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What is VOIP?

What is VOIP

Welcome to the next big thing: making telephone calls over the internet.

Please tell me it’s not pronounced ‘voype’…

No, it’s definitely ‘v-o-i-p’. And it’s just as well you know how to say it because, like broadband, VoIP is set to explode from the margins of technology into everyday life.

Why is VoIP the next breakthrough?

It’s the next stage of the internet’s annexation of other networks. Voice over Internet Protocol, to give VoIP its full name, takes a voice-based signal and sends it over the Internet/private data network instead of a telecom network.

Why do we need VoIP?

Phone networks are wasteful, establishing an exclusive connection between the two speakers for the call’s duration. By using VoIP, the call is broken up into tiny chunks, known as packets, that make their way to the listener independently, using the network more effectively.

Think of it like this: if the M1 was run the same way as a phone line, only one car at a time would be able to make the journey; under VoIP, many cars can share the same route.

Does that mean you don’t get charged by the minute as on phone calls?

Ah, if only. The difficulty right now is that most of the time, a VoIP user wants to contact someone on a standard phone line, and the owner of that phone network will charge your VoIP provider for access. So per-minute rates are prevalent, if cheaper than standard tariffs.

How much cheaper?

The best illustration of possible savings is the US market, where VoIP is more mature: packages based on a monthly subscription are available for half the cost of an equivalent telecoms tariff.

There must be a catch.

Indeed. The difficulty in guaranteeing high-quality calls has restricted VoIP’s implementation to privately-owned carrier networks, not the internet so far. And then there’s the expense…

So I can’t get VoIP for my business after all?

You can now. Improving technology means that carraying VoIP over the internet has become feasible.

Do I have to make calls through my PC and a headset?

No, not at all: handsets that plug into a standard Ethernet network point are available for VoIP use.