One of the most ubiquitous technologies ever invented is the traditional phone system. Ever since Alexander Graham Bell invented it in 1876, people everywhere have used it to speak to one another. The original system used electricity in copper wire to send two-way analog signals between a transmitter and a receiver.
Telephone companies sprung up all over the world and built a huge network of cables and exchanges to service their customers in return for which they charged a fee. That business model remained more or less unchanged for decades until the Internet came along. And then came Voice Over Internet Protocol – better known as VoIP.
What is VoIP?
Everyone connected to the Internet now has an alternative to paying those traditional phone charges. By using VoIP, a phone call can be converted to digital data and sent through a broadband connection. Depending on the software and hardware used, a VoIP call can connect to anywhere in the world for free.
How does it work?
Basically, VoIP works by converting analog audio signals into digital samples. These are small enough to be transmitted as data packets from one IP address to another. Once received the data packets are reassembled and converted back into an analog audio signal.
What are the different types of VoIP
There are three main types of VoIP, computer to computer, ATA and Internet or IP Phone.
Computer to computer
The cheapest and easiest way to use VoIP is by using a microphone and speakers connected to a computer. There are many types of software available that will allow you to do this, many of them free. Probably the best known is Skype, which has been around since 2003.
Another option is to connect a conventional phone to a computer using an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA). This converts the analog signal to a digital signal that can be accepted by the computer. The experience is very much like that of a regular phone and it is very easy to set up.
Internet or IP Phone
These are special phones that connect directly to a broadband connection using a standard Ethernet connector without the need for a computer. All the analog to digital conversion is done within the unit.
What Internet connection does your customer need?
Although VoIP uses compression technology to reduce the size of data transmitted it can still be pretty demanding on a broadband connection, especially when many calls are placed at the same time. In particular, it’s become very popular with businesses because of the cost savings and that could mean a large number of simultaneous conversations or conference calls. Even a regular household may be sharing several VoIP calls at the same time as streaming Internet content.
Dropped calls or degraded call quality can result from overcrowded broadband connections therefore it’s important to allocate enough bandwidth for the consumer’s needs. According to Phone.com, for optimal performance each concurrent call with their phone system needs 100 Kbps of bandwidth for download and upload. It breakdowns to:
– a minimum speed or 3 Mbps is recommended for one call;
– this increases to 5 Mbps up and down for five calls;
– with 5-10 Mbps up and down required for 10 calls.
Premium DSL and cable broadband will be able to provide these kinds of speeds but the internal network, including cables and routers, must be able to handle the load as well. For these types of networks secure enclosures are available that can be customized to suit the needs of the VoIP customer whether they connect directly to the Internet with an IP phone or use ATA.
For larger companies, bandwidth demands, especially upload speeds, may exceed what is available over copper connections like DSL and cable broadband. Here, fiber running at gigabit speeds connected directly to the company’s network may be the answer. Once again customizable enclosures are available to bring the fiber into the premises and connect it to the company’s network.