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article imageEverything You Need to Know About Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

By David Silverberg     Sep 2, 2005 in Technology
Digital Journal — Carriers of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) claim the old phone system will soon lie unused next to VHS players and dot-matrix printers. They offer a phone service that uses the Internet to send voice data, just how email transmits data in microseconds. VoIP shoots analogue signals from your traditional phone and chops them into tiny bits, then reforms them into digital packets, allowing many calls to be juggled at once.
Using an adapter, you can call anyone who has a phone, albeit by paying a monthly charge to popular carriers such as Vonage. Some services offer softphones, which turn your computer into a phone and you talk via headset. Alternately, free services like Skype are gaining ground — it recently topped 100 million downloads — as frugal chatters prefer a P2P option that only requires
a download and a headset.
It hasn’t won over the public yet, but telecom researchers predict VoIP will soon burst into homes and businesses. U.S. residential VoIP subscribers will reach more than 4.1 million by late 2005, estimates TeleGeography, and North American VoIP service revenues will soar 1,431 per cent in 2009, according to Infonetics Research.
To fully explore if and how VoIP can revolutionize global telephony, Digital Journal dishes out the pros and cons of this burgeoning trend.
The Upside
Long-distance charges are rarely a consideration for VoIP adopters, because sending voice data across Internet lines is so cheap for carriers. Pricing plans from Vonage Canada, for example, feature $40 per month for unlimited calling in North America. Note that VoIP is only available for those with broadband Internet.
Flexibility is another big draw for VoIP users. Calls can be made from anywhere with broadband connectivity, so travellers can bring along their Internet phone to any destination across the world. Also, some services allow you to choose your area code, so you can be an entrepreneur from rural Maine with an upscale Manhattan phone number.
A worthy feature is voicemail attachment, which sends voice messages to your email inbox. Several systems even let you dial phone numbers directly
from Outlook.
Using VoIP at wireless Internet hubs may soon be coming to a city near you, as several companies roll out Wi-Fi handsets later this year and in 2006. That means talking cheap will not just be for stay-at-home gabbers.
The Downside
VoIP requires high-speed Internet, so dial-up users can only watch the trend pass them by. But they can also watch VoIP’s early adopters struggle with problems associated with this nascent technology.
If a power outage hits your block, you can still use your traditional phone to reassure Mom and Dad. Not with VoIP, which will go down with the network during a blackout. However, some services can set up an alternate number in case the primary one fails.
Security is another issue yet to be completely resolved. Recently, a security research group discovered a software flaw that could crash Cisco Systems’ IP phones, opening the service to denial-of-service attacks. When the technology goes mainstream, VoIP attacks could involve a hacker sniffing out voice packets from your business’ Internet traffic and then reconstructing them to intercept phone conversations. Smart protection, such as firewall proxies that monitor voice and data, is recommended for any small- to medium-size business moving from traditional to VoIP phones.
Consumer Reports published their overview of VoIP services after trying out several systems over a month. They concluded that VoIP is recommended for consumers with phone bills exceeding $60 (US) a month but they also cited VoIP for poor voice quality, dropped calls and complicated self-installs.
The Vonage Voice
Many players are jumping into the VoIP arena, including cable and telco companies. But Vonage is already enjoying success, as critics applaud its quality and investors funnel funds to its operations. More than 700,000 lines belong to Vonage Canada with 15,000 added each week. To discuss the success of Internet phones and what VoIP rookies should watch for, Digital Journal talked to Joe Parent, vice-president of marketing and business development for Vonage Canada.
Digital Journal Why is VoIP so appealing?
Joe Parent: Within the enterprise base, many businesses have two separate networks that they must maintain. To cut costs, merging two existing networks makes sense.
Digital Journal Respond to the claim that if a VoIP call ends up routed over a congested part of the Net, quality can suffer.
Joe Parent: Since we transmit phone calls over the Internet, we have a virtually unlimited number of diverse routes. This is superior to providers who route calls over a single private IP network, which has much less redundancy and fewer alternate routing options.
Digital Journal What do you suggest to someone hunting for a VoIP service?
Joe Parent: Ask about the supplier’s reputation and inquire about the benefits that you’re looking for. Find out if you’re in it for the long run and if you need mobility. Do you mainly call local or long-distance? There should be a plan
that will meet your needs.
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