Technological developments that affect business and industry are happening daily. A competitive edge comes from, among other things, information access, and the ability to efficiently store, manage, and share progressively greater amounts of electronic information. Colleagues separated by continents can quickly and easily communicate and share information. Hundreds of employees in multiple locations can simultaneously review information in their company’s database.
Even on the home front, technology is changing the way we communicate, eliminating geographical barriers and even in some cases, costs. Long-distance phone calls as we now know them may become past-tense. Although not new, Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, which has been in existence for a few years now, is beginning to earn notoriety. With VoIP technology, a conversation that occurs over a regular phone line can now be held over an Internet connection.
Some of the major long-distance providers either have or are in the midst of designing VoIP plans in markets around the country. In some cases, VoIP software is required, however, resources are available for obtaining the software on-line, for free. Thus, a basic Internet connection becomes the new long-distance phone call -- minus the long-distance charges.
There are some carriers that only allow calls between subscribers of their service. But others may allow communication with any local, mobile, long distance, or international phone number. Additionally, some services work only over a computer or a specially-designed VoIP phone device, and others will work using a standard telephone and VoIP adapter.
For VoIP Newcomers (PDF)
VoIP Consumer Facts (PDF)
For most VoIP service carriers, calls over phone lines are re-routed to a server where analog voice information is converted to digital data. That data then moves over the web or a private service and on to its destination, where it passes through yet another gateway, and rolls to a local telephone line. According to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), VoIP technology puts a kink in the hose for regulators.
VoIP providers don’t think they should be regulated the same way as traditional telephone service carriers. And, as the large telecoms and cable services jump onto VoIP technology, the hundreds of the millions of dollars that some poorer states take in as telecom fees and taxes would go away as things now stand.
Then there are potential concerns within law enforcement and the ability to tap VoIP calls, and other concerns with 911 emergency services and pinpointing the location of the emergency. Still another question is if VoIP service providers should subsidize phone service for libraries, schools, and low-income individuals.
If the FCC finds that VoIP communication is an information service, rather than a telephone service, it could become exempt from many of the rules, regulations, and taxes that traditional phone service companies face.
There are three types of VoIP service currently in use:
ATA - With a device called an “ATA” or analog telephone adaptor, a standard telephone can be connected to a computer or an internet connection meant to be used with VoIP. This adaptor converts the analog audio signals into digital information that can be sent electronically. Some of the major long-distance carriers and offering service packages that include ATAs. The phone cord that is normally lugged into a jack is instead plugged into the ATA. Done, or at least for the most part. There are some ATA devices that come with software that has to be downloaded onto the host PC.
IP Phones – It looks just like a standard telephone that stands upright in a cradle-type charger. The difference is, rather than an RJ-11 connector, an IP phone has a connector called RJ-45 Ethernet. An IP phone connects directly to your internet router, and comes with all the software and hardware required. A Wi-Fi phone allows subscribers to go to a location where a “hot spot” exists and make a VoIP phone call.
Computer to Computer – This is said to be the easiest way to utilize VoIP technology, and skirts long distance phone charges. A number of companies offer the software necessary for this kind of VoIP; many offer it for free or at low cost. In addition to the software, the equipment necessary is a sound card, speakers, a microphone, and a web connection. The faster connections are better, such as with a DSL modem or a cable. Regardless of the distance between the calling and recipient computers, there is no charge for such calls beyond the monthly internet service charge.
VoIP and 911 Services (PDF)
Windows XP - Ethernet Connection (PDF)