How VoIP Works
November 16, 2012
By Rachel Ramsey
, TMCnet Web Editor
You’ve heard the terms “VoIP” and “IP communications” and understand that they are quickly emerging as top technologies that offer benefits such as cost-savings, flexibility and scalability, but you still just don’t quite get it: what is VoIP and how does it work?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is communicating over the Internet. One of the most popular consumer-friendly names in the industry is Skype (News - Alert). VoIP turns your Internet connection into a phone line, allowing you to make and receive calls by simply having an IP phone or phone application on your computer.
Voice Over internet Protocol uses computer algorithms called “codecs” to convert the voice signal from your telephone into a digital signal that is then transmitted over the internet. If you are calling a regular telephone number, the signal is then converted back on the other end by switches that are near your terminating phone. This is why every call is a local call with VoIP. If you are calling another VoIP phone, the extra bandwidth allows for higher-quality audio, and even video and multiway conference calls.
There are three ways to make calls using VoIP. The first is to use a computer to connect to either another computer or a phone, which is how services such as Google (News - Alert) and Skype are used. The technical term for this is “softphone,” because it is a software phone. A Frost & Sullivan report from July found that softphone use in North America is growing rapidly; sales rose to 416,000 units worth $18.9 million in 2007, a 30-percent increase in dollar terms over the previous year. In 2014, sales are expected to reach 4.2 million units, worth $135.1 million.
The second is to use what’s called an “Analog Telephone Adapter,” or ATA. With an ATA, you hook one end up to your existing telephone and the other to your cable modem. The ATA converts the voice signal into data, which is then sent along the Internet until it reaches the called party. An ATA is one of the ways residential and business VoIP subscribers can make it easier to make the switch to VoIP.
The third way is to use a special phone called an IP phone, which is designed for VoIP. An IP phone connects directly to your modem or router and is more closely related to your smartphone than it is to an old telephone.
When a call is made through Internet protocol, the device, whether it’s a computer, ATA, or within the IP phone, breaks down the voice signal into groups of data called packets. The packets contain the voice (or video) data itself, and information about where the data is coming from and where it is going. The packets then go across the internet to their destination. Because the packets can be broken down and reassembled rather than stay in one piece, it is much more efficient—and therefore cheaper—than using a traditional phone system.
If you’ve realized the benefits and features VoIP offers is right for you, GetVoIP.com is a great resource for everything VoIP. It’s a free VoIP guide and directory that delivers trustworthy residential and business VoIP reviews, hands-on support, best calling solutions, latest industry news, provider analysis and service ratings.
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Edited by Rich Steeves