Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is as old as the Internet. Most people who haven’t even heard about VoIP have already used it.
What is VoIP? To put it simply, VoIP is a group of technologies used to deliver voice calls over an internet connection. So if you have ever talked to another person over the Internet, you have used VoIP. The biggest plus point of VoIP is that it reduces the cost of long distance calls. Skype, for example, uses VoIP technology to connect people around the world. Skype calls are much cheaper than regular ISD calls, and that is the main reason behind the huge popularity of this Internet-based service which was recently acquired by Microsoft.
Here is a brief introduction to VoIP, the technology that revolutionized the way we communicate with one another.
Most of us have used Skype at least once. This VoIP service allows users to make cheap video and audio calls over an internet connection. In fact, millions of people use Skype every day for voice and video calling. It is true that the Skype story made VoIP technology famous. However, it is wrong to assume that VoIP is all about making free or cheap internet calls. In fact, Skype is just one implementation of VoIP. It has many more applications like intercom systems and conferencing calls.
Advantages of using VoIP
VoIP allows us to stay connected with our near and dear ones no matter where they are in the world. International calls used to cost a bomb before the advent of VoIP. But despite the fact that VoIP has become an integral part of our day-to-day life, we know very little about this revolutionary technology.
Here is a brief history that explains how VoIP started and developed over the years.
How Did it All Start
It started sometime in 1995. At that time, computers were still in their nascent stage and Windows 3 was the ruling desktop operating system. The internet usage wasn’t widespread. In fact, only the military had access to the internet. ISD calls were ridiculously expensive and people were looking for cheaper ways to communicate. Cellular phones had just hit the market. While they helped people stay connected on the go, they had their own problems. Call rates were pretty high and service was not exactly good. But the arrival of Windows 95 changed everything. The latest version of the Windows OS was designed to take advantage of the growing popularity of the internet. It allowed people to communicate through emails and online chat.
It was around this time that some bright developers realized that the cost of long distance calls could be reduced if they could find a way to send voice data over the internet. Their experiments led to the birth of VoIP.
What Was The Need For VoIP
The telephone was perhaps the biggest invention of our time. It helped people stay connected. However, in order to set up a fully operational telephone system, organizations had to spend insane amounts of money. Telephone cables had to be laid and posts had to be erected. Furthermore, calls were usually expensive.
The arrival of the internet in 1995 changed the situation. Developers realized that the Internet could be used to send digitized pictures and data to recipients located elsewhere. They started exploring the possibility of sending voice data over an internet connection. They discovered that the technology used to transmit digitized data over an internet connection can also be used to transmit voice. However, as the research progressed, developers realized that sending voice calls over the internet using a traditional switchboard wasn’t cost effective. In fact, those calls were more expensive than regular telephone calls.
This prompted them to study how data travels over the internet. They discovered that data travelled in small packets and reached the recipients in real time. The discovery that voice data could be sent over the internet helped the invention of VoIP.
The Advent of VoIP
An Israeli company called Internet Phone was the first to launch a commercial VoIP service. In order to use this rudimentary version of VoIP both the callers and the recipients had to use a computer equipped with VoIP software and sound cards. The software would connect to a server capable of handling packets of voice data. This enabled people to talk to each other over the internet. To make and receive calls users had to use microphones. There were delays in the communication and the voice often broke. However, the success of this service gave developers the much needed impetus.
In 1998 Microsoft launched its latest version of the Windows OS. The Windows 98 allowed developers greater freedom to write code. Eventually, the VoIP technology evolved into a more robust platform. Since the operating system was quicker, developers could create a more stable version of VoIP which converted digital signals to analog signals and allowed users to directly connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN which gave them access to cell phones and land phones. The hardware used to set up the system was still expensive, so companies charged a nominal fee for using the service. Still VoIP calls were much less expensive than regular telephone and cell phone calls.
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in the history of VoIP came when the manufacturers started producing equipment capable of changing voice data into something the PSTN could read. Previously this ‘switching’ had to be performed by the computer’s CPU. This development made VoIP less dependent on computers. By 1998, some providers were able to offer computer to phone calls.
Who benefits from VoIP?
Small businesses are the biggest users of VoIP these days because VoIP services cost much less than conventional PBN systems. These systems also require much less maintenance and can be installed easily. The company only has to pay a monthly fee to use the service and will have access to a host of impressive features.
Today, VoIP is a cost effective alternative to standard telephone service. It has become such an integral part of our modern life that it is hard to imagine a world without VoIP.