Many people around the world are discovering the cost savings available with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony. VoIP uses the Internet to carry telephone calls, bypassing the public telephone network (PSTN) for local and long distance calls. While VoIP once required that there be a computer on both ends of a conversation, modern VoIP communications simply require a VoIP device attached to a broadband Ethernet connection.
A VoIP device may come in many different forms, but the principle of each is the same. Using sophisticated hardware and software, a VoIP device compresses the words you say into voice data packets that pass over the Internet. These voice data packets are then decoded at the other end, either by a gateway VoIP device connected to a PSTN or by the other party's VOIP device, so that the person you are calling can understand what you are saying. Most residential VoIP service providers offer their own VoIP device to their customers, free of charge or at a small cost.
For example, Vonage offers a VoIP telephone adapter that plugs into your router or cable/DSL modem. This adapter, while it is small, is an advanced VoIP device, which offers all of the features of regular phone service, such as call waiting, call forwarding, and call return. Once you have installed the VoIP device, you simply plug in your regular telephone and begin using it as normal, except that you will now pay much less for the calls you make. One great advantage is that you can take your VoIP device anywhere in the world, connect it to the Internet, and then send and receive local calls free of charge. With a VoIP device, then, you could be in Nepal and still converse with your mother in Pawtucket free of charge.
Businesses are also discovering the advantages of VoIP devices. Because office environments often change, companies often want to move an employee from one area to another. With a private telephone exchange (PBX), this meant having a technician come and move the employee's phone, then perform circuit switching at the PBX to ensure that the employee's extension remains the same. However, with VoIP, all the employee has to do is disconnect his or her VOIP device and carry it to their new workstation.
VoIP telephony has come a long way since it was first tested in 1995. From a strictly computer-to-computer technology in its infancy, VoIP has evolved to the point where a computer is not even necessary, all thanks to VoIP devices that are often smaller than a phone book!