Voice Over IP (VoIP)

What is actually Internet telephony? You hear it everywhere; yet, these two magic words have a great impact on the population. It is in fact a category of hardware and software that enables people to use the Internet as the transmission mode for telephone calls. If, for example, you are a user who has free, or fixed-price Internet access, Internet telephony software essentially provides free telephone calls anywhere in the world. To date, however, Internet telephony is not able to offer the same options and quality that the classic telephone service does.

Ways of Using VoIP

There are four ways that you might communicate and talk to someone using VoIP. In fact, you don't need to buy loads of other hardware to be able to use the technology. If you've got a computer or a telephone (If you are reading this article from home, then there are big chances that you have both of them!), you can use at least one of these methods without buying any new equipment:

Computer-to-computer

This is certainly the easiest way to use VoIP. You don't even have to pay for long-distance calls. There are several companies offering free or very low-cost software that you can use for this type of VoIP. All you need is the software, a microphone, speakers, a sound card and an Internet connection, preferably a fast one like you would get through a cable or DSL modem. Except for your normal monthly ISP fee (or your pre-paid card fee), there is usually no charge for computer-to-computer calls, no matter the distance.

Computer-to-telephone

This method allows you to call anyone (who has a phone) from your computer. Like computer-to-computer calling, it requires a software client. The software is typically free, but the calls may have a small per-minute charge.

Telephone-to-computer

A few companies are providing special numbers or calling cards that allow a standard telephone user to initiate a call to a computer user. The caveat is that the computer user must have the vendor's software installed and running on his or her computer. The good news is that the cost of the call is normally much cheaper than a traditional long-distance call.

Telephone-to-telephone

Through the use of gateways, you can connect directly with any other standard telephone in the world. To use the discounted services offered by several companies, you must call in to one of their gateways. Then, you enter the number you wish to call, and they connect you through their IP-based network. The downside is that you have to call a special number first. The upside is that the rates are typically much lower than standard long distance.

Although it will take some time to happen, you can be sure that, eventually, all of the circuit-switched networks will be replaced with packet-switching technology. IP telephony just makes sense, in terms of both economics and infrastructure requirements. More and more businesses are installing VoIP systems, and the technology will continue to grow in popularity as it makes its way into our homes.