Since we're using computers all the time to do our work, let's make it easy and add the phone to the pile. VoIP also known as (voice over Internet protocol), Internet telephony, IP telephony, and Internet voice is catching on and is expected to grow in the next few years. The technology has been around for about a decade, but it isn't till now that we have the supporting technology to handle it and an market reaching critical mass (hate using jargon, but there isn't a better way to say it).
VoIP requires users to have broadband connections. With 22 percent of Americans connected to the Internet by broadband, the numbers are large enough for making money with Internet voice and big telecoms are already in the game.
How VoIP works
VoIP works like email. TCP/IP networks consist of IP packets with a header for controlling communication and information for transportating data. VoIP uses the IP packets to send the human voice across the Internet using IP packets to its destination.
It digitizes a voice into data packets, sends them through the network and converts them back to voice when arriving at the destination. Digital format can be compressed, routed, and converted to other and better formats.
When calling someone using VoIP, you use a phone with an adapter. Just like we use a telephone to make phone calls on POTS (plain old telephone service), the adapter is a device to connect the phone to the network. The VoIP phone has its own phone number for callers to dial.
The good and bad things
An advantage of VoIP is it can avoid charges typically found on PSTNs (public switched telephone network). For customers, there is less worry about how long or how often they make phone calls. Calling another state costs the same as calling another country even on the other side of the world. IP-based boxes are cheaper than analog PBXes.
However, service reliability is an issue. How many times has a download or connecting to a Web site faltered? That may not be such a big deal, but it is more disruptive to phone calls. Network issues are complicated by customers getting broadband from one company and VoIP from another. When a call gets switched from network to network, it impacts quality.
When the Internet is down, so is VoIP. Traditional phones aren't affected by power like VoIP since they have its own power and work during blackouts.
Money and regs
Companies make their money by selling features and services. Connect anytime and anywhere there is an Internet connection or while in Wi-Fi-enabled hot spots. It's also exempt from traditional regulations and taxes, but that could change tomorrow though telecoms are working to keep it unregulated. This exemption is keeping prices down, and current prices are anywhere from $20 to $65 a month.
www.meryl.net/">Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind www.meryl.net/blog/">meryl's notes, www.internetviz.com/">eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.