So, just what is VoIP all about?
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a method for taking analog audio signals, like the kind you hear when you talk on the phone, and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet.
How is this useful? VoIP can turn a standard Internet connection into a way to place free phone calls. The practical upshot of this is that by using some of the free VoIP software (such as Skype) that is available to make Internet phone calls, you’re bypassing the phone company (and its charges) entirely.
VoIP is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to completely rework the world’s phone systems. VoIP providers like engin and iinet have already been around for a while and are growing steadily.
The interesting thing about VoIP is that there is not just one way to place a call. There are three different “flavours” of VoIP service in common use today:
- ATA — The simplest and most common way is through the use of a device called an ATA (analog terminal (telephone) adaptor). The ATA allows you to connect a standard phone to your computer or your Internet connection for use with VoIP. The ATA is an analog-to-digital converter. It takes the analog signal from your traditional phone and converts it into digital data for transmission over the Internet.
- IP Phones — These specialized phones look just like normal phones with a handset, cradle and buttons. But instead of having the standard RJ-12 phone connectors, IP phones have an RJ-45 Ethernet connector. IP phones connect directly to your router and have all the hardware and software necessary right onboard to handle the IP call.
- 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 ADSL modem. Except for your normal monthly ISP fee, there is usually no charge for computer-to-computer calls, no matter the distance.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How does VoIP / Internet Voice work?
VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the Internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination. VoIP can allow you to make a call directly from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional phone connected to a special adapter. In addition, wireless “hot spots” in locations such as airports, parks, and cafes allow you to connect to the Internet and may enable you to use VoIP service wirelessly.
What kind of equipment do I need?
A broadband (high speed Internet) connection is required. This can be through a cable modem, or high speed services such as ADSL or a local area network.
A computer, adaptor, or specialized phone is required. Some VoIP services only work over your computer or a special VoIP phone, while other services allow you to use a traditional phone connected to a VoIP adapter. If you use your computer, you will need some software and an inexpensive microphone. Special VoIP phones plug directly into your broadband connection and operate largely like a traditional telephone. If you use a telephone with a VoIP adapter, you’ll be able to dial just as you always have, and the service provider may also provide a dial tone.
Is there a difference between making a local call and a long distance call?
Some VoIP providers offer their services for free, normally only for calls to other subscribers to the service. Your VoIP provider may permit you to select an area code different from the area in which you live. It also means that people who call you may incur long distance charges depending on their area code and service.
If I have a VoIP service, who can I call?
Depending upon your service, you might be limited only to other subscribers to the service, or you may be able to call anyone who has a telephone number – including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers. If you are calling someone who has a regular analog phone, that person does not need any special equipment to talk to you. Some VoIP services may allow you to speak with more than one person at a time.
What are some advantages of VoIP?
Some VoIP services offer features and services that are not available with a traditional phone, or are available but only for an additional fee. You may also be able to avoid paying for both a broadband connection and a traditional telephone line by using a “naked DSL” service.
What are some disadvantages of VoIP?
If you’re considering replacing your traditional telephone service with VoIP, there are some possible differences:
- Some VoIP services don’t work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power.
- Not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency services through OOO or 911.
- VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance/white page listings.
Can I use my computer while I talk on the phone?
In most cases, yes.
Does my computer have to be turned on?
Only if your service requires you to make calls using your computer. All VoIP services require your broadband Internet connection to be active.
Can I take my phone adaptor with me when I travel?
Some VoIP service providers offer services that can be used wherever a high speed Internet connection available. Using a VoIP service from a new location may impact your ability to connect directly to emergency services through OOO or 911.
How do I know if I have a VoIP call?
If you have a special VoIP phone or a regular telephone connected to a VoIP adapter, the phone will ring like a traditional telephone. If your VoIP service requires you to make calls using your computer, the software supplied by your service provider will alert you when you have an incoming call.
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