What’s Internet Telephony?

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Internet telephony converts analog voice signals into digital signals, transmits them over computer networks using data packets, and converts them back. Voice over IP (VoIP) is a common form of this service. It allows for free long distance calls if both parties have the correct software. Voicemail and other telephone services are available, but downtime can be an issue for business environments. Industry experts predict that Internet telephony will eventually replace traditional phone service.

Internet telephony refers to the science or technology of integrating telephone services into computer networks. Essentially, it converts analog voice signals into digital signals, transmits them, then converts them back. Voice over IP (VoIP) is a common form of this service.

With traditional telephone service, sometimes referred to as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), voice signals use telephone lines – copper wires – and circuit breakers to communicate. Internet telephony does away with the telecommunications company altogether using computer networks to send voice signals. All information is transferred over the Internet in “data packets”. For example, if someone sends an email to a friend, the email is split into a series of data packets that each carry their own path to the destination mail server. Once there, the packets reassemble themselves into the complete email message.

Internet telephony also transmits using data packets. Analog voice signals are digitized, sent in discrete packets to their destination, reassembled and converted back into analog signals. Using this system, a person can make long distance calls for free. The problem is that both parties need to have the correct software. If this technology is used to call a landline or mobile, charges apply, although they are usually minimal.

Some online VoIP services provide free Internet phone software and use a prepaid system to hold money in your account for calls from it to a landline. The charge is minimal and is made by the minute, per call. The rate does not change, whether you are calling someone local or in another country. Again, if both parties use VoIP software, there is no charge.

Internet telephony has drastically improved since its earliest incarnations. Initial VoIP used to be of very poor quality, but now many users report similar quality to a landline. There are many benefits to using the Internet to make calls, not just for family and friends to stay in touch for free, but for multistate or multinational corporate PBXs where routine long distance calls between offices are significant. One potential downside to using Internet telephony for business environments is that VoIP tends to have more downtime than POTS. Computer or network problems can interfere with calls, although many VoIP programs drop calls to POTS if there’s a problem.
Voicemail and other telephone services are often available from these services, and installing simple VoIP software is easy for anyone with a small amount of skill. Over time, industry experts predict that Internet telephony technologies and services will displace much of the workload currently handled by plain old phone service.

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