VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, is a communications technology that allows users to enjoy telephony service through an internet connection, rather than through an analog connection. VoIP allows users to make calls using broadband internet connections rather than through standard phone lines.
What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP and internet calls are two terms that are often used interchangeably. Both terms describe the transmission of the human voice and multimedia communication in digital form over the internet or other IP networks, instead of using traditional telephone lines. More precisely, VoIP or internet calls use packet-switching technology to communicate and transmit data, while wireless telephones and landlines use circuit switching technology.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare with Landlines and Cell Phones?
Landline telephone calls are made over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), also known as the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). PSTN relies on circuit switching to make communications possible. To connect one phone to another, the call is routed through numerous witches operating on a local, regional, national, or international level. The connection initiated between two phones in communication is called a circuit. In the early days, every call required its own dedicated copper wire connecting the two phones. This made long-distance calls quite expensive because callers needed to rent a very long piece of copper wire for such calls.
With the advent of fiber-optic cables, thousands of calls now share the same line. However, that has not changed the nature of circuit switching, which still needs a connection or circuit to remain open for the duration of a landline phone call. When you make a landline phone call, the sound energy from the speaker in your telephone travels through the air into the microphone and makes the diaphragm inside the phone vibrate. The diaphragm converts the energy from the voice into electrical energy which flows down the phone line. This electrical energy flows into the loudspeaker in the earpiece at the other end. There, the electrical energy gets converted back into sound which is recreated in the receiver's ear.
Unlike in PSTN, cell phones do not require copper wires to transfer voice from the caller to the recipient during calls. Cell phones operate with radio frequencies, a form of electromagnetic energy located on the electromagnetic spectrum. Cellular phone technology relies on a system of geographically separated zones called cells. Each cell has its own base station that both receives and emits radio waves. During a cellular phone call, a signal is sent from the antenna on the cell phone where the call is originating to that cell's base station antenna. The base station assigns the phone an available radio frequency channel. When the RF channel is assigned, modulated radio signals are received and transmitted simultaneously, allowing voice information to be carried between the cell phone and the base station. The station transfers the call to a switching center, where the call is transferred to a local telephone carrier or another cell phone.
In circuit-switched networks such as POTS, routing is less dynamic than with a packet-switched network. VoIP technology enables telephony services to operate over IP networks using packet-switched protocols. Though packet switching, VoIP chops communication data into packets, similar to an electronic envelope. The packet along with the caller's and the receiver's network addresses. The sending device sends the packet to a nearby router. The packets may traverse several routers and different paths until it finally gets to the receiving device. The destination device uses the instructions contained within the packets to reassemble the data into its original state.
Packet switching is an efficient technology for transmitting communication data. It lets the network route the packets along the least congested and cheapest lines, while also freeing two communicating devices so that they can accept information from other devices during VoIP calls.
VoIP offers the following benefits over landlines and cell phones:
- Lower costs: VoIP requires only one service provider with the same network carrying voice and data. If you have a broadband internet connection, you can make PC-to-PC phone calls anywhere for free. PC-to-phone communications are charged, but at nominal fees much cheaper than from regular phone service providers. In all, VoIP leads to greater financial savings.
- Portability: Unlike in PSTN, VoIP is not distance or location dependent. Users can make and receive phone calls wherever there is a broadband connection simply by signing in to their VoIP accounts.
- Features: Unlike regular phone service providers which charge extra for additional features, VoIP comes with a slew of advanced communication features, such as call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID, and three-way calling at no extra charge.
- Flexibility: VoIP users can make internet calls from several devices including mobile phones, computers, tablets, and VoIP phones. With an analog telephone adapter, VoIP calls can even be made from landlines.
- Scalability: VoIP users can be increased or reduced easily without the need to lay more cables or invest in additional communication infrastructure. The only restriction to expansion faced by VoIP users is the quantity of bandwidth available.
- VoIP numbers can be used on multiple devices and by several users simultaneously; likewise, one user device can be linked to several VoIP numbers.
As with regular phone numbers, reverse phone lookup searches can identify subscribers linked to VoIP numbers.
Does Vermont Regulate VoIP Providers?
Vermont differentiates between fixed and nomadic VoIP services. Nomadic services such as Skype can be accessed by users from any location. When users pick up a phone in their home to make internet calls, it is called fixed VoIP.
The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) has regulatory jurisdiction over fixed VoIP telecommunications services in the state. However, nomadic VoIP services are not regulated in Vermont.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
To make internet calls, you need a high-speed internet connection. 4G and 5G networks provide the best VoIP experiences for mobile network users, while Fiber-to-the Premises (FTTP) and ethernet connections support optimal VoIP experiences for wired network users. Other requirements depend on the device through which you intend to make internet calls.
- Landlines: To make VoIP calls from a landline, you need to use an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) to convert analog signals into digital signals for transmission over IP networks. An ATA plugs into a phone socket in the wall or into your router.
- Computers: You can make internet calls from your computer if you have appropriate VoIP software installed on the device. VoIP software that may be installed on your computer include Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Google Talk. Ensure that the microphone and speaker on your device are working well before making VoIP calls.
- Smartphones: To make internet calls on your smartphone or tablet, you need to have an appropriate VoIP application installed on the device. Mobile VoIP applications that may be installed include Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
While VoIP numbers are considered real telephone numbers, there are some basic differences between regular phone numbers and VoIP numbers. These include;
- VoIP numbers are not limited to a physical location. As long as you have a broadband connection, a VoIP number can be used anywhere in the world. Regular phone numbers would only work where the service provider has network coverage.
- VoIP numbers can be used on multiple devices at the same time. You can only use regular numbers on a single device at a time.
- VoIP numbers are tied to user accounts. Regular phone numbers are tied to physical devices or tools, such as a SIM card or a phone.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes. A broadband connection is a basic requirement to make VoIP or internet calls. You also need to have a VoIP application installed on the device from which you are going to be making calls. You can make free internet calls through any of the four different forms listed below:
- PC to Phone: These kinds of programs allow users to make free calls from computers to real telephone numbers. Hence, you do not even need a telephone to make free internet calls.
- App to Phone: These types of software are used to make free internet calls from mobile devices to real telephone numbers. These services allow making phone calls to any phone number, even mobile phones, and landlines that are not using the VoIP app.
- PC to PC: With these kinds of programs, you can make free internet calls between computers that have the same program installed.
- App to App: These services run on smartphones and tablets. Therefore, you can make free internet calls if the other party has the same application installed. Note that this method cannot be used to call mobile phones or landlines that do not have the appropriate software.