You may not have heard the term VoIP being tossed around, but you've surely heard the term Skype being tossed around in the media a bit lately. I know I have. In case you haven't, Skype is program that lets you make phone calls over the internet and VoIP is the technology that makes Skype possible.
Big deal you think, talking over the internet. Who cares when I have a landline and a mobile right? Wrong. VoIP is becoming as much, or more, of a cultural phenomena than a technological phenomena by changing the way we make phone calls and think about communicating.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let's rewind just a little. VoIP is short for voice over internet protocol. The technology, which dates back to 1999, involves sending voice information in digital form via discrete packets of information rather than the traditional means of the switched telephone network.
The most convincing VoIP benefit is its price--free. That's right, free. Even the software needed to make the calls from your computer is free and it includes extra features such as caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, three-way calling and more.
Sounds too good to be true right? Perhaps. A few barriers still exist before the technology completely changes phones as we know them today. Unlike traditional landlines, VoIP is dependant on wall power so if the power goes out, so does your phone. Emergency calls to 000 become a challenge and of course all phone calls are susceptible to hiccups normally associated with broadband services. VoIP is also susceptible to worms and viruses.
If you're still interested in giving the technology a try then check out some of the free software available today. Some Australian VoIP providers include Engin, MyNetFone, Frestel and Broadband Phone.
But chances are if you know anyone already talking on the phone via the internet it's with Skype.
Skype was recently bought out by eBay and is quickly becoming a phenomenon among its 40 million worldwide users. With its origins as free, peer-to-peer software, Skype is today a legitimate means to bypass costly phone services, and more.
The software also offers instant messaging with file transfer capabilities and like instant messaging, it has a buddy list that lets you see who's connected, available and away.
If you want to use Skype's more advanced features you'll have to pay--mind you the rates are minimal. SkypeOut lets users make Skype calls to landlines and mobiles around the world for as little as $0.027 per minute. SkypeIn allows users to get their own phone number so people who aren't using Skype can call them from a regular phone line. SkypeIn costs $48 for a year.
Here at Internetrix we recently began using Skype and use it regularity to make international calls to places as far as India and the US. We've found the quality of service to be quite good with only a few drop-outs that don't last longer than "Hello, are you there? Hello? Oh, there you are." We also use SkypeIn allowing us to have California-based numbers so contacts in California can contact us free of charge. Quite handy.
As more and more businesses install VoIP systems it is quite likely that some time down the road traditional phone systems will become obsolete. Even mobile phone networks are at risk as Skype has developed a new mobile phone in conjunctions with Netgear that uses wireless internet and enables users to call Skype contacts for free from any wireless hotspot in the world.
What will they think of next?