What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, is a collection of technologies and protocols that define the fundamental rules for communication through the internet protocol. VoIP works by encoding information in a digital format, which can be transported across IP networks, such as Local Area Networks (LANs), intranet, and Wide Area Networks (WANs) in discrete packets. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 969,000 VoIP subscriptions in Iowa as of June 2021.
VoIP and internet calls are interchangeable terms that refer to the provisioning of telephony services such as voice calls, multimedia messaging, SMS, with the internet as the medium of transmission. Unlike traditional telephony which uses circuit transmissions, VoIP or internet call data is converted into IP packets for conveyance between source and destination.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Landline telephone communications work on the principles of Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which relies on circuit switching. To connect one phone to another, the phone call is routed through several switches operating on a local, regional, national, or international level. This connection established between the two phones is called a circuit. The telephone converts the sound waves into an electrical signal which is transmitted to a terminal through copper wire. The terminal collects the electrical signal and transmits it to the central office.
The central office routes the call through fiber optic cable in the form of an electrical signal. The fiber optic cable transmits the signals in the form of light pulses to their destination where the light pulses are converted back to an electrical signal. From here, the terminal routes the call to the appropriate telephone number. At the receiving end, the telephone set converts the electrical signal back to sound waves which are heard by the receiver.
During a cellphone call, the antenna on the source phone converts the electrical signals into radio waves. The antenna on the cell phone transmits the radio wave to the cell tower at a specific frequency on the cellular network. The cell tower receives the radio wave and further transmits it to a telephone network. On the receiver's end, the process happens in reverse order.
VoIP works by converting analog voice signals into digital signals and sending the data over an internet connection by a method called packet switching. The data is broken down into several small chunks or pieces called packets, each of which travels independently across the internet before being reassembled into the complete data at the destination. Packet switching is a fast and efficient way of sending data back and forth over IP networks. The process of encoding and decoding from one end to the other is achieved by codecs. Codecs help with ensuring the compression of data and hence faster transmission of data over the internet.
VoIP offers many advantages over cell phones and landlines, including:
- Superior Voice Quality: Over PSTN, the only acceptable codec is G.711, which limits the quality of audio output. VoIP-based phone systems allow a wider range of codecs which consequently offers a potentially feature-rich calling experience.
- Flexibility: Since VoIP deals with the packetization of voice signals, VoIP offers services that can be easily integrated efficiently with voice and video, instant messaging, cloud-based technologies, and other collaborative tools and products which can enhance productivity for individuals and businesses
- Mobility: VoIP allows for greater mobility in the workplace. VoIP services can be used anywhere an internet connection is available, unlike landlines that are confined to specific locations
- Low Cost: Setting up and maintaining VoIP services require lower costs compared to PSTN due to the minimum requirement for hardware. Since VoIP uses the internet as the pathway for communication, rather than cables as used in landline, calls are cheaper for both service providers and users. Long-distance calls are also much cheaper than on PSTN and cellular networks.
- Scalability: organizations grow with time and may want to extend existing lines of communication. With VoIP, it is easier to scale up or down as it does not require you to pay for another line to add a new user. The majority of the required changes can be made remotely by the VoIP service provider
- Extra features: Many VoIP service providers include features of which traditional telephony service providers would typically charge an extra fee. Such features include call forward, call waiting, call transfer.
- VoIP users can use their numbers on multiple devices simultaneously. This is not possible on landlines or cellular networks.
Iowans may use reverse phone lookup services to identify subscribers registered to VoIP numbers.
Does Iowa Regulate VoIP Providers?
Pursuant to Iowa Code § 476.1(2), intrastate local exchange service provided by non-nomadic VoIP in Iowa is regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
You need stable broadband internet access to have an optimal internet call experience. Broadband internet connection typically refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. These include several high-speed transmission technologies such as Fiver, Cable Modem, Wireless, and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Although mobile network users can make internet calls over 3G networks, 4G or 5G networks provide a much better experience.
Using a special adapter, you can make internet calls from a regular old landline phone. More precisely referred to as Analog Telephone Adapter, the device plugs into a phone socket in the wall or into your router. An ATA is necessary because landlines are not designed to convert voice signals into digital packets that are required in a VoIP transmission.
To make internet calls from a computer, you need to have VoIP software installed. Popular VoIP applications that may be used on a computer are Skype, Zoom, and Google Talk. You can even make internet calls to regular phone numbers through VoIP software installed on your computer.
Mobile phone users can also make internet calls from their smartphones or tablets. Simply install a VoIP application, such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, or Facebook messenger to start making internet calls. Calls between users of the same application are typically free while calls made to regular landline or mobile phones may be charged.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
VoIP numbers are generally considered real numbers and are identical to traditional telephone numbers in that they share the same ten-digit numbering system. Notwithstanding, there are some differences between the two:
- VoIP numbers are registered to individuals. Regular phone numbers are registered to SIM cards, handsets, or fixed devices.
- VoIP numbers can be used at any location regardless of the location where the number was obtained. You may use your VoIP number on a business trip or vacation provided you have access to a broadband internet connection. Regular phone numbers can only be used within the service provider's network zone
- VoIP numbers can be used on multiple devices. Regular phone numbers can only be used on one device by one user.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
You can make free internet calls as long as you have access to a steady high-speed internet connection and have installed a VoIP application to make free internet calls, such as Viber, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype. You can make free internet calls through any of the following four methods:
- App to Phone: With an appropriate VoIP application, you can make free internet calls from your smartphone or tablet to regular phone numbers. You can call landlines and mobile phones that do not have a VoIP application installed on it.
- PC to Phone: By installing a suitable VoIP on your computer, you can make free internet calls from the PC to regular phone numbers
- PC to PC: You can make free internet calls from one PC to another, provided you have compatible VoIP software installed on both computers.
- App to App: With this method, you can make free internet calls between smartphones, tablets, tablets to smartphones, or vice-versa. This requires users to have compatible VoIP applications installed. You cannot call regular phone numbers via this method?