How Do VoIP Phone Services Work?
Voice Over Internet Protocol (otherwise known as VoIP) has become a buzzword in conversations regarding modern business communications. But there is more to VoIP than just the fancy-sounding acronym; it represents a huge step forward in business phone technology.
The average VoIP phone isn’t too different from the analog phone resting on your desk. The two phone systems are similar in features and appearances. However, there are key differences that set VoIP phone systems from the rest.
A basic characteristic small business VoIP providers point out is this: a simplified form of communication.
VoIP: A Simpler Phone System
VoIP phones are devices that connect using the Internet instead of copper wires. These advanced communication systems give you almost unlimited options for interoperability, mobility, and connectivity.
VoIP’s steady increase in popularity is due to its key features, such as:
- Easy scalability
- Simple installation and setup
- Phone numbers that follow everyone in the company
- Simple integration with other software applications
- Economical implementation and wide availability
- A variety of device options
Seamless Setup on Existing Internet Connections
Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP phones convert analog voice calls into packets of data. The packets travel like other data types (e.g., email): they go through the private Internet Protocol (IP) network or public Internet.
With a VoIP service, you are free to call both mobile phones and landlines. You may also call computer-to-computer, with both parties listening through headsets or computer speakers and speaking into a computer microphone.
What Are The Types of VoIP Phones?
The market has seen VoIP phones of different shapes and sizes. From simple software applications to sophisticated phone models with built-in features for shareable contact lists and video conferencing, there is a phone that meets different business needs.
The three common types of VoIP phones are:
- Hardphone: These phone look and feel like traditional analog phones, except they can transmit VoIP calls over the Internet. Hardphones come with integrated mini hubs to keel all network points unified. You can use hard phones for conference calls, direct calls, and communications through headsets, handsets, speakerphones, and Bluetooth.
- Softphone: These virtual phones use an app on devices to make a call. Softphones use the gadget’s built-in microphone and speakers to make and receive VoIP phone calls.
- Mobile VoIP app: These are applications you can install on tablets and smartphones to place a call. Mobile apps have increased in popularity since they allow users to integrate their apps so employees can use their own phones at work.
Understanding VoIP Connectivity
How do VoIP phones make a call?
It starts with CODECs, a shorter term for encoder-decoders. When you use your VoIP phone to make or receive a call online, the phone will convert your voice into digital data. It will then recode into voice signals at the other party’s end. CODECs also compress the sound of your call to reduce the bandwidth used to make a call.
VoIP CODECs are enhanced to improve sound quality. Music that passes through this system can sound rough, but there are advanced CODECs that work perfectly for music.
CODECs are requirements for VoIP. Unlike traditional landline calls that use analog data, VoIP uses digital signals. CODECs convert analog voice data into digital signals to help it traverse the Internet smoothly. When the data signal reaches the other line of the call, CODECs will decode it back to its analog form so the other person you’re speaking to can understand what you’re saying.
It might seem like a complex process, but it is a similar process to when you’re sending an email. Your email (the data aka your voice) has a destination (the other party’s number). Your voice is transformed into a code (encoding) so that it can move through the Internet.
Packets: Your Voice Compressed Into Smaller Samples
After the computer records your audio, it will compress your voice into smaller samples known as data packets. Think of packets like postcards. Similar to data packets, postcards contain a limited amount of information. If you want to send a longer message, you need to send many postcards. For your receiver to understand the entire message, they have to receive the postcards in order.
Packets work in the same way.
VoIP phones will collect these samples and place them for transmission over the IP network. The entire process is called packetization. VoIP experts say that a single data packet can contain ten or more milliseconds of audio. The most common is 20 and 30 milliseconds.
One of the challenges of packetization is when IP data packets get lost in the process. CODECs compensate for the loss by filling the gap with audio that makes sense to your ear. Specialists call this process as packet-loss concealment (PLC). Fortunately, advancements in VoIP enable phone systems to send packets multiple times, reducing packet loss.
Another Plan B for data loss is a forward error correction (FEC) to prevent packet loss. FEC includes information from previously transmitted IP packets into the current ones. By utilizing mathematical operations, it reconstructs loss packets with bits of data from neighboring packets.
Faster Registration for Better Communication
The Internet makes simpler communication systems possible. With VoIP, offices already wired for Ethernet don’t have to invest in additional copper wires to use their phones.
If you want to make a call, you have to register your VoIP to an account. This is the first step to connecting your phone and establishing a connection with your service provider. Some VoIP service providers support IP phone booting for specific models. This system uses a boot server to speed up your phone registration process.
The regular registration process will take you or an IT staff less than 30 minutes. You don’t have to call the local phone company to ask for an update. Phones will become active as soon as you register.
