What Are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP is the shortened form for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP refers to a series of technologies that make use of Internet Protocol networks, namely broadband internet connections and local area networks (LANs), to enable voice communications and other telephone communications. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 1.6 million VoIP subscriptions in Indiana as of June 2021.
VoIP and internet calls have similar meanings and can be used interchangeably. They refer to the transmission of telephone communications, such as phone calls, video calls, and text messages via an Internet Protocol network. These calls use the internet as the channel of delivery. VoIP calls deliver data as packets using Internet network protocols, unlike traditional circuit transmissions of the public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
VoIP and internet calls are very distinct from landlines and cell phone calls. The difference between these forms of calls is the channel of delivery. Traditional telephone services (landlines and cell phones) use circuit switching, where two nodes establish a specialized channel via the network for both nodes to interact. However, VoIP and internet calls use packet switching to transmit data in packets over digital networks. The landing place of each packet determines the transmission, which is usually in separate, small blocks. When the packets get to the receiver, the packets are reassembled in an accurate sequence to deliver the message.
In traditional telephone calls, voice sound waves are converted into electrical signals, including copper wires and radio waves. When these electrical signals reach the receiver, they are converted back into sound waves. Landlines receive copper wire transmission via telephone exchanges. The transmission method to cell phones is by radio waves, which connects to mast towers and are routed through base stations till they reach the receiver. The transmission process creates a grid pattern, which allows each mast to receive and route calls within its grid. This structure also enables the same set of frequencies to be reused and maximizes the number of phone calls a mast tower can manage without obstruction.
On the other hand, VoIP services transform sound waves to digital signals and convey these signals to the receivers, with IP network connections. VoIP and internet calls need specialized tools to function, such as IP telephones, ATAs, and softphones. The IP telephones connect directly to routers and modems to enable telephony communications. ATAs (Analog Telephone Adapters) are devices connected to traditional analog phones such as landlines to facilitate VoIP calls. Softphones are software programs telephones that are used for telephony services on computers and internet-connected communication gadgets. IP phones transform the sound waves into digital signals using codecs, which are basically computer algorithms. VoIP calls have the following benefits over cell phones and landlines:
- Cost-effective: VoIP services are more cost-effective and cheaper to operate than traditional telephone services.
- Accessibility: VoIP call services can be easily accessed anywhere there is an active internet connection.
- Lower costs: VoIP calls do not charge as high as traditional telephone services because they operate with internet connections as a means of transmission. VoIP calls also render free added premium services that would typically attract extra charges on traditional telephone services.
- Flexibility: VoIP calls are flexible and are not limited to telephones, as opposed to traditional telephone services. VoIP services allow calls from various devices such as tablets, computers, and VoIP phones, as long as they have the required software or application. Landlines can also be configured to make VoIP calls with ATAs. VoIP calls are only bounded by available bandwidth.
- Simple phone number porting: VoIP numbers can be ported easily without the need to set up new devices and connections
- Improved voice quality - With stable internet connections and high bandwidth, VoIP calls can provide HD call quality.
Like with regular phone numbers, reverse phone lookup searches can identify callers linked to VoIP numbers.
Does Indiana Regulate VoIP Providers?
The Communications Division of Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has regulatory authority over telecommunications services in the state, and all Communications Service Providers (CSPs), including VoIP providers. All CSPs are expected to have valid Certificates of Territorial Authority as a means of authorization to offer service in Indiana. These services may include advanced services, information services, Internet Protocol-enabled services, broadband services, telecommunications services, or video services. Indiana Telephone Privacy law also applies to VoIP users in the state, which means Hoosiers can put their VoIP number on the state’s Do Not Call list.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP can only function when there is a stable broadband internet connection to make internet calls. Users mostly use fiber-optic as an ideal option, but there are other options available to them. For a smooth VoIP experience, users may use full FTTP or ethernet connections and fast (4G/LTE and 5G) mobile networks. The other required tools are determined by the user’s preferred VoIP calling channel.
A user who prefers VoIP calling with a computer will need a laptop or desktop computer, applicable software, microphone, and headsets or speakers. Several software types allow internet calls, such as Zoom, Google Talk, Skype, Apple Facetime, etc. Calls made using compatible software at both ends are free, but calls made with traditional phone services attract extra charges.
Users who prefer VoIP calling with a landline will need to possess an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) and a compatible telephone. The ATA should be plugged into either the wall phone socket or a compatible router.
For users that prefer VoIP calling with a cell phone, a smartphone will be required. The smartphone to be used must have installed the user's preferred internet call application. Mobile applications such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Viber, and Line, allow internet calls on smartphones. The receiver of the call must also have the same app installed on their smartphone call as well; if not, the call would not be sent. Some mobile applications allow phone calls to regular landlines and mobile phones, but such calls incur extra charges for the caller.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
Although a VoIP number has the same ten digits as a regular telephone number, and both numbers appear identical, there are some fundamental differences between these VoIP numbers and regular phone numbers. These include;
- There are no limits to VoIP number’s geographical reach, provided there is an active internet connection in both locations. On the other hand, regular numbers can only be used within the number’s geographical coverage area unless data roaming is activated on the user’s phone via the settings app.
- VoIP numbers are allocated to individual users and not distinct telephone lines or devices like regular phone numbers.
- A VoIP user can use an allocated number on multiple devices concurrently, while a telephone number can only be used on one device by one user at a given time.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes, individuals can make free internet calls, contingent on the fulfillment of specific requirements. The initiator of the call and the recipient must both have a stable broadband connection and utilize compatible telephone mobile applications that facilitate free internet calls. Individuals can make free internet calls in the following ways:
- App to App – Internet call applications on tablet devices and smartphones allow free internet calls between devices with identical applications installed. This method does not allow internet calls between landlines or other mobile phones that do not have the same apps.
- App to Phone – These applications permit calls to be transmitted from a smartphone with the installed app to traditional phone numbers, including landlines that do not have the apps installed.
- PC to PC - A similar internet call software is installed on both PCs (caller and recipient), permitting free phone calls between the two systems.
- PC to Phone – These apps allow free internet calls from a PC to traditional telephone numbers.