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A Complete Beginner’s Guide to VoIP

Thanks to modern internet speeds and network availability, VoIP calls are now cheaper, more convenient, and more reliable than calls using traditional analog lines.

By 2021, the number of mobile VoIP users is expected to reach 3 billion, with a projected global market share of $93.2 billion by 2024. But if you want to find the right VoIP plan, you’ll need to know what to look for.

This beginner’s guide to VoIP is designed to help you understand the basics and more.

What Is VoIP and How Does It Work?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Otherwise known as IP telephony, VoIP lets you make calls over the Internet. How does it work? Your voice is converted into digital signals, transmitted over the web to your recipient, and then decoded into the sound of your voice. 

Using the Internet rather than a landline offers advantages in speed, quality, and especially affordability—depending on your setup, you no longer have to worry about distance or duration costing you extra. Plus, the Internet is flexible enough to accommodate new and useful features as they arrive. 

What Are the Different Types of VoIP Systems?

VoIP comes in different forms. These are differentiated by the equipment required:  

  • You have a phone with a VoIP adapter. You can make VoIP calls with a landline phone by plugging a VoIP adapter into your router or a phone socket. 
  • You have a computer. Choose from dozens of applications, including FaceTime, Google Talk, and Zoom, to name a few. 
  • You have a smartphone. The same apps listed above are compatible on mobile. Some apps, including Viber and Skype, let you contact a regular landline number, although this usually costs a small fee. 

What Other Equipment Do I Need?

Setting up a VoIP phone system requires little to no equipment other than an internet connection and a connected device. 

Smartphones already have speakers and a microphone built-in—simply download the desired VoIP app. With a desktop or laptop, you may need a headset if speakers and a mic aren’t integrated with your device. 

Using a VoIP app is as easy as dialing, connecting, and speaking to the recipient.

VoIP on Smartphones

Installing VoIP software on your device lets you call using WiFi, 3G, 4G, or 5G. You’re not limited to your smartphone, either. Laptops, tablets, and any internet-enabled device can be used for VoIP calls. 

VoIP unlocks a host of new features. These include group calls—ideal for conference meetings, or even university lectures for remote learning—as well as advanced features like call recording, voicemail to email, and custom hold music, which are available with certain VoIP phone systems specialized for business use. 

VoIP and Video Conferencing 

High-definition video conferencing enables remote work. VoIP technology encompasses more than just audio transmission—you can video chat and send texts as well. Since these functions are usually free, calls and texts are cheaper than their traditional counterparts, especially if you’re using WiFi. 

VoIP Advantages and Disadvantages 

Adopting a VoIP phone system comes with major benefits. What can a VoIP plan do for your business? 

  • Lower your phone bill by 50 to 75%. VoIP plans are available for less than half of their traditional counterparts. Save directly on hefty expenses such as onsite PBX installation and copper wiring charges. If your business operates globally, save a great deal on long-distance and international calls. 
  • Make and receive calls no matter where you are. As long as you have a decent internet connection, you can stay productive in any location. Boost productivity by nearly 20%, enable a remote workforce, and never miss an urgent call again. 
  • Boost customer satisfaction with high-quality audio and video. With a high-speed internet connection, you can forget about latency issues, lag, or call dropouts. Minimize interruptions and enhance your user experience with a cutting edge phone system. 
  • Choose a phone system that grows with your business. As your business operations expand, you’ll need more phones. With a VoIP provider, you no longer need to purchase and install expensive hardware or dedicated lines. Instantly cater to new spikes in demand or the opening of a new office. 

What are the disadvantages of VoIP? 

  • You need a reliable internet connection. Without sufficient bandwidth, your call quality will suffer. Make sure each device on your network is looking at an upload speed of at least 100 kbps. 
  • You may experience other connection-related issues such as latency and jitter. To prevent these issues, you may want to upgrade your bandwidth and Ethernet cables. VoIP works best with a Cat-5e cable or higher. Lower versions are less able to handle higher internet speeds. 

Glossary of VoIP Terms

ATA 

ATA stands for analog telephone adapter. This is the piece of hardware you need to convert your voice into digital signals, which can then be transmitted over the web to the person you’re calling. 

Bandwidth

Usually measured in 1,000 bits per second (kbps), bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted from one point to another within a certain time period. A low bandwidth implies a slow WiFi connection. 

Codec

Codec is short for code and decode. Codecs refer to the conversion of analog signals to digital signals and vice versa. For example, when you speak through a VoIP app, codecs encode your voice for transmission. Then, at the receiving end, codecs decode these signals into their original form, which your recipient hears from their device. 

Ethernet

Ethernet is the method used to connect devices in what’s called a local area network (LAN). An Ethernet cable transmits data between these devices. 

Gateway

A VoIP gateway is a device that can integrate different network technologies. For instance, a gateway can convert voice calls between the public switched telephone network (PTSN) and an IP network. VoIP gateways are used for compression, decompression, packetization, and other important functions. 

