What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol is a form of technology that enables voice to be carried over Internet. It is simply a method of making telephone calls over the Internet. Even though the ‘phone’ aspect is not always present, it’s possible to make VoIP calls without the need of a telephone head. The Internet Protocol (or IP) that VoIP is premised upon a design with the original intention of aiding in data networking. The IP achieved such immense success that it became the benchmark for data networking, which paved way for it to be used to eventually carry voice data. VoIP has proved crucial for those people who have to make long distance calls which hitherto were costly when made through traditional telephone lines. Though absolutely free, VoIP calls still remain elusive up to this day, the technology has pushed the price of calling to historical lows and has helped to lower the cost for calls made on landlines and mobile telephony. Users in some regions in the world, particularly North America, only pay a flat monthly charge to make unlimited calls through VoIP. Even these monthly charges can be done away with if the subscriber uses the Internet connection for both data traffic and voice calls.

One can make two main types on VoIP calls. First, one can call another person using the same VoIP services, and these are typically PC to PC calls. Secondly, one can make a VoIP call to a landline or a mobile device. In the former case, the calls are mostly free. One may wonder why VoIP is so cheap. Well, that has something to do with the way VoIP calls are made. VoIP technology uses packet switching. Suppose you make a 10-minute call to person B over a traditional phone, you will be charged for the 10 minutes you are on the phone, regardless of how little you actually got to talk yourself. That would be the same case even if person B monopolized the conversation, or if both of you did not have anything to say to each other for about some time. In an analogous 10-minute VoIP call (presumably one made to a landline from a PC), you will be charged for the voice data coming from your end. What you say is turned into data, or packets and these are sent in small bits, individually, complete with an address directed to a particular destination. Once received on the other end, the adapter on the phone reassembles the packet into the original data. Thus a 10 minute call made this way might turn out to be a four minute call at a much lower cost. And the process is repeated over and over again until the conversation is over. The end result is that the calls are efficient and packet friendly.

So, what do you need to do in order to make a VoIP call? You need a computer connected to the Internet, software that is usually downloaded free from the Internet, and a microphone or headset. One can then call other VoIP users. The main weakness with PC VoIP is that once your computer is turned off, you will not be in a position to receive calls. It’s now possible to make VoIP calls through an adapter installed on a regular headset. And lastly, there are mobile headsets now designed to be used for VoIP calls, and Skype phone and Truphone are examples of these.

Additional Reading on VoIP