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What is a VoIP Phone?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a digital telephone system that allows users to make voice calls through a broadband internet connection rather than with a traditional analogue setup. Calls are no longer limited to desk phones, as VoIP enables calls to be made across multiple devices, such as laptops and mobile phones. A new era of mobility is well and truly at hand for businesses right across the globe, especially with the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) switch off on the horizon.

We’re continuing our transition into a digital-first world, with the way that we communicate continuing to rapidly evolve while we read and scroll through stories about the latest ‘ground-breaking’ advance in technology that is set to change the way we all live our lives. When it comes to telephone calls, the shift away from ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) has begun, with the PSTN switch off scheduled to be completed by 2025. As we start to bid farewell to the old copper telephone network, we look towards VoIP and the digital future of communications.

The background behind VoIP

This ‘cloud-based telephony’ has its roots in the 1970s, when the first real time conversation took place between the California-based Culler-Harrison Incorporated and MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Massachusetts. From the dawn of packet networks and ARPAnet came the world’s first internet phone in 1995, conveniently titled ‘Internet Phone’. For the first time ever, people could make calls over the internet; VoIP had (more or less) arrived, and the communications industry would never be the same again.

VoIP delivers numerous advantages over a traditional phone system. It is far more cost-effective, since it requires no additional physical hardware, and it delivers advanced call management features that improves the overall customer experience. International calls are also significantly cheaper due to the way calls are routed over an internet connection, with the bonus of making/receiving calls on numerous devices also providing a whole new meaning to the idea of mobility. There’s no wonder that the global market for VoIP is set to reach $102.5 billion by 2026!

So, we’ve established what VoIP is, briefly examined its origins, and the advantages it can bring over the soon-to-be defunct Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). But we shouldn’t stop there, since we must discuss how exactly a VoIP telephone system works. It’s easy to say, ‘I’ve got the gist with all of this VoIP jargon’, but knowing the smaller details behind VoIP is crucial when choosing which VoIP service to invest in.

How do VoIP phones work?

We now know that VoIP uses the internet to transmit voice calls, unlike analogue systems which require a physical connection between each caller. To send these voice signals across the internet, they need to be converted from speech into digital data packets via the VoIP system. Whether it’s on a laptop, smartphone, or a traditional phone set with an adapter, an internet connection is all you need to start taking advantage of VoIP’s vast potential.

The data that has now been converted into packets is compressed using software called codecs, and then sent over the shortest path from your router to the destination. These codecs then decompress that data once it arrives, putting all of the packets back together in the right order so that the recipient receives a clear and recognisable voice. Seems simple enough, right?

What makes VoIP truly ground-breaking is how a range of devices can be used with a VoIP phone system. These devices include:

  • A regular old landline phone with a special VoIP adapter that plugs into a wall socket or the router directly (in case you want to keep things retro)
  • VoIP phone sets, which work like a regular phone but plug into an internet router rather, allowing users to handle IP calls from a traditional phone
  • A computer, where a software application acts as a telephone interface, which turns computers into a ‘softphone’ that resembles a traditional phone interface
  • A mobile phone, with only a data connection and the chosen app installed (this works in a similar vein to WhatsApp, Skype and other apps)

VoIP works by using a variety of protocol technologies, and the most common one that powers these phone systems is Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Let’s talk SIP.

SIP Trunking and VoIP

It’s worth mentioning the prominent protocol used within VoIP communications, as this will help to clarify what makes a VoIP phone system tick. It is another acronym and system to understand, but it’s better to be armed with information rather than to lack it.

VoIP is a broad term for internet-based phone systems; SIP is a specific protocol that implements VoIP. While VoIP tends to focus solely on sending voice data over the internet, a SIP trunk can transfer numerous forms of data, including voice, video, and text messages. Thanks to the SIP protocol, the connections that help VoIP phone systems transfer their data packets can be created and terminated once the session is complete.

Much like with VoIP phone systems, SIP provides numerous advantages that includes a cost-effective way to communicate, and geographic flexibility for users. Transferring multiple forms of data packets is also extremely useful for businesses looking to provide a better experience for both their employees and customers. Considering every business understands the importance of creating a heightened experience for their stakeholders, whether they’re internal or external, it’s a system that can certainly deliver.

The power and potential of VoIP phone systems

There’s no doubt that implementing a VoIP telephone system can make a huge difference to a business and their daily operations. Phone numbers aren’t chained to desks or cables, and IP phones are poised to bring about an exciting new era in business communications. VoIP phone systems allow the assigned phone number to follow the individual wherever they go, giving people the opportunity to set up a VoIP phone system at home.

VoIP is a game-changing innovation that will give people an exciting new way to work and collaborate with one another, especially as we look towards how to easily replace the traditional landline service. Overall, it’s certain that VoIP phone systems are the future of how we communicate with one another.