Does Voice Over IP Telephony Spell the End for Traditional Telephones?

Just What is Voice Over IP Telephony?

Voice over Internet Telephony is technology that means you can hold telephone calls over the Internet or an IP network. It eliminates the need for having separate lines for your Internet connection and dedicated voice transfer lines. There are many advantages to VoIP but because it is still an advancing technology you need to shop around to find the best deal. No cumbersome circuit switching is required and there is no depletion in the bandwidth associated with normal dual line systems. VoIP protocol means that voice data is only sent over the network when it needs to be, freeing up that bandwidth when you aren't making 'calls'.

What are the Advantages of VoIP.

Voice over Internet Telephony isn't widely used in office networks, let alone in the home, however if you make international phone calls then you are probably being routed through IP infrastructure because of the lower costs of calls. What this does mean, though, is that the infrastructure is quite obviously already in place and anyone who chooses can do so easily. This means that you can 'call' friends, family or associates using your own VoIP without the need for them to have the same technology installed.

The costs are phone calls that are reduced dramatically by using VoIP and once the infrastructure is in place there are usually little or no additional infrastructure charges required making it a cost effective and affordable telephony solution.

Because VoIP is a new technology you get the usual advantages of employing a new technology; increased technological advances and new technologies are employed meaning you get a state of the art system. Telecommunications providers have been regularly using IP networks to transfer voice data and so most of the teething problems have been thoroughly investigated and ironed out and all the advancements made have been integrated into a system you can have installed in your home, office or business.

You don't necessarily have to transmit your calls over the Internet, and for more secure calls you can use private IP networks. For this reason many large businesses already have IP systems in place making inter-business calls much cheaper.

Electronic numbering makes it possible to dial traditional E 164 phone numbers connected entirely by your Internet connection. This means that you won't face any call charges whatsoever, and all you will have to pay will be the cost of your Internet connection.

Is VoIP available for me to use now?

Companies like Vonage, VoicePulse and Packet8 are already offering flat monthly fees for their VoIP services meaning you can call anywhere in the country (sometimes even to other selected countries around the world) and only ever pay one flat monthly fee.

Vonage offer a service for $24.99 a month that allows you to call anywhere in the US or Canada. They also offer similar plans for small businesses.

Are there any disadvantages to VoIP?

VoIP, as a technology, is still in it's infancy and new developments are being found every day. However, there are limitations to the service and the technology which need to be addresses before it can become a complete replacement for your standard phone line.

Because the Internet knows no geographic boundaries it means that, for example, calling the emergency services would not necessarily put you through to your local emergency dispatch centre.

In addition, you can't send or receive faxes and you can't route traditional modems, alarm systems or satellite systems through your VoIP connection, because they require access to a voice grade phone line. For the moment VoIP is a compliment to your traditional phone line, rather than a replacement, until these problems can be ironed out.

Summary

The advent of the Internet and improved telephone technology has seen the introduction of VoIP. It means you can make phone calls through your broadband connection; this in turn means that for a set monthly fee you can call anywhere in your country and selected international countries for as long as required and only pay one flat monthly fee.

The advantages of VoIP are still significant for homes and business users alike. Big businesses are already saving substantial money by installing IP networks and using VoIP protocol to transfer voice data. This essentially makes the calls themselves free, only having to pay for the Internet connection and the monthly VoIP fee.

VoIP looks like it's here to stay. As the technology rolls out, it's impact can only become greater.

© 2005 Nick Carter

Nick Carter is editor for http://www.voice-over-ip-insider.com, a key web resource for VOIP information.

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