A Softphone is a computer application that can be installed on a PC, laptop or mobile device to allow the user to take advantage of the microphone, speakers and internet connection to make VoIP telephone calls. Softphone applications typically use the SIP protocol to find the called party, establish the connection and initiate the session. A Softphone enables a user to use their computer as a telephone just like with Skype, the one prerequisite is a SIP address.
Many VoIP service providers will provide free Softphone applications and a SIP address as part of their service, however some do not, and try to charge a Softphone as a premium feature. When a service provider does this, they will invariably prevent you using your own freely available Softphone with their service by not providing a SIP address or configuration details, so you should check first.
Softphones are very convenient as the user can make free calls from anywhere they have an internet connection. A Softphone on its own is of little use it must have a SIP address to make or receive calls. A very good Softphone is the free X-Lite from Counterpath, which can be used with other service providers’ SIP addresses.
The advantages of running Softphone applications are that softphones not only enhance productivity and collaboration but provide a more efficient and cost effective way to communicate. Furthermore, by installing the Softphone application on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones it provides employees with mobility and the capability to be in contact with the office PBX telephone system wherever they roam.
Softphone technology combined with the SIP protocol provides a basic solution for home users seeking a cost effective VoIP telephone system. For business, Softphones save money on desk phones, whilst providing the opportunity for increased mobility, collaboration and productivity.