Read these 11 How VoIP Works Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about VOIP tips and hundreds of other topics.
VoIP—a short way of saying Voice over Internet Protocol—is a technique for turning the analog audio signals that make up a regular phone conversation into digital data that can be sent out over the Internet.
A lot of people are excited about VoIP because to them it translates into free phone calls over a standard Internet connection. By downloading free VoIP software, they can make Internet phone calls and bypass the phone company—and its charges—completely.
Some consider this a VoIP revolution. Major carriers and new VoIP providers are taking the technology and setting up VoIP calling plans around the United States. And of course the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) is checking out the potential ramifications of VoIP service.
It's not far-fetched to say that someday VoIP technology will totally replace the traditional phone system that's been in place for more than 100 years.
There are three ways to place a VoIP call. You can buy an analog telephone adapter (ATA), buy an IP phone, or talk directly from one computer to another.
An ATA is a simple way to start using VoIP. You take the adapter out of the box, plug it in and you're ready to make VoIP calls.
If you want to get a little fancier, you can buy an IP phone. It looks like a regular phone but has all the software you need to make IP calls. When Wi-Fi phones become available, you'll be able to make IP calls from any Wi-Fi hotspot.
Talking computer to computer is the easiest way to use VoIP. You can get the necessary software free or at very low cost. All you pay is your normal ISP (Internet service provider) fee.
Circuit switching (the basis of traditional phone service) has been around for more than a 100 years and might have been around a hundred more if packet switching hadn't come along.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) uses packet-switching technology. Packet switching, a way of breaking up a phone conversation and transmitting it in a way that eliminates wasted space, is a vast improvement over the old method.
A packet-switched network sends and retrieves data only as you need it. While circuit switching sends your phone conversation over a dedicated line (no one else is using it), a packet-switched phone conversation flows through a frenzied network along thousands of possible paths.
Circuit switching keeps the connection between you and the person you're calling open and constant. Packet switching opens a brief connection that's just long enough to send a small piece of your conversation (a chunk of data called a packet) from one system to another. And if you're not talking, it's not sending.
When the multitude of packets (traveling a multitude of paths) gets to its destination, the packets of conversation are reassembled into the original form. And you didn't even know it happened.
Packet switching is a very efficient technology.
Instead of sending a constant stream of bytes, a packet-switched phone system sends just the packets of noisy bytes. If neither you nor the person you're talking to are speaking, nothing is transmitted.
Packets of data can be sent throughout the network along the least congested and cheapest routes.
For the customer this translates into lower cost of service because costs to the provider are so much less.
To make a phone call using Voice over Internet Protocol, you'll need a broadband Ethernet connection, an adapter and a touchtone phone.
“Broadband” means your Internet access is high-speed (90 kbps or better) and comes through a cable or DSL modem. A broadband connection is continuous and much faster than dial-up. It will give your phone calls consistent high quality sound.
Ethernet is a wired network that connects all equipment with cables. It is quick, reasonably inexpensive and the most stable home networking option.
The phone adapter is usually given free by the VoIP service provider. It translates your voice into data and sends it through the Internet like an e-mail.
Once the equipment is in place, making a VoIP phone call is just like making a regular phone call. Only cheaper.
Packet switching is a method of breaking down and reassembling data. If you send an e-mail to your friend, your computer chops your message (the data) into small pieces (packets). Each packet has an address telling the devices that move it along the network where to send it.
Your computer sends the packet to a nearby router. That nearby router sends the packet to another router closer to your friend's computer. That router sends the packet to an even closer router. On and on it goes until the packet reaches your friend's computer.
The packets that make up your e-mail message may all take different paths to reach your friend's computer, but finally they all get there. Now your friend's computer reads the instructions contained in the packets and reassembles the data into its original state. Your friend can read your e-mail.
If the public switched telephone network has one thing going for it, it's reliability. You pick up the receiver and you hear a dial tone 99.999 times. Computers and e-mail, however, remain a bit sketchy.
The big hurdle facing VoIP, therefore, is reliability.
VoIP depends on electrical power. No power, no phone. In addition, digital video recorders, digital subscription TV services and home security systems linked into the phone line can interfere with VoIP performance. Phone conversations can become distorted, garbled or lost because of transmission errors.
VoIP currently cannot be linked to the E911 system and is susceptible to viruses, worms and hacking.
Lastly, a VoIP phone system depends on the strength of your PC. A call can be affected by processor drain. With VoIP, all phone calls are subject to the limitations of the computer being used, for example low memory or other computer applications competing for resources.
A PBX system handles routing of multiple phone calls with business-class services: direct-dial extensions, conference-calling, auto-answering with multiple options and ring groups. An IP PBX system offers the same services -- or more services. But instead of running everything through a computer box in your office, many IP PBX systems are hosted by the provider. With a hosted IP PBX solution, all you have to do is purchase the service, access it through your Internet connection, and then configure it yourself through the web. It's much easier and almost always much cheaper than PBX services using traditional landlines.
Broadband is a type of communications medium that sends and receives large amounts of data, video or voice information through wide-bandwidth channels.
This type of data transmission uses a single medium (or wire) to carry several channels at once. Cable TV and DSL modems use broadband technology.
Broadband can support a wide range of frequencies, from audio to video, by dividing the total capacity of the wire into multiple, independent bandwidth channels, each one operating within a specific range of frequencies.
Broadband systems can carry a large number of moving images or a huge amount of data simultaneously. Broadband communication lines usually use coaxial or fiber optic cable.
The larger the bandwidth signal, the more channels of information it can carry. Broadband usually refers to bandwidth higher than 2 Mbps.
Simply put, broadband is high-speed transmission and what most people use who want quick access to the Internet.
To use VOIP services, you need a broadband Internet connection. You then convert your voice calls to digital Internet packets, which are reassembled on the other end to the person you call. So why do you need to pay a VOIP provider for service? Basically, if all you want to do is call other people who have the same Internet phone service, you don't have to. You can use a downloadable free service like Skype and use your computer as the phone.
Anyone who has tried to install a PBX service for their business can tell you that it's never all that easy. That's why hosted IP PBX services are becoming more popular for businesses. With a hosted PBX service, all you need to have on your end is a high-speed Internet connection, networked to every desktop where you want to place a phone. The VOIP provider does the rest. And you get access to a full range of business-quality services at the same time.