Not Your Typical Business Phone
VoIP phone systems handle calls differently. Most phone units come with toggle buttons, which you can use to pick between incoming, current, and held phone calls.
These buttons are a rare feature with traditional landlines.
Traditional analog phones have “lines” that correspond to a phone number. They can also juggle multiple calls among corresponding copper lines. Landlines come with line buttons, which allow you to switch between calls. If your small business has three lines, that means your phone can take calls from three different numbers.
On the other hand, VoIP phones don’t have “lines.” Instead of being tied to traditional phone numbers, each of the lines on VoIP phones are tied to Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) user accounts or addresses. Depending on the model, VoIP phones can simultaneously handle multiple accounts. You can take different calls from different phone numbers and accounts on your VoIP phones.
Challenges Along The Way
A common concern with VoIP phone systems is delayed data packet transmission.
VoIP phone systems should play voice packets once they enter the system. Delays happen when the data is too old for the system to play. The system will then discard these old voice packets, which result in a choppy voice. Fortunately, FEC and PLC phone algorithms keep the audio quality good.
Even though the chance of delays can potentially be an issue, VoIP systems are designed to expect delays. In this case, a delay means it takes longer for the first user’s recorded voice to reach the other user.
Jitter, another variation of delay, remains a common occurrence in VoIP phones. Generally, functional networks can experience delays below 100ms. Delays up to 400 mms are common for phone systems that use satellite systems. Jitter can cause a temporary glitch in the system, which can increase your chances of delay.
Jitter buffer algorithms are the key to beating this challenge. Better algorithms will line up a certain number of voice packets before they play out. The length of the line can decrease and increase over time to reduce the number of late or rejected voice packets or to reduce delay. During a call, the system should adjust its buffer management behavior as delay increases.
No system is perfect. Despite the potential challenges VoIP users might face, this advanced phone system remains the superior choice for businesses, especially for those aiming to improve their means of communication.
How VoIP Can Work For Your Business
VoIP’s significant role in businesses is simple: it improves business productivity, reduces costs, and enhances collaboration by adding voice to a data network.
Cost reduction is a big plus for small businesses who use VoIP; managing one network instead of two or more guarantees bigger savings. VoIP also allows you to add or change phone locations and extensions, which saves money and provides flexibility.
Other benefits of using VoIP for your business include the following:
- An abundance of helpful features: Most VoIP systems come with features traditional ISPs would usually charge an additional fee for. If you have been paying your old provider monthly for Call Forwarding, Caller ID, Call Transfers, and Call Waiting, your new VoIP system will come with these features for FREE. The system’s range of features is extensive.
- A unified form of communication: VoIP solutions for small businesses go beyond basic phone capabilities. One of its biggest benefits is promoting enhanced collaboration. With a unified platform for communication, it’s easier for employees to collaborate through Web conference, voice calls, video chat, and instant messaging. Your team can use each technology individually or all of them simultaneously.
- Wireless and convenient communication: Employees can use VoIP phones from home or on the road. Also, wireless phones connect users to your data resources and communication system (such as customer information) while they are on the sales floor, in the warehouse, or anywhere they can access the data network wirelessly.
- More affordable software and hardware: The vast majority of VoIP systems require little no installation and can run using your existing equipment. In terms of hardware selection, all you need are computers with a working soundcard, microphone, and headset to make and receive calls.
- Make and receive multiple calls at the same time. You can only talk with one person at a time when you use regular phone lines. VoIP phones, on the other hand, enable you to make multiple calls, including group calls — a huge plus for businesses. This makes it easier for business associates to collaborate and to communicate with clients.
- A faster way for clients to connect with customer support: This helps businesses immediately handle and resolve concerns, which improves the overall customer experience.
- A more flexible phone system: If you want to add another user in your traditional landline system, you’ll have to pay for another line and have the phone company install it for you. VoIP, on the other hand, is easier to scale down or up, and your provider can remotely make most of the changes you want. The same applies for feature management. You can still make some changes using a softphone or a web interface.
- Stronger data security: Security is not a problem when you use VoIP phones. It protects your calls and data with standardized encryption protocols.
VoIP is no longer just a buzzword in the business communication world. This wireless phone system, as complex as it might seem, is the key to simplifying collaborations between the management and employees, as well as clients.
If you’re after a simple yet more effective phone system, VoIP is the way to go.
Lingo Communications encourages your shift to modern phone systems with our line of new generation VoIP office phone replacement and app-based services. Our phone system solutions for SMBs come with industry-leading reliability, features, and call quality.
Better business starts with having better VoIP solutions. Get in touch with us today to learn more.