What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP refers to Voice over Internet Protocol. It describes technology that converts telephone messages into digital signals and facilitates the transmission of these signals using computers, VoIP phones, and other data-driven devices. VoIP technology delivers telephone services over IP networks, typically broadband internet connections and local area networks (LANs). According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are nearly 3.0 million VoIP subscriptions in Massachusetts as of June 2021.
Technically, VoIP and internet calls refer to the same service. This service facilitates the delivery of telephone services using IP data networks. It uses packet-switched protocols to enable traditional telephone services over IP networks and deliver audio, video, and texts to the receivers.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landlines and Cell Phone Calls?
VoIP and internet calls differ significantly from traditional telephone services, i.e., landlines and cell phones. VoIP technology converts voice (sound waves) into digital signals that are converted back to voice at the receivers’ end. Landlines and cell phones convert voice into electrical signals that they transmit across copper wires and electromagnetic waves. VoIP services require specialized equipment such as IP telephones, ATAs, and softphones. IP telephones are the hardware that connects directly to modems and routers, while softphones are virtual telephones that enable telephone services on computers and web-based applications. ATAs (Analog Telephone Adapters) are adapters that connect analog phones to VoIP services.
Landlines transform voice into electrical signals and transmit them to telephone exchanges that forward the calls to the receivers. Cell phones use electromagnetic waves to transmit the signals between base stations that route and connect the phone calls. The electromagnetic waves are propagated by tall fixed antenna masts that connect to the base stations. This system enables the reuse of frequencies by creating grids, and each mast controls the receiving and routing of calls within its grid. This allows frequency reuse without causing interference, optimizing the number of phone calls managed by a mast.
VoIP and internet calls use packet switching protocols that put the voice signals into IP packets that are readily transmitted across any compatible digital network. Compatible digital networks include local area networks (LANs) and broadband internet. The packets are sent to the receiver in no particular order but are reassembled in proper order when all the packets are received at the destination. Landlines and cell phones use circuit-switched network protocols that establish a dedicated channel between the two nodes that need to communicate. Circuit-switched networks require point-to-point connections to establish communications.
The following are the advantages of VoIP over landlines and cell phones:
- Added Features – VoIP services include free added features such as caller IDs, call-waiting, and voicemail services that would incur extra costs with regular telephony services.
- Scalability – VoIP networks are highly scalable, and the only available bandwidth restricts the number of users on a network.
- Accessibility – VoIP numbers can be used in any location globally, provided there is a stable broadband internet connection.
- Lower Costs – VoIP connections occur in cyberspace, making them more efficient and eliminating surcharges and taxes associated with using telecoms companies’ networks. This drastically reduces customer costs.
- Reduced Operating Costs – VoIP networks consist mostly of software-based equipment, unlike regular telephone services, which are hardware-based. This significantly reduces the associated maintenance costs and overall operating costs.
- Multiple VoIP numbers can be used on a single device, and multiple devices can be linked to the same VoIP number, and the number can be used simultaneously by all the devices.
Reverse phone lookup services can provide information about VoIP numbers and their registrants.
Does Massachusetts regulate VoIP Providers?
No. VoIP is considered an internet-based information service and not a telecommunication service. Hence, it is not subject to oversight or regulation by the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
To make a VoIP call, the most essential requirement is a broadband internet connection. Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), Ethernet connections, and fast mobile networks are recommended for the best VoIP experiences, but other services will work. The additional equipment will depend on the method used for VoIP calls.
To make internet calls on mobile devices, you require mobile smart devices installed with VoIP applications. Several free mobile VoIP applications make free internet calls to other smart mobile devices with compatible applications. These include FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. It is possible to use VoIP applications to make calls to landlines and cell phones, but these phone calls will incur charges.
To make internet calls from computer systems, you need accessories to turn the computers into softphones. These include microphones, speakers, headsets, and VoIP software that must be installed on the computers. Available software includes Skype, GoogleTalk, GoogleMeet, and Zoom. Internet calls made between devices using the same VoIP software are free. Some VoIP software can also be used to make phone calls to landlines and cell phones for nominal fees.
To make internet calls from landlines, you require ATAs and compatible telephone boxes. The ATAs connect the telephones to the routers or wall sockets that provide broadband connections.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
VoIP telephone numbers are regarded as real phone numbers as they consist of the ten digits as regular telephone numbers. That said, there are fundamental differences between standard telephone numbers and VoIP numbers, and these include:
- VoIP numbers are assigned to users and not phone lines in specific locations, SIM cards, or handsets like regular telephone numbers. As such, VoIP numbers can be used anywhere, there is a stable internet connection.
- VoIP numbers utilize IP networks to transmit data, not copper or fiber-optic cables, and electromagnetic waves like regular telephone numbers. This allows VoIP to transfer more information across the network than traditional telephone services to support and enhance communication requirements.
- A VoIP number can be assigned to multiple devices and used simultaneously on each device. A regular phone number is fixed to one device and is only used by a single user at a time.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes, it is possible to make free internet phone calls, provided specific requirements are met. The essential requirement for making free internet calls is a software application that facilitates free phone calls. These software applications enable free phone calls thus;
- PC to Phone – These types of software applications allow users to make free phone calls from computers to landlines and cell phones.
- App to Phone – These types of software applications make free internet calls from mobile devices to regular phone numbers (landlines and cell phones). The software does not have to be installed on the landlines and cell phones receiving phone calls.
- PC to PC – These software types enable free internet calls between two computers that have the same software installed.
- App to App – These software applications enable free calls between smart devices with the same software installed. These applications cannot call regular phone numbers (landlines or cell phones) or internet-enabled devices that do not have compatible applications.