What is VoIP?

The word VoIP (pronounced ‘voy-p’) is simply an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol, that's right it is just a Made Up Word!

Technically, the term VoIP can be used to describe the transmission of any speech (voice) over an Internet Protocol network. More commonly the term is used to describe some form of Telephone communications over the Internet. Lets examine the word VoIP a bit more closely...

V - Voice. For your voice to be transmitted over the internet, it first needs to be converted into a digital format. In much the same way as music is digitised when put on to a CD, your voice is processed by a analog-to-digital converter which converts continuous signals into digital packets of information.

o - Over. Once the voice has been converted to a digital packet it is transmitted Over an IP network.

I - Internet. Well most people think of "The Internet" when they see this word, but actually it means to Interconnect Networks. Which simply means that the Networks are joined together.

P - Protocol. A Protocol is simply an agreement between 2 parties on how they will communicate together to achieve a common goal. Are you familiar with the action of shaking someone's hand? For the handshake to occur both you and the other person need to know what to do when one of you "sticks his hand out" to shake.

Other common terms used for VoIP include Broadband Telephony, Voice over Broadband, Broadband phone service, IP Telephony.

History Behind Voip

An Old TelephoneThe standard of using a Telephone-like device to communicatate dates back as far as Alexander Bell with his invention of the telephone in 1876. The concept of one person talking to another person far away using some kind of device was even demonstrated by Antonio Meucci in Havana in 1849. It is disputed if this was an electric telephone as it was said to involve direct transmission into the body! The first telephone call from one end of the American continent to the other was made on January 25, 1915.

The history of VoIP started as a result of work done by a few hobbyists in Israel in the 1995 when only PC-to-PC communication was in vogue. Later on during 1995, Vocaltec, Inc. released "Internet Phone" Software. This particular software was intended to run on a home PC (486/33 MHz) with a sound card, speakers, microphone and a modem. The product was introduced by the "Computer Telephony Integration" magazine in 1996 and used the H.323 protocol instead of the SIP protocol that is more popular today. When it hit the market it received positive reviews in magazines although the major drawback of 1995 was that Broadband was not as widely available and quite expensive.

By 1998, the uptake of VoIP meant that the traffic had grown to represent approximately 1% of all voice traffic in the United States. Entrepreneurs were jumping on the bandwagon and were creating devices which enabled PC-to-phone and phone-to-phone communication. Networking manufacturers such as Cisco and Lucent introduced equipment that could route and switch the VoIP traffic.

Now, in 2008, major voice quality issues have long since been addressed and although there is still work to be done it is now possible for VoIP traffic to be prioritised over normal data traffic to ensure reliable, clear sounding, telephone calls. Revenue from VoIP equipment sales alone are projected to reach around $8.5 billion by the end of 2008.

As you can see, VoIP is not a fly-by-night technology, it is here to stay and today, with the right equipment and VoIP Service Provider (VSP) you can call any number in the world with your VoIP Service and in some cases these calls are Free.

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Basic Requirements

The main requirement for VoIP is a high speed internet connection, commonly referred to as a broadband Connection. A Dial-up connection is not able to provide the bandwidth (connection speed) required.

Note: Your ISP will call their entry level product "broadband" even though it has a speed of only 256kbps download and 64kbps upload and as such should really be called Fraudband! Why? well because the Upload portion is only just faster than a Dialup connection which is referred to as Narrowband... A minimum of 512/128kbps is required to accommodate all the popular Codecs used in VoIP today.

The other requirements include a Software or Hardware Analog to Digital Converter and a Phone and/or, microphone and speakers. For more details see our VoIP Requirements section.

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Some things you should know about VoIP

Although the savings is the biggest attraction with VoIP there are a number of other benefits that are available. These include the ability of having multiple "lines" for making calls, Advanced Telephony feature like Caller-id, call forwarding etc are available for free.

Companies who provide VoIP services are called VoIP Service Providers (VSP) or Internet Telephone Service Providers (ITSP). This should not be confused with your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Many service providers offer VoIP free of charge for calling PC to PC. The most notable providers for free PC to PC calls are Skype, MSN, Yahoo! and the newest player on the block, Google with their Google Talk package. The drawback is that these providers do not offer free calls to normal Land line numbers, the quality of the calls will be dependant on your Computer equipment and you need to have your computer on to make and receive calls.

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