IP

IP stands for internet protocol, which determines the way data is transmitted between two places. Your IP address is a unique string of digits associated with each device on your IP network. IP telephony is another name for VoIP. 

LAN

LAN stands for local area network. A LAN interconnects computers that are in close proximity, such as those housed within a residence, school, or office building. In contrast, a wide area network (WAN) extends over a more extensive area. 

PBX

A PBX, or private branch exchange, is an in-house telephony system that connects internal phones with each other and the outside telephone network (PSTN). PBX users can communicate internally and externally through VoIP, integrated services digital network (ISDN), or analog providers.  

PSTN

PSTN stands for public switched telephone network. The PSTN is operated by telecommunications companies worldwide. It involves a combination of telephone lines, switching centers, satellites, and fiber optic cables, all of which allow landline calls to be made. 

SIP

SIP, or session initiation protocol, is a signaling standard used for starting, maintaining, and ending a real-time interactive user session involving voice, video, messaging, or other applications. An SIP phone uses the SIP standard for VoIP. 

Softphone

A softphone is a software program used to make calls over the Internet. Softphones aren’t limited to phones—they can be installed on any internet-enabled device, including laptops, desktops, and tablets. A softphone’s interface is similar to that of a traditional phone’s, with access to a dial pad and other features in your VoIP solution. 

Frequently Asked Questions About VoIP 

Is VoIP Free?

One of the main advantages of using VoIP is its cost-effectiveness. Calls placed from app-to-app, such as those made through FaceTime or Skype, are usually free. Calls from a VoIP app to a traditional mobile phone may cost a small fee, while VoIP services targeted toward businesses cost a monthly fee. 

Why Would a Business Use VoIP?

The primary reason businesses are gravitating away from traditional phone systems and toward VoIP is to save on the cost of installing multiple phone lines. VoIP plans are available for less than half the cost of using the average landline phone system—excluding international calls, which would be free for VoIP, but costly for landline systems. 

VoIP also improves user experience by offering a number of useful features and higher quality audio and video. 

Is VoIP Better Than a Landline?

By the end of 2021, 90% of IT leaders are expected to stop purchasing on-premise communication tools. 

VoIP phones allow you to make calls across devices—all you need is an internet connection. With landlines, you’re limited to audio transmission. VoIP, on the other hand, taps into any form of multimedia you can typically use over the Internet, from video to messaging. 

VoIP opens the door to a number of features which are costly or inaccessible for traditional phones, including call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail to text, business integrations (such as your CRM tool), and many others. 

Can I Keep My Number?

Most VoIP providers let you keep your number, while some require you to adopt a new one. For VoIP software, a phone number isn’t always necessary—your contacts can reach you using your new account details. 

Who Can I Call on My VoIP Phone?

You can place any type of call using your VoIP phone—local, long-distance, or international. You can also reach other VoIP users or regular phones. 

VoIP allows you to conduct group calls, where you can voice or video conference with a team of people. Keep in mind that some VoIP providers may limit you to other network subscribers only (known as user to user). 

Will VoIP Make My Internet Slower?

No, your VoIP calls will not impact your internet speeds, regardless of how many phones are deployed within your business. However, if your internet isn’t fast enough, you could experience audio or video distortion during calls. While your bandwidth can influence call quality, calls don’t impact your internet quality. 

How Secure Are VoIP Calls?

This depends on your supplier. While VoIP security breaches are rare, the best way to ensure that your VoIP calls are secure is to partner with a trustworthy supplier. The ultimate defense against cybersecurity attacks is encryption—make sure to choose a provider that offers end-to-end encryption to protect your sensitive data. 

Can You Send a Text to a VoIP Number?

Yes, VoIP numbers can send and receive texts from any internet-enabled device. Moreover, the recipient of your text has no way of telling the difference between a text sent from your laptop and one sent from your phone. 

Is Skype a VoIP Phone Service?

Skype is a freemium VoIP service that allows users to communicate over the Internet via voice and video calls, instant messaging, and other collaborative features like screen-sharing. Unlike most VoIP providers, however, Skype charges for calls placed to landline and mobile phones, and you can’t transfer your existing number. 

How Much Does VoIP Cost per Month?

VoIP costs vary between providers. VoIP packages generally include a monthly line rental fee and the costs of usage. 

Keep in mind that the number of VoIP users is not equivalent to the number of employees who use a phone. Instead, VoIP users are determined by the number of lines or simultaneous calls you need at any given time. So, if your business has a maximum of 30 employees using the phone at any given time, you’ll need 30 users. 

Where Can You Buy VoIP Phones?

VoIP providers usually offer compatible hardware like VoIP phones. VoIP phones are designed to handle VoIP technology, are easy to set up, and can tap into more features than traditional phones.

How Do I Get Started?

Broadband Choices makes it easy for businesses and individuals to find the best VoIP providers and compare plans and prices based on their needs. 

Browse the best deals available, see which providers offer the most reliable service, and more through our interactive VoIP comparison marketplace.

Are you interested in finding the best VoIP deal possible? Broadband Choices makes it easy for you to find the right VoIP plan.