A woman with brown hair wearing a headset for a work conference call.

How VoIP Has Changed the World

What Is VoIP?

The internet is bigger than ever. Forget copper wires and handsets, now the internet allows you to make phone calls to anyone, anywhere in the world. It’s referred by many names, depending on who you ask: IP telephony, internet telephony, Voice over IP (VoIP), broadband telephony or just internet calls. So, what is VoIP? Let’s take a look.

A Brief History of VoIP

Research on VoIP transmission began long before the internet was invented in 1973. Only 22 years later, the first internet phone software appeared. VocalTec operated what was then known as the internet phone. It compressed sound signals and converted them into digital packets that could be distributed over the internet.

The first iteration of VoIP was wrought with communication problems and were nowhere near normal phone calls at the time. Additionally, the tech could only be run on specific hardware and both parties both had to possess it.

This represented the early days of what would later turn out to be a billion-dollar industry. VocalTec was successful enough to IPO the following year, laying the groundwork for some of the world’s largest companies today.

In just three years, VoIP traffic represented 1% of all voice traffic in the U.S. With the previous device-specific barrier broken, users were now able to communicate via computer-to-phone and phone-to-phone connections. By the year 2000, two years later, VoIP calls accounted for more than 3% of all voice traffic in the U.S.

This growth is due to the gradual introduction of broadband ethernet technologies. These introduced better clarity and reduced latency, allowing large companies like Cisco and Nortel to start manufacturing VoIP-specific hardware. This hardware allowed the offloading of switching from the CPU to a more capable device.

How VoIP Has Evolved Over the Years

Its popularity was further boosted in 2004 with the introduction of calling plans that mirrored more conventional telephone schemes. The marketing was aggressive. Many carriers offered unlimited calling to the U.S, with many more offering flat calling rates to Canada and certain countries in the EU and Asia.

Today, VoIP technology performs on par with traditional telephony. This is partly because new technological discoveries have enabled the latter to operate over computer networks using packet-switched protocols. This is different from traditional telephony because VoIP puts signals in packets. These can be thought of as an electronic envelope that can be transmitted over networks that support it.

It has particular popularity in the corporate space. Bandwidth efficiency, low VoIP costs and the kinds of savings that it can provide means that many businesses are migrating over from traditional copper-wire phone systems. For instance, in 2008, 80% of all PBX (Private Branch Exchange) lines installed internationally were VoIP.

Fulfilling Business Needs With VoIP

Since VoIP allows both voice and data communications to be run over a single network, the savings on infrastructure costs can be massive. VoIP switches were also designed to work on commodity hardware such as computers and phones, rather than requiring specific devices for operation.

This allows for simple configuration changes and conversations will continue when you make a change from your WiFi connection to a data connection, and vice versa. The traditional need for both a desktop phone and a mobile cell phone is effectively eliminated.

Over the years, business-oriented VoIP solutions have evolved into unified communications systems. These treat all communication mediums, from phone calls to video calls, as discrete units that can be delivered to any device. Skype is a perfect example of this. However, most social media networks, chat applications and video conferencing solutions offer the same functionality.

How VoIP Compares to Traditional Calls

VoIP has grown to the point where the audio quality today is reasonably comparable with traditional phone calls. However, since VoIP uses packets, much more information can be carried over the network.

Because VoIP uses packets, much more information can be carried over the network to support and enhance your communication needs. Besides, VoIP gives access to advanced applications that can help businesses be more productive.

What Are the Best VoIP Products?

Yealink W60P Cordless DECT IP Phone

The Yealink W60P Wireless DECT IP Phone is designed to handle the kind of heavy loads typical in a working environment. It can be thought of as an eight-line system. You can have up to eight different handsets and a maximum of eight different conversations at one time.

The sound quality is excellent as long as your internet connection is stable. The screen is also large enough to be used with no problem by the average user. As an added bonus, the manufacturer throws in a free belt clip to make sure you never miss a call.

Ring-u Hello Hub Small Business Phone System (PBX) and Service (VOIP)

The Hello Hub may be the perfect solution for people who prefer fully-featured tech for relatively large spaces. It was designed for small offices and businesses and comes with the feature to boot. Ring-u, the company behind Hello Hub, offers a virtual receptionist to answer calls and directs them to the proper department and service queries if necessary.

By far, this phone's most useful feature is the ability to host up to 20 calls and 50 extensions. Other features the Hello Hub comes with include ring groups and voicemail messages that can be redirected to email.

Avantree Wireless Headset

If you love music and also happen to be interested in VoIP, the Avantree Wireless Headset is the perfect option. The stereo drivers are designed to deliver a powerful audio experience, making it the perfect solution for music and calls. You’re guaranteed up to 22 hours of playtime over Bluetooth.

The microphone is also designed to be detachable and is omnidirectional. If you are an online gamer or someone who often finds themselves using their voice over the internet, the Avantree headsets will make you never complain about audio quality again.

Lastly, if you are a fan of Google or Siri, these headphones also come with in-built support for them via voice control.