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Technology

What is VoIP, and How Does It Work?

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Forget about the traditional copper wires and wired handsets. Today you can call anyone, anywhere, and at any time using the internet – through the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). But what is VoIP call, after all? Let’s understand technology and how it can change the way you communicate.

It’s the technology that converts your voice into digital signals, enabling you to make calls directly from a computer, smartphone, or any other data-driven device. In other words, it’s the phone service delivered over the internet with the added advantages of the internet.

The technology was launched back in 1995 and has revolutionised the way we communicate.

It is generally referred to as IP technology, broadband telephony, internet telephony, or broadband phone service.

If you believe it or not, VoIP technology doesn’t use a phone line and provides unparalleled telephony support services and features. Let’s dive into understanding how VoIP works and the best way to employ the technology.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a transmission protocol for voice and multimedia content over the internet. Using VoIP, users can make calls from smartphones, computers, VoIP phones, WebRTC-enabled browsers, and other mobile devices.

With the bloom of broadband internet, VoIP has become a primary choice of phone service for consumers and businesses alike. People prefer using VoIP-based phone services over traditional phone lines. But what is a VoIP phone? It comes loaded with many more capabilities and a better quality of service than analogue phones. And all that at less than half the cost.

The Internet Protocol address is how computers and devices communicate with each other on the internet. Since the 90s, telephony has relied on digital lines to carry phone calls cost-effectively and efficiently. It’s nothing like the local phone lines and can handle an unlimited number of calls.

So, what is VoIP for you? If you have an internet connection, you can call anyone without relying on a local phone service. VoIP calling solutions work with open internet standards that allow it to work on any computer.

VoIP-based service providers don’t just establish your calls. They also do the routing of outgoing and incoming calls through existing telephone networks. Many businesses depend on specialised hardware for phone service known as Private Branch Exchange (PBX). The PBX connects internal phone extensions to the public telephone network. But are very costly to set up and maintain.

There’s a better option for businesses – a trusted VoIP provider can handle everything for you. The digital phone service provider can connect you to the world at a much lower cost than older telephone systems.

How do VoIP Phone Systems work?

When it comes to a VoIP-based service, your calls are transmitted differently. The audio (voice) from your end is converted into digital packets (bits of data) and sent over the internet. Audio voice signal conversion into digital packets is managed by “codecs.” A codec can be some software processes or hardware devices. The codecs compress the voice signals and encode them as digital signals as data packets.

The data packets are then transmitted over the internet. It can either be on a Local Area Network (LAN) or online. Usually using the Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) or the Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP). The latter is an encrypted or secure transmission process. It’s comparable to a postman picking up the envelopes from your doorstep and taking them to the destination.

The transmission happens instantly, and once the data packets reach their destination, they need to be decoded and decomposed. Again the codecs come into play. As the codecs take digital data and convert them back to audio signals. The recipient of your call hears your voice as they normally would on a traditional phone line.

Other than the technicalities involved, the process of making a VoIP call isn’t much different to a standard phone call. You can use hardware or a software-based VoIP phone to make calls over the IP.

The hardware-based VoIP phones are similar to a traditional desk handset or phone. It looks pretty similar and can be used in the same ways. VoIP phones not only make and receive phone calls. But also let you receive voicemail, use call routing systems or auto-attendants, make internal calls, and do call transfer tasks. Some modern VoIP phones even have screens, allowing you to make video conference calls.

Softphones

Often called softphones, software-based VoIP phones are the apps or programs installed on a mobile phone or computer. These programs and apps replace the traditional phone handset. These are designed to look much similar to normal phones with a keyboard or touchscreen. They can use a phone’s headset and microphone or a computer’s built-in microphone and speakers.

How VoIP works in simple steps:

  1. Your phone is connected to the Local Area Network (LAN) via a switch or router.
  2. Once you dial a telephone number, the VoIP-based phone tells the VoIP service provider to call the recipient.
  3. The VoIP service establishes the call and continuously exchanges data packets from your IP phone.
  4. Your VoIP-based phone converts the digital signals back to sound so you can hear.

