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Voice over Internet Protocol converts the analog voice in which we speak to digital data, then transmits it over internet to the desired destination, and does the reverse part of converting the digital data back to sound that the recipient hears. There are three ways in which VoIP service can be used today.
- ATA which allows the analog telephone adaptor to connect standard phones to the computer/internet connection for use with VoIP.
- IP Phones which are handheld phones but with an IP connector (RJ-45). These IP phones are directly connected to the internet. There are Wi-fi phones also which directly connect to the Wi-fi hotspots and can be used for making VoIP calls wirelessly.
- Computer-to-Computer which is by far the simplest and easiest way to use. There is no need for any additional hardware, but microphone, speaker and an internet connection. There are free softwares which allow VoIP calls.
The only need for establishing an VoIP service internet phone system is standard internet connection. There are too many free VoIP softwares which can be used to make internet phone calls. And here emerges the threat to mobile phone companies and service providers.
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Face-Off: Analog-to-Digital vs VoIP
The strongest argument in favor of VoIP is that it is cheap, and thus poses a threat to traditional circuit switching systems employed by the (cellular) mobile service providers as well as the age old Public Switching Telephone Network (PSTN). The rate for voice calls has traditionally been directly proportional to the distance to where the calls are made, with international calls being too expensive even today.
Comparing Internet telephone under the same umbrella, it costs almost nothing to make an international call using internet telephony. VoIP service internet phone systems can integrate with added services available on the internet,like video conference, message or computer file exchange, conversation conferencing. It can also make use of a computer's address book, including any policy details concerning whether others like friends or co-workers can be found online as well as your customers.
Voice over internet protocol can perform tasks that might be harder to attain using traditional systems. Incoming telephone calls could be instantly routed to your VoIP phone, no matter where you are. Take your voice over internet protocol phone along with you on holidays, and wherever a connection to the web is attained, you are able to receive calls.
There are fair share of disadvantages for VoIP service as well. The traditional switching system, being a closed system, is very secure against internet telephone. The Quality of Service (QoS) aspect of internet telephony is still under consideration. Another drawback may be the difficulty in delivering faxes because of software as well as networking constraints in the majority of home systems. Attempts are going ahead to solve this by determining another IP solution that delivering Fax via IP, called the T.38 protocol. Other possible means to fix the drawback would be to treat fax systems like message switching systems which don't require live data transmission - for example delivering a fax as email attachments or remote printout eventually systems may substantially reduce incoming printable fax data or image.
It is witnessed till date that although VoIP service has gained popularity and more and more people are interested in having VoIP communications, the revenues of the carriers have still not suffered financially. The defense by carriers for going against VoIP has been that people want, quality, reliability and ease of use and VoIP does not provide any of that. But the main reason for them is the expensive switching system that the carriers already have.
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VoIP for Carriers and Mobile Manufactures
Internet Phone systems make more sense for businesses, in economic perspective as well as infrastructure requirements. Existing cellular companies are considering their existing infrastructure as a way to keep their distance from internet telephony, but it is about time when all the circuit switched networks will be converted into packet switching networks.
The popularity of VoIP gives an opportunity to service providers and handset providers globally to adjust their business models. Functionality offered by IP telephones in addition to the charges has forced many providers to embrace VoIP service internet phone systems in addition to the existing infrastructure.
Companies like AT&T have already started working on their infrastructure to support IP networks. Companies like Verizon who have already started providing internet telephony have jacked up their data usage charges to cover the initial investment. The functionality aspect of VoIP is a driving force for the carriers to embrace VoIP even while they still write off internet telephone systems as not viable.
The cellphone manufacturers are also geared up and are providing Wi-fi compatible handsets to connect seamlessly to any hotspot available and switching between them while moving. Blackberry has handsets which uses Wi-fi instead of GSM or CDMA to make phone calls and exchange data. While the infrastructure makes a switch from cellular networks to Wi-fi networks, the option of both the networks is supported by mobiles and the networks are switched seamlessly while switching from one area to another.
The seamless switching from conventional mobile networks and connecting to the Wi-Fi on the go leads to Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). This reduces the operating costs and provides huge bandwidth for the user. The network service provider companies can thus improve productivity by minimizing costs.
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Femtocell: The Small Cell Technology
A femtocell can be thought of as a technology for the extension of a service provider’s network via broadband. This is also an alternative way to deliver FMC. Femtocells are generally provided by mobile network operators to home and small business users who want extended coverage at their location. As the femtocell is connected to the location's existing broadband connection, it can provide value-added services in addition to the previously available services- and excellent network coverage. The indoor network coverage using any femtocell is of the order of 10 meters.
The switch between wider cell and the femtocell is seamless and communications are directed automatically via femtocells when the user is within the range of it. The most common underlying technologies for femtocells are WCDMA, CDMA2000, and WiMAX.
There are certain issues related to femtocells, the foremost being interference caused to the overall network because of the femtocells. Some other concerns are safe location of the equipment, making emergency calls, and maintaining Quality of Service.
- VoIP versus regular Phone Service: A Comparison http://www.ezilon.com/information/article_15582.shtml
- Voice over IP, http://www.tripos.com.au/newsletters/newsletter_March05.html
- Image from Flickr, by comedy_nose
- VoIP Vs Digital, http://www.epictn.com/-telecom/tradVoIP.aspx