How Does VoIP Actually Work?

VoIP, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol, is best explained as the Internet’s version of a telephone conversation. Instead of communicating through a telephone connection, VoIP simply uses the Internet to connect people across the world.

A number of VoIP providers now offer businesses a way to cut costs significantly while enjoying features that traditional phone connections can’t offer. Even if you don’t understand every nuance of the electric currents and receivers and such, you can certainly grasp the concept of the telephone. So how does it work? Here is a basic breakdown of the technology that will help you get the most out of this up and coming communications revolution.

Woman at work using a business voip phone system

Communications – Then & Now

Decades ago, telephone calls used to be routed through a series of copper wires connecting your actual phone to the phone of the person you were contacting. Since this service was individualized (meaning each call solely occupied the lines for the entire conversation), it was expensive and both time and resource consuming. Alternatively, Internet-transmitted calls are being routed through any number of thousands of lines during one conversation, and that is the main advantage of using VoIP. With this system, thousands of interconnected channels are constantly available for your conversation to flow through, and thousands of conversations can be handled simultaneously.

How Does VoIP Really Work

By breaking down the information being transmitted, providers are only using a small amount of those copper lines, thus being able to free up a greater amount of lines for additional information to be received. Did you know that when you are having a VoIP conversation, you are only hearing part of the discussion? In fact, thousands of bytes of information are left out of your conversations every time you speak. How is it that you don’t notice these gaps? Simple; the parts that are left out are actually the dead air, the silent pockets of non-conversation that exist between comments. These empty spaces actually take up a tremendous amount of memory, and so, to reduce lag, they are cut out completely. So, in between the time that you say hello and your friend hears and responds, the lines are made available to other communicators. While these nanoseconds don’t seem important to you, when transmitting millions of bytes of information constantly, they really do add up. This explains why the top VoIP providers are allowed to offer deals at such a reduced cost.

Why Is It Called VoIP?

As the full name - Voice over Internet Protocol - suggests, the technology is simply called VoIP because it takes voice services away from their own dedicated hardware. It used to be the case that every voice called was serviced over the public switched telephone network (PSTN). There are a few downfalls to this sort of dependence on one system. First, while it initially had a much broader reach, the PSTN no longer has an advantage in terms of customers reached than VoIP services can deliver. Second, the PSTN is subject to different regulatory policies and is far less flexible.

VoIP Isn't Limited To Internet Users

One of the early disadvantages of using a VoIP service was that it was only available as an Internet-to-Internet connection. This slowed the adoption of VoIP as a true alternative to traditional PSTN services. Of course, just judging by the widespread adoption of VoIP by businesses and consumers alike, it's clear that this is no longer an issue.

The reason for this is IP backhaul. To put it simply, calls that originate using VoIP aren't stuck on the networks that make up the Internet. They're now able to connect to the switching centers that are at the backbone of the PSTN. At this point, calls are relayed from the Internet to traditional telephone networks, meaning that a call can be placed or received over VoIP at one end and still have a traditional telephone user on the other end.

This has spurred adoption of VoIP in a few areas, such as:

•  Call centers

•  Business telephone systems

•  Consumer users

All of these customers and more are now turning to VoIP at an increasing rate. Without the barriers to entry that used to exist, they see the value in VoIP.

Why Use VoIP?

That brings us to our last point - that VoIP is simply more valuable than traditional calling services. The reason is, of course, cost. VoIP offers more flexibility and better service without having the same costs of PSTN-based services. If you have Internet access, then you have access to install a VoIP system. These systems are also typically easier to maintain, since they run off of the Internet service you already have set up rather than needing their own network. This reduces support costs and leads to less downtime, resulting in increased user satisfaction.

Overall, anyone in need of a phone service should consider VoIP options. Whether it's for a small business of 15 employees or a sprawling call center with thousands of calls per day, chances are that VoIP is the more effective route.

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