VoIP bypasses the telephone company completely and relies only on your internet connection. A few decades ago, you might need expensive, proprietary equipment to use VoIP. But, today, VoIP is built upon industry standards like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), offering interoperability between desk phones, VoIP apps, and conference phones.

Advantages and disadvantages of Using VoIP

Following are some of the main advantages vs disadvantages of using VOIP.

VoIP Advantages:

What is the biggest advantage of VoIP? Find out some of the major benefits of VoIP technology below.

Low Cost:

The first thing every person or a business, large or small, considers is a cost-saving opportunity. One way you can take advantage of significant cost savings is by adopting a VoIP phone system.

Everyone wants to stay in touch with loved ones, communicate with suppliers and clients. A quick phone call is often the most convenient way to stay in touch. The biggest advantage of using VoIP services is that calls from VoIP telephone systems are cheaper, and you’ll be able to make and receive calls anywhere in the world without incurring any extra cost. So, no expensive roaming fees.

One of the best VoIP-based mobile services in the UK, Talk Home Mobile customers save up to £22 a month on average. Using VoIP can reduce your phone bill by more than 50%. However, it is important to note that your shift to VoIP will not guarantee the phone bill will plummet. Businesses differ, so do the needs and, in return, the bills.

Accessibility and Portability:

VoIP is, by nature, not location or distance-dependent, meaning you can take your VoIP phone system anywhere you go, especially in the case of a cloud phone system. VoIP phone systems boast great portability and flexibility than traditional alternatives. That provides a firm with improved accessibility and mobility across the board.

The portable VoIP systems allow users to make and receive calls from anywhere with an internet connection and the app or software. Incoming and outgoing calls made from anywhere will use the same phone number.

The agility of VoIP perfectly suits the modern, mobile workforce. And makes remote working much simpler and easier. Similarly, helping businesses connect multiple offices or premises. It’s streamlining both internal and external communications with ease.

Scalability:

Another big advantage of the VoIP system is its simplicity and practicality to expand as the firm grows. When using traditional telephony, expanding becomes a major undertaking. New hardware and extra phone lines are needed to expand the operation. Which often comes at a high cost.

Things are much simpler and easier with VoIP. Expanding a VoIP-based system is easy, for example, including new phones or workstations. Firms can even use a well designed BYOD (bring your own device) policy to allow employees to bring personal smartphones or laptops to use the system. Added features like virtual receptionists or automated call handling can also be added to the firm’s system.

Added Functionality:

VoIP systems make some things that are difficult or sometimes impossible with traditional phone networks. Features like auto-attendant, call forwarding, call transferring, call recording and call queues are extra functionalities that come with VoIP.

These features allow businesses for improved call routing and reducing unnecessary time on the phone. Incoming calls are automatically routed to your VoIP phone as soon as you plug it into the network. You can take your VoIP phone with you anywhere you like and connect it to the internet to make or receive calls.

Multi-party calling capability and conference call enables multiple people to join the same call. Businesses use the robust conference calling functionality built right into the VoIP service.

Better Call Quality:

Making and receiving calls over the internet can be way clearer and crisp than a telephone line. Especially when making international calls, traditional phone lines can be very choppy and disturbing. Whereas the internet-based VoIP reduces the interference and improves the clarity of the call. Similarly, you don’t have to rely on a phone signal, a problem many faces when they’re on the move, trying to connect to a mobile network or when abroad.

Flexibility with Softphones:

Softphones are programs installed on computers or smart devices like smartphones or tablets. A good example is Skype or WhatsApp. Some enterprise VoIP providers offer tailored applications for businesses. There are multiple benefits of having a softphone for your business communications, including:

  • Frees up desk space
  • Greater portability
  • Cuts on equipment costs
  • Enables the always-connected workforce
  • More flexibility and support remote work style

Increased Security:

Many people don’t think much about the security of their phone system. Phone system security is of great importance, especially for businesses and individuals that share sensitive information. Today, many scammers and fraudulent are demanding personally identifiable information (PII), trying to trick you, typically through social engineering.

