Digitalisation has enabled the internet to carry more than raw numbers and data: it can now also carry voice. This means that all phone calls may now be done using the internet rather than what is now seriously called the plain old telephone system. Even if these two concepts are often used interchangeably to refer to internet voice communication technologies, it is important to understand the differences between IP telephony and VOIP.
IP telephony, new ways to use the internet to make phone calls
This general term refers to all technologies using IP connections to carry voice.
IP telephony, sometimes called internet telephony, does not refer to one, but many technologies. All these technologies use the so-called Internet Protocol’s “packet-switched” connections to carry voice signals, fax signals and other data signals which used to be transmitted over the public switched telephone network, over the internet. With Internet telephony, and the use of a proper “soft switch”, any computing device connected to the internet can be turned into a telephone.
Since it has become a popular consumer item, internet telephony service is now provided by many organisations:
- local telephone companies,
- cable TV companies,
- Internet service providers,
- wireless operators.
Advantages and disadvantages of VOIP Telephony
Major advantages include:
- Communications are vastly cheaper than with traditional lines, as almost all “tolls” on the data journey are avoided,
- Environment is much less regulated than the traditional phone system, and is likely to remain this way.
- Much data is flowing on the line, so prioritisation schemes have to be applied,
- Fast connections are required.
VOIP, a popular attempt at standardising IP telephony
Because internet telephony can refer to many technologies, Voice over IP represents one of these, and attempts to become a global standard.
Think about Voice over Internet Packet technology as one specific transport vehicle for voice on the internet. VOIP requires a gateway to integrate with the traditional phone line, encode and decode digital packets. Businesses will connect this gateway between their PBX and WAN to access the service. As Voice over IP routes both data communications and voice communications on the same network, significant savings are done on infrastructure.
Advantages and disadvantages of VOIP for businesses
Small and medium businesses have been very keen to take on Voice over IP for several reasons:
- Cheaper calls,
- Bandwidth stability,
- Media blending or so-called “unified communications” capabilities,
- Ease of installation,
- Growing availability and affordable plan pricing
However, and even if many limitations have been corrected, some disadvantages still exist:
- Call quality may be insufficient in case prioritisation protocols have not been carefully set up, or if the internet connection is not fast enough,
- Power needs,
- Concerns on data security and hacking.