Voice conversations can be routed over Voice over IP networks which are packet-switched, general-purpose networks. Unlike the conventional phone systems that use circuit-switched, dedicated voice transmission lines, VoIP networks convert voice into digital packets and transmit them over the net.
This technology enables customers to make phone calls from one computer to another computer, from a computer to a telephone and from one telephone to another telephone. The user, however, needs to be connected to a broadband line to transmit the voice data.
These networks use the same technology to transmit voice data that is used to transmit e-mail. The voice is converted into digital form, and is then broken into small units. These units are then allotted an IP address and routed over the net. The digital packets are sent across different routes to avoid congestion. At the destination point, the digital packets are reassembled and fed into a phone adapter. The adapter reconverts the digital packets into voice.
Experts predict that in a few years time, VoIP networks will cater to over 75 % of the world’s communication needs. Already, millions of Americans have switched to Internet-enabled phones. These phones offer several value added features like text messaging, contacts list, three-way calling, and voice mail with audio capability. Some VoIP services even support webcams.
Another advantage of this technology is cost saving. The phone bills of customers who switch to VoIP phones invariably fall by one-third to half. This is because the VoIP phone companies don’t have to make any investment on infrastructure. The VoIP networks already exist in the form of Internet. All that they need to do is to tie up with telecom majors to transmit voice on their lines when the phone happens to be a landline phone. For this, the VoIP networks pay a termination fee.
A VoIP network enables customers to make unlimited calls from their computer to any other computer for free or for a small monthly charge. The fees for a phone-to-phone service ranges from $9 to $35 per month. Value added features cost more.