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What is Internet Telephony?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Internet telephony refers to the science or technology of integrating telephone services into computer networks. In essence, it converts analog voice signals into digital signals, transmits them, then converts them back again. Voice over IP (VoIP) is a common form of this service.

With traditional telephone service, sometimes referred to as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), voice signals use telephone lines — copper wires — and circuit switches to communicate. Internet telephony eliminates the telco company all together by using computer networks to send voice signals. All information is transferred across the Internet in "data packets." For example, if someone sends a friend an email, the email is broken up into a series of data packets that each take their own route to the destination mail server. Once there, the packets reassemble themselves into the full email message.

Internet telephony also transmits using data packets. Analog voice signals are digitized, sent in discreet packets to the destination, reassembled and reverted back to analog signals. By using this system, a person can place long-distance calls free of telephone charges. The catch is that both parties must have the correct software. If this technology is used to call a land-line or cell phone, charges apply, though they are usually minimal.

Some online VoIP services provide free Internet telephony software and use a prepaid system to keep monies on account for calling from it to a land line. The charge is a small and made per minute, per call. The rate does not change, whether calling someone local or in another country. Again, if both parties use VoIP software, there is no charge at all.

Internet telephony has drastically improved since its first incarnations. Initial VoIP was very poor quality, but now many users report land line-like quality. There are many advantages to using the Internet to make calls, not just for family members and friends to stay in touch free of charge, but for multi-state or multi-national corporate PBXs where routine long distance calls between offices are significant. A potential disadvantage of using Internet telephony for corporate environments is that VoIP tends to have more downtime than POTS. Computer or network problems can interfere with the calls, though many VoIP programs kick calls to POTS if there is a problem.

Voice mail and other telephone services are often available from these services, and installation of simple VoIP software is easy for anyone with a small amount of skill. Industry insiders predict that, in time, Internet telephony technologies and services will supplant much of the workload currently handled by plain old telephone service.

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Discussion Comments
By anon155809 — On Feb 24, 2011

Internet telephony is an incredible bit of technology that has helped a lot of people improve not only their lives, but business as well!

For example, my sister just left for Australia and the cell phone reception doesn't work the same down there as it does in the US. We cannot reach her via cell phone! So we have to resort to ip telephony technology to talk to her. It's been such a blessing!

By Ubiquitous — On Oct 20, 2010

As someone who is very tight with my personal finances and budget I recently found that I can cut out my landline and use exclusively voice services with my high-speed Internet connection. There are services offered and hardware devices that will actually connect to your wireless router and act as a normal landline cordless phone. Because of this the lawyer interface that people are used to I think this option is actually a viable technology that is available on the market today.

You can find these Wi-Fi phones at most electronic retailers for relatively cheap price and considering the amount of money they will save you on a landline over the next while you can be sure that it is a worthwhile investment.

By NightChef — On Oct 20, 2010

While I can appreciate the actual value that comes with using voice over Internet protocol technology there is a downside when using voip or Internet telephone. The biggest problem with it is the quality of audio that comes over your speakers and through your microphone to be able to communicate with your loved ones.

One might be nice to be able to see your loved one to a very blurred and highly compressed video stream image from the Skype servers, it is very difficult to have a conversation when the audio is extremely degraded. In order to save bandwidth and to work on slower connections, audio is downgraded in contrast to be able to transfer smoothly without massive delays in its delivery. The problem with this system is that it often can leave words sounding mixed and confused.

By IceCarver — On Oct 20, 2010

The most amazing part about Internet telephone in voice over IP services is the fact that there are actually three services available on the Internet. While this might seem deceiving, it is true that you already need to happen to your house the service of high-speed Internet provided by some type of ISP. Once you have this connection however you are able to connect to different types of services using free software available on the Internet for download in many different forms and for many different operating systems.

A good example of this software that works very well is called Skype. Skype is probably one of the most popular types of voice over Internet protocol technology and has allowed for millions of people to reconnect with their family members. Perhaps the most amazing part of Skype is the fact that not only does it offer voice over Internet technology it also offers video over Internet technology services for free.

By FrogFriend — On Oct 20, 2010

Internet telephoning also known as voice over IP telephone services, has been able to save many long distance relationships. The ease-of-use that comes with using voice over Internet technology actually allows for people to communicate over great distances for a significantly reduced cost than using traditional land phone lines.

While there are many different types of services available for this type of Internet telephoning technology. There are big differences in the qualities that you will be able to get especially in the audio that you receive from these services. I would encourage anyone interested in looking into Internet telephoning to do your research before you commit to making a subscription purchase of any voice over Internet technology.

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