A beginner’s guide to VoIP

The internet has transformed the way we go about our daily lives, including the way we communicate. But it can also offer a completely different way for us to make a simple, personal telephone call.

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How it works

VoIP takes analogue audio signals and converts them to digital packets that are then sent over the internet. This means call charges no longer depend on your location or the distance between you and the person you’re calling. You can call anyone in the world from anywhere in the world for no more than your internet connection fee.

It’s unlikely that any internet user these days hasn’t heard of Skype. As documented in BeBusinessed’s History of VoIP, Skype was the first service that allowed people to call one another over the internet at no extra cost. All that was required was that the caller and recipient had the same software. Skype calls to mobiles and landlines still carried a fee, but even so, they compared favourably with VoIP services at the time. Nowadays, it’s the free messaging and video chat services that Skype is best known for.

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Although VoIP has been around since the internet began, it never really gained much attention until broadband speeds were high enough to make it a viable alternative to landlines. Since then, a number of VoIP companies and wholesale VOIP termination providers such as idtexpress are delivering services for individuals and businesses alike.

VoIP services

There are three different types of VoIP services available: Computer to Computer, Analogue Telephone Adaptor (ATA) and IP phones. Computer to Computer is the simplest and cheapest form of voice communication: all that is needed is a computer with a microphone, speakers and the right software, which is available for free over the internet.

The other two types of services carry charges. ATA is an adaptor for your existing phone. You plug your existing landline phone into the adaptor, which is then plugged into your computer. From there you can use your analogue handset to make calls over the internet. IP phone is a dedicated phone for the internet – it looks exactly like any landline phone, but instead plugs directly into your router via an ethernet cable.

As internet speeds and reliability improve, VoIP is fast rivalling traditional analogue services, and could, in the future, replace it.