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Phone system: Understanding VOIP systems

Reading time: 2 mins

Voice of Internet Protocol - or VOIP - systems are now quite mature enough to meet the sound quality and reliability standards needed by most corporations so that their daily phone operations can be conducted using this channel.

As conventional lines are increasingly abandoned in favour of cheaper VOIP lines, businesses should understand how VOIP works in order to make the right choice, as typical prices of VOIP systems can greatly differ.

VOIP system

VOIP systems basics

Hosted systems and on-site systems are very different, and therefore require different equipment.

• How VOIP systems work

VOIP works quite differently depending whether hosted systems, which are more frequently used by smaller companies, or self-hosted systems are installed:

- Hosted systems are supported by offsite infrastructures, and most of the time, all that the end-user needs to do is to plug his phone into the socket.

- On-site systems need IP-based private branch exchange, so that calls and data can be routed to the desired phones or devices on the network through a gateway.

• Necessary equipment

Obviously, VOIP requires a broadband connection - the more devices and phone, the greater the bandwidth needed.

While a common DSL line will be enough for the common office and small companies, call centres and other companies which need to make or receive hundreds of simultaneous calls simultaneously will be more interested in a fibre-optic connection, or trunk-Sip providers.

When on-site systems are considered:

- IP-PBX servcers,

- Gateways,

- Routers,

- Switches,

- SIP enabled phones,

- Or analogue telephone adapters if you want to keep your old desk phones.

Typical system prices

There are dozens of providers and plans on the VOIP systems market these days, but prices of typical basic, mid-range and high-end systems do not vary greatly from one carrier to another. It is therefore possible to get a general idea of the costs of each of these categories, bearing in mind that the cost of the hardware adds up to the cost of the service plan itself.

Basic systems

Basic systems handle all routing and conversions offsite, so customers just need compatible phones with the right settings.

Carriers will usually sell pre-configured phones for as little as £50, and service cost may be as low as £30 per month per user, without unlimited airtime.

• Mid-range  systems

Mid-range systems do not require more hardware to be installed, but will add a few features as standard such as:

- Unlimited dialing,

- Emergency numbers dialing,

- Virtual receptionist,

- Advanced transferring, logging, screening, call forwarding, and parking options

Service will cost twice as much as with a basic plan.

• High-end systems

High-end systems are complex, self-hosted VOIP systems that require the purchase and installation of IP-PBX servers, PSTN gateways and SIP phones. These devices may cost as much as £600, £250 and £80 respectively.

Extra features include:

- Trunk SIP,

- Power over ethernet,

- Dozens of simultaneous calls,

- Customisable geographical numbers...

Beyond the investment needed for the hardware, and installation and integration costs, plan prices will in fact not be much higher.