What Is VoIP

by Ted Wallingford
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the family of technologies that allow IP networks to be used for voice applications, such as telephony, voice instant messaging, and teleconferencing. VoIP entails solutions at almost every layer of an IP network--from specialized voice applications (like Skype) all the way down to low-level quality measures that keep those applications running smoothly.

In this Article

  1. The VoIP Technology
  2. Why VoIP Now?
  3. VoIP in Action
  4. How IP Telephony Fits In
  5. VoIP-Based Services
  6. What's Next for VoIP?

Unless you've been sleeping under a very big rock for the last year, you've certainly heard the phrase "Voice over IP" uttered. Perhaps you've seen those hilarious Vonage commercials that feature painful and embarrassing accidents caught on tape, promising to let you dump your local phone company in order save big on your phone bill. You may also have seen the Cisco telephones that are curiously inserted in prime-time shows like 24.

What is all the hubbub about, anyway? Why, VoIP, of course! VoIP, the fabulous secret ingredient in Vonage, Skype, Cisco CallManager, and a host of other revolutionary technology products you may have already encountered on TV, in the news, or in person. But what makes these products so revolutionary? What is it about VoIP that is such a big deal?

The VoIP Technology

Voice over Internet Protocol is a family of technologies that enable voice communications using IP networks like the internet. Inventive developers and entrepreneurs have created an industry around VoIP technology in its many forms: desktop applications, telephone services, and corporate phone systems. VoIP is a core technology that drives everything from voice-chat software loaded on a desktop PC to Mac full-blown IP-based telecommunications networks in large corporations. To the Wall Street speculator, VoIP is a single technology investment with many revenue streams. To the enterprise network engineer, it's a way to simplify the corporate network and improve the telephony experience for users of the network. To the home user, it's a really cool way to save money on the old phone bill.

But how? What makes VoIP do all this awesome stuff? Read on.

Why VoIP Now?

The concept isn't actually that new: VoIP has been touted as a long-distance killer since the later 1990s, when goofy PC products like Internet Phone were starting to show up. But the promise of Voice over IP was lost in the shuffle of buggy applications and the slow-to-start broadband revolution. Without broadband connections, VoIP really isn't worthwhile. So early adopters of personal VoIP software like CUSeeMe and NetMeeting were sometimes frustrated by bad sound quality, and the first generation of VoIP products ultimately failed in the marketplace.

Fast forward to Fall 2005. Suddenly, everybody is talking about VoIP again. Why? There may be no greater reason than the sudden success of a freeware VoIP chat program called Skype.

Switching to VoIP

Related Reading

Switching to VoIP
By Ted Wallingford

Pages: 1, 2, 3

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