The term VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, also called Voice over IP. VoIP is the name of any technology that allows us to talk to someone else through any network that uses the Internet Protocol, such as the internet itself.
Sometimes we use VoIP without knowing so. For instance, when we make a long distance call with a pre-paid card, there will surely be some VOIP equipment working for us somewhere down the path of our call.
How VoIP Works
VoIP works by converting an analog voice signal (the voice picked up by your microphone) to digital format (data represented by numbers) that can be recognized or “understood” by a computer and other electronic equipment. It then compresses the digital data into something called “IP packets” that can travel along and across the internet. When those packets are received at the other end, the process is reversed, that is, they are converted from digital back to analog, and the resulting signal is sent to the speakers or headphones so that it can be heard by the receiver.
A good connection to the internet is needed in order for VoIP to operate correctly. With broadband connection, your voice will be heard well at the other end and the communication will not be interrupted.
Using VoIP Technology
We can take advantage of VOIP technology in three different ways:
- Through software that connects to the internet from our computer. The software can either look like a telephone or a chatting program.
- From an analog (conventional) telephone that is connected to a piece of equipment called a VoIP adapter which, in turn, is connected to the internet.
- By use of a VoIP phone that can be used as a normal telephone and connects directly to the internet without the need of any additional equipment.
In all three cases above, we will usually need a VoIP provider, who connects us to the people we want to talk to. We can talk to more than one person at the same time (voice conference), and we can engage in a video conference if we have a webcam.
Apart from the cost of accessing the internet ourselves, we will usually be able to talk with other users of the internet for free. The VoIP provider will charge us only when we want to dial a telephone number external to the internet. Those charges will depend on the destination number and not on the place from which we call, and there is a wide variety of plans for usual callers.