VoIP is Voice Over Internet Protocol. It is the technology that uses Internet protocol instead of phone switching technology for telephone calls. This can include voice calls, message services and facsimiles. Many consumers may not have heard of or much about VoIP yet, but that is likely to change in the very near future.
One example where VoIP technology is already in use and used by many consumers (although they may not realize it), is the use of prepaid telephone cards. Most prepaid long distance telephone cards use VoIP technology. The use of this technology allows the prepaid card providers to offer rates per minute that are much cheaper than standard long distance services.
Until recently, all telephone calls used the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). When using PSTN, calls go through a local telephone company and then to a long distance provider. The signal is all in analog. VoIP technology, converts voice signals into digital signals.
In 1995 Vocaltec Inc. released Internet Phone Software. This software could be used on PC’s that had modems, microphones, speakers and sound cards. Voice signals are then shipped over the Internet. Both the caller and the person being called had to have the same software. Thus, the first IP phone was born.
When VoIP was first started it was not looked upon as being very practical. However, VoIP started to gain more potential by 1998 and has continued to do so over the past few years. Some businesses began to set up gateways, which made PC-to-Phone and later Phone-to-Phone connections possible. Customers were often able to make free phone calls with a regular phone. Only North America offered this special service. Various advertising companies sponsored the marketing model. Normally a PC was needed to originate the call. Then phone-to-phone communication could be used. VoIP made up only about 1% of voice traffic at this point in time.
Now most IP switching and routing suppliers offer VOIP as a standard option on equipment. By the year 2000, VoIP made up over 3% of voice traffic. It is expected to increase substantially. VoIP traffic is expected to account for 25-40% of all international voice traffic.
VoIP may have once been looked upon as being a novelty, but it is growing in popularity and viability. Many technology providers now offer PC telephony software. There are also now many gateway manufacturers. Initially, VoIP offered PC-PC telephony trough the use of business intranets. With the advances in gateway infrastructure and telephony software, VoIP technology is also available over the Internet. VoIP may be a familiar term to all consumers very soon.