VoIP is a method by which calls can be made via a digital signal instead of a telephone line. The term VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol, and is basically the term used to describe the journey of voice signals via an IP address.
VoIP uses a high speed internet connection instead of the transmission of voice signals via a regular telephone line. When you talk through a VoIP device the signal travels digitally via your internet connection to the person at the other end. Depending on the device used the signal may have to transfer from a phone signal into a digital signal, and then back into a phone signal at the other end.
The original, and still most common method of individuals using VoIP, is communication through a computer. Two people can communicate by talking through microphones connected to their computers, with the voice of the other person coming through the speakers. This is the cheapest method of VoIP communication as the signal can travel entirely digitally via the internet. Skype is the best known and most popular provider, and with them calls from one computer to another are free, wherever you are calling worldwide. As well as computer to computer you can also call a telephone from a computer using such a provider. When this is the case the signal transfers from a digital signal into a telephone signal at the other end so it can travel through the other person’s telephone set. This is not free, but the cost is still minimal if compared to calls between two telephones.
Using computers is no longer the only way that people can communicate using VoIP. There are now telephone adaptors available that turn an analogue signal into a digital signal, and then back into an analogue signal at the other end. The adaptor connects the telephone into a special router which connects it to the internet. After someone has spoken into the telephone it travels through the adaptor, which converts the analogue signal into a digital one. The signal then travels through the internet to the recipient. If the person on the other end is also using such an adaptor it will then travel through their adaptor, which will convert the signal back into analogue.
As well as VoIP adaptors, there are also VoIP phones now on the market. To the user a VoIP phone works the same way as a regular telephone. The difference comes in the way that the signal travels. A VoIP phone is connected to an Ethernet cable which is plugged directly into a router or modem. It is effectively using the technology in the same way as if you were using a computer, but to the user it is like using a telephone.
The main selling point of VoIP is that it is significantly cheaper than using a regular telephone line. The technology costs less for the provider meaning the consumer saves money. Many providers offer an unlimited number of calls per month, often including international, for a standard monthly fee.
VoIP is a relatively new technology, and due to the costs savings it offers, it is becoming more and more popular. The quality is not yet the same as with a regular telephone but it is getting better all the time.