Voice over IP
Voice over IP (VoIP) is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks. Other terms frequently encountered and synonymous with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone. Internet telephony refers to communications services - voice, facsimile, and/or voice-messaging applications - that are transported via the Internet, rather than the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The basic steps involved in originating an Internet telephone call are conversion of the analog voice signal to digital format and compression/translation of the signal into Internet protocol (IP) packets for transmission over the Internet; the process is reversed at the receiving end. VoIP systems employ session control protocols to control the set-up and tear-down of calls as well as audio codecs which encode speech allowing transmission over an IP network as digital audio via an audio stream. Codec use is varied between different implementations of VoIP (and often a range of codecs are used); some implementations rely on narrowband and compressed speech, while others support high fidelity stereo codecs.
Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are gradually beginning to migrate from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs.
VoIP solutions aimed at businesses have evolved into "unified communications" services that treat all communications - phone calls, faxes, voice mail, e-mail, Web conferences and more - as discrete units that can all be delivered via any means and to any handset, including cellphones. Two kinds of competitors are competing in this space: one set is focused on VoIP for medium to large enterprises, while another is targeting the small-to-medium business (SMB) market.
VoIP runs both voice and data communications over a single network, which can significantly reduce infrastructure costs.
The prices of extensions on VoIP are lower than for PBXs and key systems. VoIP switches run on commodity hardware, such as PCs or Linux systems. Rather than closed architectures, these devices rely on standard interfaces.
VoIP devices have simple, intuitive user interfaces, so users can often make simple system configuration changes. Dual-mode cellphones enable users to continue their conversations as they move between an outside cellular service and an internal Wi-Fi network, so that it is no longer necessary to carry both a desktop phone and a cellphone. Maintenance becomes simpler as there are fewer devices to oversee.
VoIP can be a benefit for reducing communication and infrastructure costs. Examples include:
Routing phone calls over existing data networks to avoid the need for separate voice and data networks.
Conference calling, IVR, call forwarding, automatic redial, and caller ID features that traditional telecommunication companies (telcos) normally charge extra for are available free of charge from open source VoIP implementations.
Costs are lower, mainly because of the way Internet access is billed compared to regular telephone calls. While regular telephone calls are billed by the minute or second, VoIP calls are billed per megabyte (MB). In other words, VoIP calls are billed per amount of information (data) sent over the Internet and not according to the time connected to the telephone network. In practice the amount charged for the data transferred in a given period is far less than that charged for the amount of time connected on a regular telephone line.
VoIP can facilitate tasks and provide services that may be more difficult to implement using the PSTN. Examples include:
The ability to transmit more than one telephone call over a single broadband connection without the need to add extra lines.
Secure calls using standardized protocols (such as Secure Real-time Transport Protocol). Most of the difficulties of creating a secure telephone connection over traditional phone lines, such as digitizing and digital transmission, are already in place with VoIP. It is only necessary to encrypt and authenticate the existing data stream.
Location independence. Only a sufficiently fast and stable Internet connection is needed to get a connection from anywhere to a VoIP provider.
Integration with other services available over the Internet, including video conversation, message or data file exchange during the conversation, audio conferencing, managing address books, and passing information about whether other people are available to interested parties.
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