Long-distance communication began in Ancient times in the form of smoke signals and drums, but it wasn’t until the 1830s that electrical telecommunication systems emerged.
First came the commercial electrical telegraph in 1838. This was followed by the electric telephone in the 1870s. Then there was the invention of the radio and television at the turn of the 20th century. In the 1960s, long-distance phone calls could be made via satellite communication, paving the way for the development of satellite radio, television and internet access nearly two decades later.
Nowadays, we communicate in a multitude of ways. Using either a computer or a mobile device, you can send text messages, instant messages or direct messages on social media. You can make calls using your landline, mobile phone data or over the internet.
This brings us to VoIP technology. But what are VoIP phones? And what does a VoIP phone do? In this article, we’ll explain all.
An abbreviation of Voice Over Internet Protocol telephones, VoIP phones allow you to make and receive calls over the internet instead of a traditional telephone line.
As long as you have an internet connection and a VoIP service provider, you can use VoIP technology to make and receive calls on a laptop, smartphone or tablet. This not only costs less, but it allows you to talk on the go. If you have ever used an app like Skype or FaceTime, you will have made a VoIP phone call.
Continue reading to find out more about VoIP phones.
How do VoIP phones work?
VoIP technology is a more efficient way to transfer data during phone calls. When you make a call on a VoIP phone, your VoIP service provider turns the analogue audio signal into a digital signal, compresses it and sends it over the internet. The conversation is exchanged using small packets of data, which can travel across the world in less than one second. This means you will not notice a delay. VoIP technology is a considerable upgrade to analogue, with VoIP sound quality often much better than traditional telephone calls.
Switching over to a VoIP phone is a relatively easy process, and most providers will even let you keep your existing phone number. You just need to ask for number porting. Before you sign up, it’s also worth asking what will happen if your internet goes down or there’s a power cut. A good provider will have a backup, for example, automatically forwarding calls to a mobile phone.
What is the difference between VoIP and traditional landline phones?
VoIP phones may look the same as traditional landline phones, but the way the two devices work is very different. Landline phones are hardwired in a particular location via copper wires, while VoIP phones do not need to be tied to one location because they make calls over the internet.
Traditional phone systems connect calls using the circuit-switching method. This is where you are connected to the other person, and they are connected to you in a circuit. It’s thanks to its reliability that this technology has been used for over a hundred years. However, it is not the most efficient or cost-effective way to make phone calls. With VoIP calling, the connection doesn’t need to go both ways continually. Each time one person speaks, a brief, instant connection is created, meaning data is only sent when needed.
What equipment do you need to make VoIP calls?
When VoIP was first developed in 1995, calls were made using expensive equipment. Today, things are a lot simpler.
VoIP calls can be made using either a VoIP phone that connects to your internet modem or software that’s downloaded onto your computer (or mobile device). If you choose the software option, you can use your computer’s existing speaker and microphone to make calls, or you can buy headset equipment to increase the quality of your calls and allow you to hear better.
How do you make a call using VoIP?
As already mentioned, you will need a good internet connection and a VoIP service provider to make VoIP calls. But the steps you need to take to make a call using VoIP technology depend on the device you are using:
- Mobile phone — First, you need to download an app that allows you to make calls over VoIP. The majority of VoIP apps will work on both Android and iOS smartphones. You then need to make sure you have a WiFi connection or enough mobile data to make the call.
- Computer — Again, you will need to download an app that allows you to make calls over VoIP. Most VoIP apps will work with both Windows and Mac computers. You will also need to make sure your computer has a microphone and speakers.
- Special IP phone — IP phones look and work the same as traditional desk phones. The difference is that, rather than an RJ-11 phone connector, they have an RJ-45 connector, meaning they plug into an ethernet port on your router instead of a phone connector.
- Existing phone handset — You can connect your existing handset to the VoIP system using an analogue telephone adaptor (ATA) to provide an IP address. Instead of plugging your phone straight into your wall socket, you plug it into the ATA.
