VoIP, also called Voice Over Internet Protocol, is a technology that allows users to make voice calls using an Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. VoIP services enable telephone services to operate over computer networks. It may be transmitted over local area networks (LANs).
What Are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP and internet calls are technically the same thing. They both describe the delivery of telephony services using broadband internet connections. In simpler terms, VoIP uses broadband internet connections as the medium to make phone calls, video calls, and send text messages. VoIP uses packet switching technology to communicate and transmit data, unlike landlines and wireless telephones, which use circuit switching transmissions.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Landlines use a coded pulse of electricity, which is transmitted through soundwaves over fiber cables or copper wires. Landlines are based on an analog technology that sends signals through a series of exchanges.
When users make calls on Cell phones, it transmits the voice to an electrical signal, which is then transmitted via radio waves to the nearest cell tower. Cell phones connect to mast towers, which are large antennas that route the phone calls through local base stations. Interference mitigation involves using grid patterns, and each grid (cell) has its mast that collects and routes calls from phones within that cell. This system enables the same set of radio frequencies to be reused, increasing the number of calls grids can handle and ensuring no interference. Simply put, Cell phones use radio waves to communicate.
VoIP transforms voice sound waves into digital signals and uses IP network connections to transmit the receivers’ signals. The IP network typically used is the internet. Specialized telephones (IP telephones) are used to connect directly to modems and routers through ethernet connections. The IP phones transform the sound waves into digital signals using CODECs, which are computer algorithms. Softphones and Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs) can also be used for VoIP calls. Softphones are software-based phones that provide telephone services on a computer or web-based applications that function as hard phones.
VoIP calls have the following advantages over landlines and cell phones:
- Improved technology - VoIP offers rapidly growing digital communications that have become a new standard for consumers and business technology.
- Cost-Effective - VoIP calls use internet connections for transmissions and are practically cheaper than traditional phone services. They also come included with premium services that incur extra charges on conventional phone services.
- Reliability - The lack of reliance on fixed physical structures to make calls means VoIP call services are more reliable anywhere there is a stable internet connection.
- Flexibility - VoIP networks are extremely flexible. Users are only limited by available bandwidth regarding the number of phones and calls that can be handled on a VoIP network. VoIP calls can also be made with any compatible device instead of just a telephone handset. These include computers, tablets, and VoIP phones. They can even be integrated with landlines using ATAs.
- Improved voice quality - Provided there are stable internet connections and high bandwidth, VoIP calls can deliver HD call quality.
- VoIP numbers can be used on multiple devices simultaneously.
- Easy phone number porting - VoIP numbers can be ported easily without having technicians come and set up the new devices and connections.
It should be noted that reverse phone lookup services can work with VoIP numbers as well.
Does North Carolina Regulate VoIP Providers?
No. This is because VoIP is based on internet technology, the North Carolina Utilities Commission has no oversight over VoIP providers.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
To make internet calls, you need a broadband internet connection, ideally fiber-optic but not necessarily. The best VoIP experiences use full FTTP or ethernet connections. Other equipment required depends on your preferred VoIP method.
If your VoIP method is with a landline, you need an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) and a compatible telephone. The ATA plugs into either the wall phone socket or a router. If it plugs into a router, then you will need a compatible router.
If your VoIP method is with a computer, you need a laptop or desktop computer, the appropriate software, headset or speakers, and a microphone. Various types of software facilitate internet calls, such as Skype, Google Talk, and Apple Facetime. Calls between compatible software are free, but calls made to actual phone numbers carry charges.
If your VoIP method is a mobile phone, you need a smartphone with the preferred application installed. Mobile apps such as Skype, Facetime, Viber, Line, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger enable internet calls on smartphones. The same app must be installed on the receiver’s device for the phone call to go through. Some apps allow phone calls to regular landlines and mobile phones, but such calls incur charges for the caller. Generally, it is a better idea to use Wi-Fi connections for these calls. If you use mobile broadband and do not have unlimited data, the phone call can quickly run through your allowance.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
While a VoIP number is a real telephone number, there are some basic differences from regular phone numbers. These include;
- VoIP numbers are assigned to individual users and not specific phone lines or devices.
- VoIP numbers are not restricted by physical locations.
- VoIP numbers can be assigned to multiple user-devices and used simultaneously on all the devices.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
It is possible to make free internet calls, but there are certain caveats. To make free internet calls, you require internet phone applications that make free phone calls. These internet phone applications facilitate free phone calls in the following ways;
- PC to Phone Applications - these applications enable free calls from your computer to real telephone numbers.
- App to Phone Software - these make free internet calls from mobile devices to real phone numbers. These services support making phone calls to any number, even landlines and mobile phones that do not have the app installed.
- PC to PC - free phone calls are made from one computer to another using compatible phone applications installed on both computers.
- App to App - these services run exclusively on smartphones or tablets and enable phone calls only if the recipients have the same applications installed. This method can not be used to call landlines or other mobile phones that do not have compatible software.