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Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone revolutionized interpersonal communications. During much of the 20th century, advances and innovations in telecommunications focused on enhancing Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) transmitting analog data via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), reports GigaOm.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a relatively new entry in telecommunications. It is based on technology developed for the Audio Transceiver, the brainchild that two young tech entrepreneurs named Lior Haramaty and Alon Cohen patented in the 1990s. VoIP has been as transformative to telecommunications as Bell’s on invention. Flexibility in operations represents one of the major advantages of VoIP phone service for small business.

VoIP Defined

Unlike POTS, VoIP transmits vocal and data communications via digital signals transmitted over the internet. VoIP requires high-speed internet connections, either through a wired Ethernet connection or via Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), fiber optic cable or other wireless transmission. Originally, VoIP calls could only be made and received by users sitting in front of computers wearing headsets or speaking into a microphone. Sound quality was often extremely poor. Specially equipped phones and adapters for regular phones liberated users from the need to be in front of their computers to make VoIP calls.

Transmission quality has also vastly improved. Voice calls initiated via VoIP can now be transmitted to regular phone lines by converting digital packets back to voice transmission before they reach the intended recipient. As a result, VoIP calls today can also be made to and from regular landline phones, including cordless phones, specially equipped VoIP phones or mobile tablets and handsets.

VoIP vs Mobile Telephone Service

VoIP technology liberates individuals, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes from the limitations of analog voice and data transmission. Like mobile phone service, VoIP calls can be made by any properly equipped device located anywhere in the world. Phones ring for incoming calls just as they would with regular calls. In addition, many VoIP services also allow voicemail messages and faxes to be forwarded to recipient’s email addresses when they are not available to answer calls.

However, unlike mobile phone service, VoIP calls are not subject to network limitations or roaming charges. Advances in technology make it possible to operate both internet and phone service through a single VoIP network. Such an arrangement facilitates integrated network systems, and in most cases, VoIP networks allow subscribers to use their computers and talk on the phone simultaneously.

Advantages and Limitations of VoIP

Business owners making the transition from POTS to VoIP often save money because they no longer need to maintain both internet and phone services. Some VoIP systems allow users to access VoIP services over Wi-Fi when wireless internet service is available and switch to data when Wi-Fi is out of range, which also translates to significantly reduced mobile phone service bills. Likewise, VoIP users can make calls to others who also have VoIP service, regardless of their location, without incurring long distance charges and often totally free of charge.

VoIP does have potential limitations along with its advantages. Power outages or interruptions in internet service often knock out VoIP services if providers do not have backup power. Additionally, emergency call services connect differently through VoIP systems rather than through regular landlines, which can make it difficult to locate callers who need urgent assistance.

Nonetheless, for many individuals and small business owners, the advantages of VoIP technology outweigh any limitations. Its flexibility and affordability allow small business owners to operate on more of a level playing field with enterprise-level corporations.

Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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