packet-switched protocols? Packet-switched VoIP neatly packages up voice signals into different packets – or electronic envelopes – so that more information can be carried across the network at one time. Whilst when you used a circuit-switched system, you could lose a call if the line went down, with a packet-switched network, multiple call routes can be set up so that if one person can’t take the call, it can switch to another phone to keep up the call. This allows for greater efficiency and a more reliable communication network – particularly for businesses who require regular calls both internally and externally.
What else makes VoIP more advanced than older telephony? It’s highly portable, for one. VoIP services work with any IP-enabled device – from a telephone, to a computer – allowing you to enjoy features such as voicemail, voicemails directed to your email inbox, hold music on the line and call diverting all through whichever device you choose. And these features come as free with new VoIP systems – another way of saving significant costs.
Many people also ask whether voice quality is reduced when sent via the Internet, but once again VoIP is not at a disadvantage. Usually the call will sound identical to a normal telephone call, but if you call another VoIP customer the call quality is vastly improved because it’s transmitted digitally at radio quality. Sound impressive? It is!
What with its increased flexibility, universal use, scalability and cost-saving, the benefits of VoIP are vast. And now that over 30% of businesses use VoIP services and many of the apps we now use do too (Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, anyone?), it’s clear that this communication revolution is here to stay.
Here at Just Telecomms, we have a comprehensive range of products in our Lincolnshire headquarters which interlink to suit all or any combination of needs from home workers to large national or international corporations. If you’ve got any more questions on VoIP, or are just interested in how VoIP could transform the way you communicate, get in touch with our Just Telecomms team in Lincolnshire today!