VoIP (pronounced "voyp") stands for voice over internet protocol and is a technology that allows voice data to be carried over a broadband connection instead of a standard phone line.
VoIP offers residential users the chance to make free (or heavily discounted) calls to other VoIP users, as well as landlines and mobile phones.
For business users, it also means that voice can be sent across the same network as their internet connection without needing separate phone hardware installed on-site.
What do I need to start making VoIP calls?
Nearly all computers — PCs, Macs and laptops alike — have a headphone and microphone jack, so all you need is a headset to plug in. If you've got that, all you need to get up and running is software, whether downloaded or accessed through a website like Facebook or Google Hangouts, that allows you to make calls through your computer.
Although it's not a requirement, you'll want to have an adequate connection speed. VoIP only really works on broadband connections of over 1Mbps, and the faster the better, otherwise you might face some lags or poor reception.
How does it work?
In the same way that you can send text files via e-mail with your broadband connection, VoIP sends voice files by compressing them in order to make them smaller and therefore quicker to upload and download.
What are the benefits of VoIP?
VoIP has an edge over traditional phone lines in several key ways:
- More than one call can take place on the same line at the same time as voice files are transported more efficiently by VoIP than traditional phone lines.
- Cheap or free calls, depending on who you're calling. Most VoIP providers offer free VoIP to VoIP calls and all offer discounted calls to national and international destinations.
- You can take calls remotely, whether you're just at your local cafe or on holiday in the Caribbean. With a VoIP account you can make VoIP calls from anywhere in the world without changing your number.
- Video calls are widely offered by many VoIP services, making it even easier to stay connected when you're away.
Video calls do require faster broadband speeds than VoIP, so if this is something you're interested in, compare broadband packages now to see if you can get faster speeds.