What is VoIP?

For most of the history of telephony, not much as changed. But now, VoIP (voice over Internet telephony) represents the biggest thing since touch-tone dialing, and it is very rapidly changing the very nature of how we make phone calls. The basic difference is that with standard telephony, your calls go over copper wire owned by the phone company. With VoIP, your calls go over the Internet.

The VoIP option digitizes your voice and transmits it in tiny packets, as opposed to standard phone company connections, which are analog in nature. VoIP providers like Magic Jack are able to offer remarkably low prices—and VoIP has changed the way people pay for long distance. At one time, long distance calls were costly and made only on special occasions—but VoIP telephony is less dependent on distance than standard telephony. As a result, most providers offer low rates or unlimited service for flat rates; and even low per-minute rates for overseas calls.

What do you need for VoIP

There is a perception that one needs special equipment to use VoIP, and to an extent that is true. However, the requirements are not as extensive as one might think. If you are a large company with several phone extensions, you will need a piece of equipment called an IP PBX, which is a type of telephone switchboard that routes your calls. And while this tends to be costly, most small businesses won’t need one, and you certainly won’t need one in your home. In the case of Magic Jack, all you need is the small device that comes in the package and plugs into your computer and your home phone.

In some cases, again usually with larger installations, you may need special phones called “IP phones”, but home-based and SOHO-based VoIP providers like Magic Jack work with your own home phone. The device functions as a type of adapter, transferring your analog voice into a digital signal for transmission into your computer and over the Internet. You can even get by without a telephone at all, by making use of a softphone, which is a type of “virtual” telephone that is actually a piece of software that runs on your computer. If you use the softphone, you will need a headset.

Lastly, you will need a broadband connection. Dial-up just isn’t enough to provide good voice quality with any VoIP provider. The type of broadband requirements may vary, again depending on use. For most home or SOHO uses with just one or two extensions, a DSL line may be adequate. Larger offices with multiple extensions and an IP PBX may require a T1 or a fractional T1 line. Magic Jack is best suited for residential or SOHO use.

Benefits of VoIP

It all comes down to cost and features. Because VoIP uses the Internet instead of the phone company’s existing copper wires, long distance no longer has to be metered and therefore becomes very inexpensive to deliver. VoIP services tend to be very feature-rich, and because of its digital nature, you are able to receive many more services than would otherwise be available with standard telephone service. Services like voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, and call waiting come standard, and VoIP providers like Magic Jack often offer features that your regular phone company don’t. For example, Magic Jack also gives you the ability to choose your own area code, and free conference calling—typically a value added feature that other companies charge for.

VoIP is the future of telephony. The days of the telephone company are numbered, and already, a large percentage of telephone calls are being moved over the Internet. With more services available, lower cost, and equivalent call quality, VoIP is inevitable.