For those who have never heard about potential of VoIP, be prepared to radically change way you think about your current long-distance calling plan. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is very simply, a method for taking ordinary analog audio signals and turning them into digital signals that can be sent over Internet.
So what? Well, for those of you who are already paying a monthly fee for an Internet connection, this means that you can use that same connection to place free long distance phone calls. This process works by using already available VoIP software to make phone calls over Internet, essentially circumventing phone companies and their service charges.
Interestingly, VoIP is not an entirely new thing. In fact, a number of providing companies have been around for some time. But it has only been with more recent explosion of high-speed internet access usage, that VoIP has gotten any attention. Now major telephone carriers are setting up their own VoIP calling plans throughout US, another testament to potential of technology.
How VoIP Is Used
While there are a number of ways that VoIP is currently being used, most individual callers fall into one of three categories: ATA, IP Phones, and Computer-to-Computer.
ATA or Analog Telephone Adaptor, is most common way of using VoIP. This adaptor actually allows you to hook up phone that is already in your house, to your computer, and then your Internet connection. What ATA does, is turn analog signals your phone sends out into digital signals that can be sent over Internet. Setting up this system is quite simple. It simply requires that you order an ATA (its an adaptor remember), plug cable from your phone which would normally go into wall socket into ATA, and then ATA gets plugged into your computer, which is connected to internet. Some ATAs include software that has to be installed on your computer before its ready, but basically it's quite a simple process. Then you are ready to make some calls.
The next type of VoIP usage utilizes IP Phones instead of your home phone. The IP Phone looks just like a normal phone, with all same buttons and cradle, only difference is that instead of having a normal wall jack connector, it has an Ethernet connector. This means, that instead of plugging in your IP phone to wall jack like you would with a regular analog phone, it gets plugged directly into your router. This option allows you to circumvent your personal computer, and it also means that you will not have to install any software, because its all built in to handset. In addition, fact that Wi-Fi IP phones will soon be available, which will allow subscribing callers to make VoIP calls from any Wi-Fi hot spot, make this option an exciting possibility.
The simplest and cheapest way to use VoIP is through computer-to-computer calls. These calls are entirely free, meaning no calling plan whatsoever. The only thing you need, is software which can be found for free on internet, a good internet connection, a microphone, speakers, and a sound card. Except for your monthly internet service fee, there is literally no cost for making these calls, no matter how many you make.
For large companies, VoIP also offers some very unique possibilities. Some larger companies are already utilizing technology by conducting all intra-office calls through a VoIP network. Because quality of sound is comparable to and in some cases surpasses that of analog service, some international companies are using VoIP to route international calls through branch of their company nearest call's destination and then completing it on an analog system. This allows them to pay local rates internationally and still utilize same intra-office VoIP network that they would if they were calling someone in next cubicle over.
Other Advantages of VoIP
While your current long-distance plan covers you for only one location, say calls made from your office, with VoIP, you can make a call anywhere that you can get a broadband connection. That is because all three methods above, unlike analog calls, send call information via Internet. This means you can make calls from home, on vacation, on business trips, and almost anywhere else. Anywhere you go, with VoIP you can bring your home phone along with you. In same way, computer-to-computer connections mean that as long as you have your laptop and a connection, you're ready to go.