Everything You Need to Know About
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
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 hasnt 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
To fully explore if and how VoIP can revolutionize
global telephony, Digital Journal dishes out the pros
and cons of this burgeoning trend.
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
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
VoIP requires high-speed Internet, so dial-up users
can only watch the trend pass them by. But they can
also watch VoIPs 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 suppliers reputation
and inquire about the benefits that youre looking
for. Find out if youre 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.