The power of VoIP

March 29, 2007 by  

One of the best things about Broadband is the fact that it has so much more capability to carry large volumes of data then the old 56K dial-up internet connections. So much so that you can surf the internet and make telephone calls at the same time.

However, in the past 18-24 months things have got even better – you can now make phone calls via your computer and broadband connection to anybody, anywhere in the World for !FREE! Such is the power of VoIP. read on ….

VoIP o r Voice over Internet Protocol is a technology that allows for the transmission of voice conversations over the broadband internet, or a similar network. Using an Internet connection to make phone calls has a number of advantages – firstly, you avoid using a landline or network and therefore avoid paying costly service charges and/or line rental, effectively allowing you to make ‘free’ calls.

For other Broadband Glossary terms see: www.go-broadband.co.uk/broadband-glossary

Another benefit of not having to use a network or landline is that there is no problem with signal strength as such, as an Internet connection – any connection – effectively functions as the phone’s ’signal’. This means that voice calls are generally clearer and are of a better quality, although this is entirely dependent upon the strength of the connection.

This also allows for greater mobility abroad, as any Internet connection will allow you to make and receive incoming calls for no additional cost, ‘roaming’ charges. Most VoIP phones include features such as voicemail, call waiting and three-way calling, features that traditional mobile network providers usually charge for.

Since VoIP technology uses the Internet to transmit information, more and more VoIP handsets come with services which allow users to use Instant Messenger services such as MSN, AIM, GoogleTalk and Skype. There are an increasing number of Wi-Fi-enabled hotspots in urban areas in which VoIP users can make full use of their phone’s functions.

Since VoIP technology relies on an Internet connection, this too, has its drawbacks. The quality and clarity of a phone is reliant on a fast and secure connection, and although connection speeds of broadband ISPs are generally improving, problems with latency can sometimes result in a reduced quality of the call. Also if you experience a power cut in your home, you will be unable to make any calls on your VoIP phone as its Internet connection has been disabled.

To combat this, some modems are now equipped with chargeable back-up batteries which can temporarily power the modem, making sure that the connection to the Internet remains active. Some business providers of VoIP install dedicated phone connections for VoIP handsets to use in case of a local Internet connection not being available.

Another major disadvantage is in that as the calls on a VoIP are not made on a local line or network, it makes it hard to connect emergency calls to appropriate call centres, although

The number of mobile handsets that currently support VoIP is comparatively small compared with the rest of the mobile phone market, but there is every possibility that commercial versions will become available in the near future. The current providers of VoIP services in the UK are Skype, Vonage, GoogleTalk, BT, and Orange.

Skype

Skype is currently the biggest UK VoIP provider. Skype is a software program, available as a secure downloaded from their website, compatible with any computer platform that allows free calls via VoIP to other Skype members and cheap calls to normal landlines via the Internet, whilst also allowing IM, video calling and SMS/texting.

Calls can be made whilst sat at your computer, using a headset, or with a variety of Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones (that operate in Wi-Fi hotspots) and cordless handsets available from the Skype website, where credit can also be purchased.

Vonage

Vonage is a leading provider of VoIP services, and is known simply as ‘the Broadband Phone Company’. Vonage’s Residential Premium Unlimited and Small Business Unlimited calling plans offer consumers unlimited local and long distance calling, and features such as call waiting, call forwarding and voicemail are all inclusive and part of one monthly rate.

Vonage provide phone adapters with their packages which act as interfaces between your modem, router and your phone or handset – this transfers any calls made from the phone line straight to the broadband connection. For customers who do not have a router installed, Vonage have an adapter with a built-in router. Connections are made through an Ethernet Broadband connection, meaning that if you have a BT phone line with a USB modem, this will have to be replaced with an Ethernet modem.

GoogleTalk

GoogleTalk is similar to Skype in that it exists in the form of a downloadable application that allows users to make free calls to each other over the Internet, typically through a microphone headset. Signing in to GoogleTalk requires you to register for a free GoogleMail email account. Google Talk is currently free, as the program is a beta, and is currently being mass-tested across the Internet.

BT Broadband Talk

Broadband Talk is BT’s entry into the VoIP market, offering free evening and weekend calls, as well as cheap rates for all other times (with unlimited UK calls available for under £5), cheap international rates and a reliable connection, guaranteeing clear reception every time.

New Broadband Talk phone numbers will begin with a ‘05? code and will work over a wired or wireless broadband connection via the BT Home Hub or an existing broadband router. BT Broadband Talk requires a touchtone phone; most corded and cordless phones are compatible, but be sure to check BT’s website to see if you can sign up first. Everything else required for installation is available in the welcome pack.

Similar to Vonage, BT provide customers with phone adapters to link up to their existing connection, with router-less phone adapters for those who do not require a router pre-installed.

Orange Unique Phone

Unique Phone from Orange is the mobile network and broadband company’s converged mobile and VoIP service. Unique Phone handsets operate both on a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) Wi-Fi connection in the home, and the regular mobile network outside.

Much like BT Broadband Talk, Unique Phone allows for calls to be made within the home to other Orange mobiles and landlines for free, as they are routed through the Orange Livebox over an Orange broadband connection. The Livebox is a wireless hub, allowing for six devices (computers, laptops, Unique Phones) to share the same connection.

The Orange Unique Phone is available for £50 a month, and includes all the features provided by Orange’s Unlimited Broadband package, as well as 1300 free mobile minutes.