VoIP systems can mitigate such security threats by leveraging advanced technology such as encryption and improved identity management. Similarly, VoIP providers work proactively to protect their networks from any such attacks.

VoIP Disadvantages:

As everything that has an advantage also has its disadvantages. VoIP technology is no exception. Some of the downsides associated with VoIP services are:

  • A Reliable internet connection needed
  • Jitter and latency
  • No location tracking for emergency calls

Reliable Internet Connection Needed:

The very first thing you’ll require is a strong internet connection. Your VoIP service is only as good as your connection quality. Such that, if your network bandwidth is low, the VoIP is bound to suffer. The service doesn’t use much bandwidth, but VoIP devices must have low latency connections to give the best results. Each device on your Voice Over Internet Protocol system should have at least 100 kbps upload speed and a 70ms ping. Less jitter, which measures the latency and stability of the internet connection.

Though the bandwidth your business requires entirely depends on the number of concurrent calls you plan on making.

Jitter and Latency:

Another common issue an internet-based system can face is latency and jitter. When communicating online, every message is broken into a stream of bits called data packets. The data packets are re-assembled at the receiver’s end to create the original message.

When these packets delay in transmission occurs or get improperly re-assembled, latency and jitter happen. It might occur due to poor internet connection as VoIP requires more bandwidth than normal web browsing. Similarly, to handle the traffic load smoothly, a specialised VoIP router needs packet prioritisation to efficiently handle voice traffic.

Limited Location Tracking:

VoIP is designed to be portable and accessible at any location; it makes it difficult for third parties to pinpoint where a call originates. The call is generated from an IP address with no cell tower information or GPS data to track. While almost 99% of callers don’t require this information, it can create an issue for emergency services like 911. Therefore, you’ll need to explicitly communicate where you are in an emergency.

Top Best 10 VoIP Apps

Today more than ever, we are less and less dependent on mobile networks. You can find data signals or WiFi almost everywhere, most of the time. Technology has pinnacled to the point where we can talk over the internet almost as comfortably as we can talk over the phone. What are some of the top mobile VoIP apps? We’ve also highlighted the benefits of the technology above.

If you’re ready to switch to the much cheaper, easier, and efficient Voice Over Internet Protocol technology, then we’ve got the list of best VoIP apps for quick calls.

Skype

Skype is one of the best and most popular Voice Over Internet Protocol app with a vast user base. The app is fairly easy to use and has direct support with Facebook and Microsoft. The app offers high-quality voice calls, video calls and text messages.

You can also use the app to make calls to landline numbers at a nominal fee. Skype has cross-platform support, where the desktop app is significantly better.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is another big player in the VoIP world. It’s mainly for text messages but supports voice calls, video calls, and SMS text messages. The quality and experience are, of course, determined by your internet speed. The app is heavy on resource usage and can be pretty daunting on lower or older specification devices.

If you have an older device, you can opt for Messenger Lite. It only gives the option to calls and text with a lighter effect on system usage. The app can manage your SMS messages, too, if you want to.

WhatsApp

With over 2 billion users across the globe, it’s one of the most popular VoIP apps in the world. It features chat, voice calls and video calls. The platform is pretty secure with end-to-end encryption between the two communicating parties.

The app is entirely free with no premium features. So, you won’t find any marketing gimmicks to upgrade to a higher plan. WhatsApp offers group chat and group voice or video call options, with up to 256 members at once. WhatsApp has designed for Whatsapp business Business, for small to medium-sized businesses. However, you need a cellular phone number to sign up and stay connected to use the desktop version.

Zoom

Apart from video-conferencing, the Zoom app offers VoIP services for personal and business use as well. You can schedule one on one meetings on Zoom, either audio or video calls, for free. It also offers Zoom Phone, the premium VoIP service starting from $10 per user per month.

