What is VoIP?
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is a system that lets you make voice calls using an internet connection rather than a regular phone line.
With VoIP, the method of connection isn’t important, only the strength. Using Ethernet cables is recommended rather than Wi-Fi due to the guaranteed stability of the cable. If, however, your Wi-Fi is strong and stable, there’s no reason you can’t rely on it for VoIP. Functionally, voice over IP phones have all the features of a landline.
What is an example of VoIP?
The most popular examples of VoIP services are Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. These platforms all offer video functions as well, but when you’re just calling someone through them using the audio function, that would be an example of VoIP.
How is VoIP different from a traditional phone service?
The main difference between VoIP and traditional phone services is that VoIP services call through the internet, while traditional phone calls don’t involve internet connectivity.
Landlines use wires and cables to communicate with other devices and cell phones send radio waves to cell towers that transmit the call onward to a recipient. A VoIP call, on the other hand, works completely through the internet. As long as you have cell data, broadband Wi-Fi, or an Ethernet connection, you can make a call, even if your device doesn’t have signal. This is particularly useful in areas where Wi-Fi connectivity is provided by a router and your device doesn’t have enough service to make a traditional phone call.
How does VoIP work?
VoIP works by converting the sound of a human voice into data that can be sent and received via the internet. To kickstart an online call, you’ll need the help of VoIP service providers. Fortunately, some VoIP providers are already household names. Skype, Zoom, Discord, and Microsoft Teams are some of the most common providers. Many providers also give the user an option to send instant messages. Alternatively, common messaging apps like WhatsApp provide VoIP capabilities.
Firstly, you need to connect to the internet via LAN (local area network) or Wi-Fi. Once you have internet access, you can treat the online call like a normal phone call. Type in a number, email address, or username, and then your service provider can establish a call.
Key VoIP features
Key VoIP features include:
- Voice calls. The main function of a VoIP service is the ability to speak with someone in another location. While other features are useful, this is what defines VoIP.
- Voicemail-to-email. Some VoIP services allow you to record a voicemail that is then presented as text and sent to a contact via email. If the person you’re trying to call doesn’t pick up, this is an easy way to quickly get a message to them.
- Conferencing. With VoIP, you can easily add multiple people to a call. While it’s possible to carry out conference calls on a normal phone, it isn’t as easy or manageable as it is on most VoIP services.
- Video availability. Many VoIP services support video functionality, allowing users to switch to a live video connection within their call.
What are the benefits of VoIP?
Compared to landline telephone calls, which are restricted by the nature of their installation, VoIP calls can be made on the fly so long as there’s an internet connection. Most VoIP service providers offer both mobile phone and desktop apps. A landline is unmovable, grounded, and requires a “hard phone.” A VoIP phone system needs only a microphone, normally built into most communication devices. This technology does away with any limitations a traditional phone system may have.
Further VoIP benefits include:
- Cheaper than a landline. Landlines charge for making and taking incoming calls to remote locations and different countries. Voice over internet protocol, however, has no such limits. All it needs is for both participants to have online capabilities.
- Mobility. So long as the internet connection is strong and stable, calls can be made anywhere. VoIP providers supply users communications services wherever you are, connection depending.
- Versatile. Most VoIP services come bundled with instant messaging features. A landline is only ever a landline.
What are the drawbacks of VoIP?
While VoIP can be convenient, these systems do come with some drawbacks.
- Requires an internet connection. The reliance on having a stable enough internet connection can also work against voice over internet protocol. If you’re somewhere remote that doesn’t get a strong connection, a VoIP system may not work optimally, or at all.
- Reliant on a power supply. If your home suffers from a power cut, that means your router goes down, too. Without a working router, online calls are impossible. So long as the landline provider wasn’t affected by a power outage too, your landline should still be operational.
- Security. Tapping a physical phone line would need a lot of equipment and access to certain phone line facilities. If you conduct online phone calls over an unsecure internet connection, there’s a chance that you could get snoopers listening in on your calls.
VoIP implementation and equipment
VoIP implementation is relatively simple. It requires a device that can capture and emit sound, an internet connection, and either a VoIP app or a Wi-Fi-enabled call function.
Internet connectivity can be provided by a Wi-Fi router, an Ethernet cable, or a built-in antenna (in the case of cell phones). If you’re using Wi-Fi and your smartphone supports Wi-Fi calling, your device will probably default to VoIP if it’s connected to Wi-Fi. With the exception of Wi-Fi calling, setting up VoIP involves downloading an app, like Skype or WhatsApp, onto your device.
Provided your device has a microphone and can produce audio, you’ll be able to make VoIP calls as soon as your VoIP app is running.
How much does VoIP cost?
VoIP can be a very affordable option, which is one of its big appeals. Many VoIP apps are free, so if you already have a device and an internet connection, there is no further cost. Most computers, tablets, and smartphones can run apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger, and assuming you have some kind of internet connection (or access to Wi-Fi through a public hotspot), you don’t need to spend anything.
Having said that, setting up VoIP on a larger scale — in a corporate environment, for example — could cost more. For example, you might want to invest in premium VoIP software that offers more cybersecurity benefits, or faster Wi-Fi to allow for more people to use VoIP at once without connections becoming slow.
Choosing the right VoIP provider
Finding the best VoIP provider for you depends entirely on how you’ll be using the service. Is the VoIP for business or recreational purposes?
If recreational, then the options are wide-ranging. Something like Discord is perfect for online gamers because it allows integration with Valve’s Steam library. It also allows for instant messaging and creating specific chat rooms dedicated to niche fandoms. Similarly, Skype and WhatsApp are incredibly easy services to use and perfect for less tech-savvy individuals.
When it comes to businesses and working environments, you need to find a provider that is simultaneously secure and affordable at scale. If your business is reliant on the technology, then finding a provider that has a 24-hour customer support line must be a priority. Many online phone services even provide video conferencing functionality to help with important business calls. A business VoIP will typically cost a lot more than someone using a service for personal use.