What are the benefits of VoIP phones?
There are many advantages of using VoIP phone systems over traditional landline telephone systems:
- They’re more cost-efficient — VoIP works over the internet, which means you’ll not only be saving on international charges, but you’ll save on domestic calls too. Some VoIP providers even offer unlimited minutes on domestic calls for free. Additionally, many providers will include the VoIP handsets in your package, but if not, they are not expensive to buy.
- You can make calls on the go — Unlike traditional landlines, you are not tied to a specific desk. To make calls on your VoIP phone number while you are out and about, you can use an app on your mobile device. This is ideal if you are a remote or field-based worker, or you are travelling.
- Better quality — As already stated, VoIP calls have better sound quality, which means you won’t have to endure fuzzy or muffled audio.
- Advanced features — If you are using a VoIP phone system for business purposes, there will often be a range of features included, such as conference calling, call recording, call waiting, call queues, a virtual receptionist and hold music.
- They’re easy to set up — Rather than having to set up dedicated lines, you can add new users easily, inside your account dashboard.
What are the drawbacks of VoIP phones?
While the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, VoIP phones aren’t for everybody. Here are some of the downsides:
- You need a good internet connection — If your internet connection is slow, the quality of your calls will suffer.
- Power cuts could cause a problem — Unless your service provider can offer you a backup, you won’t be able to make calls from your VoIP phones in the event of a power cut.
- Retraining hassle — It takes time to learn and get used to using a new system.
How do you choose a VoIP service provider?
When shopping around for a VoIP provider, the first thing to do is make a list of your requirements. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- How often do I make calls?
- Do I make a lot of international calls?
- What am I currently spending on landline calls?
- How many handsets do I need?
- What features are important to me (call waiting, conference calling etc)?
- Will I need access to technical support?
Another thing to consider is your budget and what is available within your price range. Then, you can look for a provider that best suits your needs. Once you’ve found a suitable provider, it’s worth asking for a special rate or freebie. Phone service providers often include incentives to encourage people to sign up, so you could get lucky.
Before you sign up, though, it’s worth reading some customer reviews to find out what other people are saying about the company.
If you’re struggling to know where to start with your research, you might find it helpful to begin by looking into some of the UK’s main VoIP service providers:
|VoIP provider||What’s included|
|Nextiva||Free local or freephone number, caller ID, call routing, caller forwarding, unlimited domestic voice calls, unlimited business SMS messaging, number porting, custom greetings, auto attendant, hold music, smartphone app for Android and iOS, softphone app for your computer, customer support|
|Ring Central||Call logs, screen sharing, document sharing, team messaging, conferencing tools, smartphone app for Android and iOS, customer support|
|8x8||Unlimited domestic minutes, call queues, call conferencing, video meetings, customer support|
|Vonage||Video calling, call conferencing, team messaging, spam prevention, customer support|
|GoToConnect||Unlimited domestic minutes, call queues, video calling, call conferencing, customer support|
VoIP phones allow you to make and receive calls over the internet instead of a traditional telephone line. If you have ever used an app like Skype or FaceTime, you will have made a VoIP phone call.
You will need a good internet connection and a VoIP phone service provider to make VoIP calls. If you are using a mobile phone, you need to download an app and ensure you have a WiFi connection or enough mobile data to make the call. If you are using a computer, again, you will need to download an app, and you will also need to make sure your computer has a microphone and speakers. If you are using a special IP phone, you will need to plug it into an ethernet port on your router, or if you are using an existing phone handset, you can connect it to the VoIP system using an adaptor.
Compared to traditional landline phones, VoIP phone systems are more cost-efficient, they allow you to make calls on the go, they have better sound quality and more advanced features, and they are easier to set up. However, some of the drawbacks are that you need a good internet connection, without a backup, you won’t be able to make calls from your VoIP phones in the event of a power cut, and it can be a hassle having to learn how to use a new system.