You can use it for outbound calls to domestic numbers and select up to 40 countries for unlimited local calling. The app allows you to add toll-free numbers, extensions, additional numbers, and much more. The basic account is free and lets you host meetings for up to 100 participants for up to 45 minutes.

Google Duo

Google Duo is somewhat new in the communications market but offers a superior experience. The app is free with end to end encryption and works on both Android and iOS devices. The app offers crisp voice-only and video calls, with an added feature to make group calls to 32 people in one group.

Google Duo delivers high quality and clear audio and video in 720p HD quality. But can undergo degradation due to low-bandwidth networks. The app offers you to leave messages for unavailable contacts.

Talk Home App

Talk Home App is another amazing VoIP-based international calling solution that allows you to make calls over the internet. Using the app, you can make calls to local and international numbers around the globe at comparatively cheaper rates than normal phone carriers. The app works both on Android and iOS devices. You can send top-up to any mobile number around the world. The Talk Home App is your ultimate option to connect by sending text messages or making voice calls.

Viber

With over 1 billion users worldwide, it’s an instant messaging and VoIP-based app offering free calls between its users. Also, making international landlines and mobile phones is easy with the app. The software is available on iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, and Linux platforms.

You can chat, send messages, images, videos, and make voice or video calls. The app also has a group calling feature and lets you connect with companies offering customer service.

FaceTime:

FaceTime is Apple’s VoIP solution for video and voice calling. It lets iOS users communicate freely from iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac devices. It’s one of the best options for voice and video calls for iPhone users only. The app is super easy to use and allows you to make group video calls. Also, you can leave video mail and come built-in on iOS devices.

IMO:

IMO is another lightweight and free VoIP calling app. You can make voice calls and video calls using the app, send text messages, and other multimedia. The app has a clean design, free HD video chatting, and a large library of stickers for text chatting. The app is available for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS. The desktop app syncs with your mobile version offering a coherent experience.

Telegram:

Telegram is a VOIP based application designed for android and apple devices. It’s a fun messaging platform with strong group chat features and unique channels. It supports video calls and voice calls with excellent app design. The app is cross-platform and has a massive library of stickers to support chat.

Conclusion:

Switching to VoIP can help you save money and enjoy premium quality communication services. Especially for long-distance and international calling VoIP solutions offer cheap and relatively reliable services.

The only charge is having internet access, which is most prevalent with high internet penetration worldwide. Also, VoIP apps allow you to focus on the communication aspect rather than the service quality and how hefty the monthly bills will be, so you focus on your relationships.

FAQs

Can I use a VoIP phone like a regular phone?

Yes, you can use a VoIP phone as your regular phone with more control over your calling experience. With a VoIP phone, you get the same services that a regular phone offers, like the ability to make, receive, and manage telephone calls.

However, with VoIP, you get added functionality at a much lower cost. Your voice is transmitted through the internet instead of the traditional copper wire. And you only need to have an internet connection.

Equipment needed for VoIP?

The equipment you need for VoIP depends on the method of Voice Over Internet Protocol you’re adopting. The first basic thing you’ll need is a broadband connection – preferably a high-speed connection so it’s more reliable and with unlimited data so you can talk as long as you like.

VoIP enabled phones:

VoIP phones are wireless phones designed to work with IP technologies. These wireless phones don’t need to be connected to a wire as a landline phone would. However, they pretty much have the same features you’ll find on a business phone, such as do not disturb, conference calling, and call waiting.

Software or Apps:

You can use software or apps on desktop systems or smartphones to utilise Voice Over Internet Protocol capabilities. The software and apps allow you to use the functions of a physical device like a smartphone to communicate remotely using the internet.

Are VoIP calls free?

It depends on the setup you have. Most VoIP app-to-app calling is always free. Though when calling mobile or landline numbers, it may cost you a little. Other VoIP services like business providers or Hyperoptic cost a monthly fee. You can find many consumer-level apps on the App Store or Google Play to make free VoIP calls.

Even when you use premium or Voice Over Internet Protocol services for business, the charges are significantly low compared to traditional landline charges.

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