What is VoIP?

by Benjamin Aries Google
    VoIP is a digital phone format that relies on the Internet.

    VoIP is a digital phone format that relies on the Internet.

    Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

    Voice Over Internet Protocol is a type of technology that is used to connect phone calls. As the name implies, VoIP uses the Internet as the main pathway for sending and receiving audio. Many traditional phone providers charge fees based on the distance that a call travels. The arrangement of the Internet allows data to be distributed efficiently and calls to be made at low rates. This digital approach is increasingly popular in areas where high-speed Internet is available.

    Function

    A typical VoIP setup uses special hardware to convert the audio signal from a standard telephone into a digital format. This digital signal can be transmitted over the Internet, using the same global network as the World Wide Web. If the recipient of a VoIP phone call is using a traditional phone, the digital signal is converted back into an analog format. A call between two VoIP phones can be purely digital, and no conversion process is necessary. Many VoIP calls are sent between cities or even countries, using the Internet as the pathway. In an office setting, however, digital calls can also use a local network. This allows people in one building to communicate using the existing company computer network.

    Equipment

    There are several different kinds of equipment that can be used to make VoIP calls. In many installations, a phone adapter must be connected to an analog phone. This adapter converts the analog signal into a digital format that is compatible with the Internet. Dedicated VoIP phones are increasingly common. These devices are specifically designed for digital communication and are not compatible with the standard telephone network. VoIP calls can also be placed from a computer or smartphone connected to the Internet. This approach uses software to convert audio from a microphone into a digital format and eliminates the need for a physical handset. Due to the amount of data being received, all VoIP setups require a high-speed broadband Internet connection.

    Benefits

    VoIP has many benefits. One of the primary advantages of a VoIP phone system is the low cost of usage. Many digital phone providers do not charge for long-distance calls or charge inexpensive rates. This is a great advantage for users who make calls across the country or across the globe on a regular basis. A VoIP system also allows users to use a virtual phone number. This number does not need to be limited to the user's actual area code but can be set to almost any city. A business can create a phone number with the same area code as its clients or project the appearance of having many offices worldwide.

    Drawbacks

    A VoIP system can have some drawbacks. Unlike a traditional landline telephone, a VoIP phone depends on electricity and broadband Internet to function. A power outage or Internet problem can cut off a digital voice system. Additionally, emergency calls made from a VoIP phone do not work the same as an analog call. A 911 operator may be unable to locate the source of a call due to the digital format of VoIP. The hardware necessary for a VoIP phone system can be expensive to purchase and install. Digital phones are often less expensive than their analog counterparts in the long run, but the initial investment for VoIP equipment can be significant.

    About the Author

    Benjamin Aries has been involved in digital media for much of his life and began writing professionally in 2009. He has lived in several different states and countries, and currently writes while exploring different parts of the world. Aries specializes in technical subjects. He attended Florida State University.

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