Wireless Voice over IP (VoIP) refers to any technology that allows you to make phone calls using a Wi-Fi network and the Internet. If you have ever used Google Talk on a laptop equipped with a Wi-Fi card, or Skype on an iPhone over a wireless network, you've already used a version of wireless VoIP. The term is usually associated with wireless handsets designed specifically for making calls over a Wi-Fi network. Such phones are often called SIP phones because they use Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) over Internet Protocol (IP).
How Wireless VoIP Works
A wireless VoIP phone uses Wi-Fi to send and receive voice data over the Internet in much the same way that a Wi-Fi-enabled computer sends and receives data. Your voice is converted into digital data, sent from the phone to a Wi-Fi router and then sent over the Internet to a server that routes the data to the other phone. The same process in reverse sends the other person's voice to your phone. VoIP phones can be used to call or receive calls from other VoIP phones, cell phones or landlines. Most wireless VoIP phones use the same 802.11 Wi-Fi technology you use in your home.
To use a wireless VoIP phone, you will need a high-speed Internet connection. You should also have a Wi-Fi router, although this is only required if you have a self-contained handset or a base that can only connect to your home network via Wi-Fi. Some wireless VoIP phones use a base that connects to your Internet modem with a network cable or USB cable. Other models plug into the USB port on your computer. You will also need to choose a service provider that is capable of routing your VoIP calls to other phones.
Once it is set up, a wireless VoIP phone is as easy to use as any other phone. Its two main advantages are cost and mobility. Because a VoIP phone routes calls across the Internet, there is little difference between making a local call or a long distance call. How much you pay is determined by your service provider. Some charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited calling, while others charge on a per-minute basis. Being wireless, your phone can be used anywhere you have access to a Wi-Fi signal, without cords or wires. VoIP phones often include additional features not available on conventional phones, such as the ability to record phone calls in MP3 format.
The disadvantages of a wireless VoIP phone arise from the underlying technology. Most home Internet services suffer from outages or reduced speed occasionally, which renders any Internet-based phone unusable. Some VoIP phone services may not be able to provide you with 911 access to local emergency services. Security can also be a concern, as calls over a Wi-Fi network and the Internet can be intercepted if the data is not encrypted. Depending on the speed of your Internet service, you may have to stop downloads or streaming videos when you make a call. Most Wi-Fi routers support data encryption, and some can be configured to protect Quality of Service (QoS) for your VoIP phone.
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