VoIP (voice over the internet protocol) services have become more and more popular all over the world, as more and more people use them to replace their traditional, landline based phone services.
A lot of things have changed since 1996, when internet phone services have first appeared on the market, revolutionizing the way we communicate. Technology has evolved considerably and VoIP services keep improving in quality and features.
VoIP works by converting your analog voice signal into digital data packets. Through packet switching, your message is broken down into small packets of digital data and then sent over the Internet, just like an e-mail for instance.
The IP in VoIP stands for Internet Protocol. Every device connected to the Internet has its own IP address. IP addresses consist in 4 pairs of two numbers, such as 126.96.36.199 for instance.
The internet moves those packets of data around between computers. Those packets of data can be anything from an audio message, a photo, a video, a text file and so on.
When you want to make a call using VoIP, your computer has to first locate and signal the other device (the receiver). Once both devices technically ‘agree’ to make/take the call, the data exchange can begin. First, your voice has to be encoded into digital data and then, at the other end of the call, it has to be re-coded back, when it gets to the recipient.
While VoIP services may be more popular for business purposes, you can also easily set up a VoIP system in your home. All you need to accomplish that is a fast and reliable internet connection, a subscription to a VoIP service, an adapter (you usually receive that from your VoIP provider), an AC power adapter, a phone (or softphone) and, depending on your needs, a router.
Advantages of using a VoIP service instead of traditional telephony
There are many advantages to using a VoIP service to make calls, but the biggest of them all is affordability. VoIP services reduce your costs considerably, both in terms of equipment, monthly phone bill and maintenance.
When you switch from traditional landline to VoIP, you basically get rid of all the costs associated with traditional telephony: the complex infrastructure which needs a lot of maintenance (which you pay for), such as the cables used by the PSTN network.
Long distance/international calls are the worst when it comes to cost. They are insanely expensive with traditional telephony, because, as we’ve already mentioned it, placing such a call involves a lot of work and investments for that data to travel that far.
Moreover, although a lot of VoIP services still rely on actual phones, you can also use software or softphones to make a call over the Internet, thus reducing your cost even more.
Another advantage of using VoIP is the number of available features. VoIP telephony is smart, it is the technology of the future. Unlike traditional telephony, it brings a lot of useful features to the table: call waiting, call forward, caller ID, digital faxing, call screening, 3-way conferencing, video call, voicemail and so many more.
Flexibility is another great advantage with VoIP, as VoIP allows you to make calls from anywhere in the world, without being tied to a specific location or device. All you need is a reliable Internet connection.
As great as VoIP services are, they do come with some disadvantages, as well.
There are some common problems you might run into when using the Internet to make phone calls. Here are the most encountered ones:
Poor quality of calls. Unfortunately, this seems to be the biggest problem with VoIP. However, it is not a VoIP issue per se, as it is a connection issue, which very much depends on the quality of your Internet service. Your VoIP service will be as good as your Internet service. Poor quality can mean a variety of things. You can experience a choppy voice: brief periods of silence in the middle of the call, annoying delays or echoes, a robotic voice, jitter, etc.
Most of the times, the culprit is the inadequate bandwidth. There are some solutions you can try to apply in this case: turn off other computers that are connected to the network, close any apps that drain a lot of bandwidth, such as streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and so on. You can also do a speed test to see if the results correspond to whatever you are paying for. If the speed is lower than it should be, contact your Internet Service Provider.
Malware, spyware and other damaging software can also affect the quality of your VoIP call.
You get a lot of dropped calls. Dropped calls are another frustrating issue with VoIP services. This issue can also be an effect of bandwidth limitations or it can be appear when you have a defective phone. In some cases, you can also lack a dial tone, which can happen when you have a faulty cable or splitter (before checking any of them, you should always check your Internet connection first and take it from there).
One-way audio can be another issue with VoIP. If this is what you are experiencing, you should contact your VoIP provider or check the configuration of your router. Try to plug the phone directly into the router and if this doesn’t fix it, find out if your IP address is private or public. If the address is public, you should contact your VoIP service provider. If however, it is a private IP address, find out how to change your router’s configuration (for instance, disable DHCP or enable port forwarding).
As a conclusion, whenever you experience VoIP issues of any kind, consider the factors below:
- Bandwidth limitations
- Router configuration
- VoIP provider
- Firmware (in some cases, an upgrade to the firmware of your VoIP device will do the trick)