What is VoIP and How Does It Work?

by Aeyne Schriber on June 18, 2012 in VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is a technology that is capable of converting your voice into a digital signal which is then transmitted over the Internet.  You may already be familiar with some of the VoIP applications such as Skype which allow you to make phone calls over a high speed broadband Internet connection.  This type of application also allows you to hold face-to-face conversations with friends and family as well as videoconference with colleagues on your work team who may be located in different parts of the world.

If you are not yet familiar with VoIP the time is now to become familiar with it.  It is not difficult to get started using VoIP and you can save tons of money in the process on your conventional phone bill since there is no charge for talking with others regardless of where they are located on the globe.  The following information will provide you with a general understanding of VoIP communications and how it works.

VoIP Defined

VoIP technology is designed to allow you to make telephone calls to other people who also utilize a Voice over Internet Protocol service.  Some of the VoIP services allow you to make a phone call from any device with a high speed broadband connection to a landline phone.  This includes both local and long distance telephone numbers in addition to cell phone numbers and international calling numbers.

Depending upon the VoIP service you are using you can make calls over the Internet from your PC using a headset with a mouthpiece boom or from your mobile device such as your smartphone, tablet PC, or netbook.  Other VoIP services provide the capability to use a conventional phone which utilizes a VoIP adapter to make telephone calls using a high speed broadband Internet connection.

How VoIP Works

When you initiate a phone call using a VoIP service the technology takes your voice communication and converts it into a digital signal which then is transmitted over a high speed Internet connection.  We have mentioned high speed Internet because your voice cannot be transmitted using a slow Internet connection such as dialup.  VoIP requires a high speed connection in order to function properly.

That said when you make a telephone call using VoIP and the call is to a conventional phone line, your voice is converted to the conventional telephone signal prior to reaching its destination.  If you are making a VoIP call to another device such as a PC or mobile device then your voice is converted to a digital signal prior to reaching its destination.  It is also possible to initiate a VoIP call wirelessly using a public wireless access point such as in transportation hubs, retail outlets, parks, and other public venues using your mobile device.

How to Setup VoIP

Depending on how you are using a VoIP service the setup will vary according to the equipment and the environment.  If you are using VoIP for personal use with your PC or mobile device, all you need is a VoIP application such as Skype, a headset with a mouthpiece which is fairly inexpensive, and a high speed broadband Internet connection.

To setup a VoIP connection for your personal use, you simply download an application such as Skype to your PC or mobile device.  Skype offers a free version of the software as well as a paid version which provides more calling options.  Once you download the software you simply login to begin using it.  The headset and mouthpiece connects to your headset and microphone port on your device or you can choose to use an inexpensive microphone which connects to the microphone port.  Also, if you have a computer or mobile device that is equipped with a web cam you can initiate face-to-face conversations with another person who has implemented the same setup on their device.

If you are using a VoIP connection in the workplace or business location the connection requires setup with a high speed broadband provider that is also capable of implementing a VoIP network for multiple users.  Once the network is configured employees can use a special VoIP phone that connects to the broadband line and operates as a conventional landline telephone.  Another option is a conventional telephone which is equipped with a VoIP adapter which allows you to dial the number and connect to the call recipient.  VoIP also allows workers to make phone calls over their PC in the manner we described to you above for personal use.

VoIP Services

If you shop around for VoIP services you will find a variety of different options for obtaining VoIP.  For instance, some providers of VoIP will offer calling services for free and all you have to do is download the software to start making calls.  The people you call must also subscribe to the service to maintain free calling over the Internet.

Other VoIP services may charge you for making long distance calls outside of your local area when you choose an upgraded subscription.  Depending upon the service they may allow calls for inside your local area and then a certain fee for calls outside your area.  The good news is that the fee is typically much less than making long distance calls over a conventional telephone service line.

A few other types of VoIP services will charge you a flat rate for unlimited calling regardless if it is a local call, long distance call, or international call.   The service will offer you a flat rate regardless of your calling habits

Receiving VoIP Calls

Receiving calls via your VoIP service is easy and in most cases even utilizes an answering service which delivers messages to your email account.  If your device is turned on you will receive a ring signal from another VoIP caller or even a caller that is using a traditional phone configuration.  When the call comes in you simply click on connect to start communicating with the person on the other end.

If you are using a special VoIP phone or a conventional phone with an adapter, the phone may operate like a traditional landline setup where you receive the call notification via a ringtone and answer the call as you would a traditional telephone.  The only difference is the call is transmitted over the Internet as opposed to a typical phone line.

Points to Consider When Using VoIP

There are a few things you should consider when replacing your conventional telephone service with VoIP.  First and foremost, there are a few VoIP providers which may not offer or will place limits on 911 calling.  If you are using VoIP in your home or with a public service which offers some type of emergency assistance this could present a problem.  Make sure you check on these guidelines first before you replace a conventional phone line.

Another point to consider is that some VoIP services may not be able to function during a power outage plus, the VoIP service provider may not have any backup power implemented within their infrastructure.  Again, this will vary according to what type of VoIP service you are using, the type of connection, and the environment where you are accessing VoIP calling. Although VoIP calling system have advances in technology it is always wise to check on the service limitations before you make a final decision to eliminate your conventional phone line.

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