VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is also called “network voice” to distinguish it from traditional wireline phone service. The key word is “network.” VoIP is designed to run on computer networks rather than the proprietary telephone technologies we’ve been using for the last century. In fact, on the network, voice is just another service running along with data, video and streaming audio. Every service generates packets that are transported from source to destination using routers and switches on the network.
This presents a huge cost savings opportunity for larger businesses. Having one network to carry all traffic saves over having to maintain separate telephone and data networks. It’s less of an issue for smaller companies, although there are also cost savings in having one service provider connection instead of different telephone and broadband lines.
Where VoIP has gotten a dicey reputation is from using the Internet as both a telephone line and a broadband data service. The Internet wasn’t designed for high quality two-way voice conversations, so it’s a hit and miss proposition as to how good the voice quality of your conversations will be. Some calls may sound as good or better than the best analog line. Others will sound distorted and slightly delayed so that you and the other party cut off each other’s conversations. Residential users may not find this variable performance all that annoying, so they’re happy with the savings they get from dumping their analog landlines in favor of using their broadband Internet connection for both phone and computer service.
Business users who want clear conversations with their customers at all times have some better performing options available. Medium and larger companies will opt for a private line or MPLS network connection to their phone system provider. This is also called a SIP Trunk after the Session Initiation Protocol standard used for VoIP switching. A SIP trunk can support multiple simultaneous phone conversations, similar to an ISDN PRI trunk that is used with in-house PBX telephone systems.
Note that the type of VoIP service we’re talking about here is remotely hosted telephone switching at a service provider’s location. This is also known as Hosted VoIP, Hosted PBX, or communications in the cloud.
Small companies can also benefit from Hosted PBX service even if they have only a few to a few dozen telephones. In this case, the SIP Trunking provider supplies your business with an Integrated Access Device (IAD) that uses the SIP trunk to deliver both telephone and broadband Internet service. Unlike residential broadband phone service, the SIP trunk keeps the voice and data packets from interfering with each other. That maintains your voice quality on telephone calls. The phones have priority. Any bandwidth they are not using is automatically assigned as broadband Internet bandwidth. With some providers, you may also elect to plug existing analog phones into the IAD. This is called an analog handoff.
Another service that can provide both Internet and telephone service is Cable business broadband and telephone bundled service. You have one line coming into your office in the form of a coaxial cable. This cable carries telephone, broadband Internet and even television. Quality of service is maintained by keeping the telephone, television and Internet services in their own channels on the cable. Your phone service is VoIP technology, but your phone calls never touch the Internet. They just ride their own channel of the cable to a switching system that connects to the public telephone system. Note that to make this work, you need to get both your business broadband and phone service from the same Cable provider, like Comcast.
Are you interested in learning more about the advanced features and quality of service protections for VoIP service? Get features and pricing from the best VoIP providers for business telephone service now.