VOIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, or in plain English the provision of a telephone service through the internet.
If your Internet connection is of a good standard you can then access a telephony service delivered via your internet connection instead of or alongside your current telecommunications provider.
A large proportion of people use VoIP in addition to their traditional telephone service. VoIP service providers usually offer lower rates than traditional telephone companies, but often don't offer telephone directory listings, 1471 services, or other popular telephony services. Whilst some VoIP providers do offer these telephone solutions a consistent, industry-wide means of offering them is still being developed.
Applications using VoIP
Traditional telephony applications, such as outbound call centre applications and inbound IVR applications can normally be run on VoIP.
Why use VoIP?
There are two fundamental reasons for using VoIP
- Lower Costs
- Increased functionality
Ordinarily telephone service via VoIP is less expensive than an equivalent service from traditional telephonic sources; this is largely because traditional telephony services are either monopolies or government entities. The use of a single network to carry voice and data can also generate savings; this is especially true when users have existing under-utilized network capacity that they can use for VOIP without incurring any additional costs.
Most users consider VoIP phone calls (even international) to be FREE calls; this is not strictly true as there is a cost for the internet service but as using VoIP via this service does not generally involve any extra charges the users view the calls as free. There are a number of services which have sprung up to facilitate "free" VoIP calls.
VoIP facilitates certain telephone solutions which are virtually impossible with traditional phone networks:
- Incoming phone calls are automatically routed to your VoIP phone no matter where you are by simply plugging it in to the network. No matter where you are in the world as long as you can connect your VoIP to the Internet, you can receive incoming calls.
- Call centre agents can easily work from anywhere with a good Internet connection by using VoIP telephone solutions
One of the biggest challenges faced in the promotion of the utilization of VoIP is to encourage first time users to adopt VoIP. This web content information provides a mere overview of the various ways in which you can use VoIP.
Below are 6 examples of how VoIP can be used (for expediency they are placed in order of increasing convenience:
- Instant Messengers - This is probably the simplest, though not necessarily the most convenient method to access VoIP. Yahoo has been offering VoIP service on its messenger for some time. You can make low cost calls directly through Yahoo messenger after topping up your pay as you go credit. An even cheaper alternative is GtalktoVoIP. GtalktoVoIP provides VoIP facilities within your messengers at competitive rates without any additional software. You can use it in conjunction with Google Talk, MSN messenger, ICQ, AOL, and Yahoo messenger. Gtalktovoip has links with several VoIP providers and uses the one with the lowest cost to generate the call. For instance, if you were to call India, the call would be routed through Avangard as the others are more expensive. You can also specify your own VoIP service provider to route the calls in order to get an even better deal.
Pros - No additional equipment is required
Cons - Your mobility is limited as you must remain by your computer for the entire call
- Soft phones - A soft phone is a computer programme which enables you to make phone calls over the internet using VoIP. The software is similar to (in terms of look and feel) a typical instant messaging client, though it is customized for VoIP communication. It has the ability to connect to a VoIP provider and make regular telephone calls. Soft phones can use standard protocols like SIP, H323 or they can use proprietary protocols. Some highly recommended free soft phones that use standard protocols like SIP are Counterpath Xlite, YATE (Yet another Telephone Engine), GizmoProject, etc. Others, such as Skype use proprietary protocols.
Pros - No additional equipment is required
Cons - Again your mobility is limited; you are stuck by the computer and you are aware that you are not using a telephone
- PC based IP phones - These are more sophisticated devices that can communicate directly with the VoIP application on the computer. They typically communicate with the computer through the USB port. These devices can initiate the VOIP communication without a PC. The computer is however required to complete the communication. Skype phones, Magicjack, etc. are examples of such devices.
Pros - They offer a little more freedom from the computer (not complete)
Cons - They still require a computer
- Analogue Telephone Adapters (ATA) - are a piece of apparatus which connects the traditional analogue phone to the VoIP network. An ATA enables you to access VoIP without having your computer switched on. More information on ATAs can be found here. The most popular ATA providers include: Linksys, D-link, Cisco, Grandstream, this list is not exhaustive. ATA's offer more control and flexibility in terms of using VoIP providers, call routing etc. Service providers such as Vonage and Ooma offer preconfigured ATA's.
Pros - Complete freedom from the computer (except during configuration), flexibility
Cons - Additional investment, having to use of Multiple devices (ATA and the phone)
- IP Phones - Instead of using ATAs and a regular analogue phone you can use SIP phones which connect directly with VoIP service providers. These phones look like regular phones but have a built in ATA to communicate with digital networks. They come in both wired and wirelessly, the wireless variety is able to operate via Wi-Fi network. They are different than the PC based IP phones in the sense that they do not require a computer to complete the communication. Top wired IP phones can be found here and top wireless phones can be found here. The key players in this segment are Linksys, D-link, Cisco, Grandstream; again this list is not exhaustive.
Pros - Complete freedom from the computer (except during configuration), the use of a single device
Cons - Lower flexibility
- Regular telephones and mobiles - Amazingly, you even use your existing phone to access VoIP. Several VoIP providers offer access numbers to enable you to use their service. To make a call, you simply dial their access number, then enter your pin (this may be optional in some cases) and dial the number you want to be connected to.
Pros - Complete freedom from the computer (except during configuration), no additional purchases, no additional devices, voice quality does not depend on your internet bandwidth
Cons - Lower flexibility, receiving calls may still be expensive
With so many options available there isn't a viable excuse not to use VoIP. If you have any queries about VoIP or your preferred VoIP method, please call our contact centre solutions team on: 0207 199 4610 and one of customer support staff will be more than happy to assist you.