What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP as it is commonly known, refers to technology that uses IP networks to perform phone services and deliver multimedia sessions. VoIP providers do not use regular telephone lines to provide telecommunications services. Instead, they rely solely on broadband internet connections and local area networks. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 2.1 million VoIP subscriptions in Virginia as of June 2021.
Simply put, internet calls are made using the internet, instead of a mobile network or traditional landline. Often, the terms internet calls and VoIP are used interchangeably. Even though both of them generally involve using the internet to make phone calls, VoIP also encompasses other services like transmitting multimedia messages, videos, and images between two or more people.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Landline calls, cell phone calls, and VoIP and internet calls serve a similar purpose, which is connecting people through telecommunications. However, these services have a few basic differences in their methods of doing so.
- Landline telephones connect callers by converting the sound waves from the voice of the caller into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then transmitted along copper wires and through telephone exchanges that route it to the receiver. When it gets to the receiver, the electrical energy is then reconverted to sound waves.
- Cell phones connect callers by converting the sound waves from the caller’s voice into electrical signals. These signals are then transmitted via radio waves, sent to cell phone masts, and routed to a local base station. From this local base station, the radio waves are then sent to the receiver, whose cell phone reconverts them to sound waves from this local base station. Cell phone masts and base stations are generally assigned to grids. The masts and base stations in each grid are responsible for routing all calls made in that particular area. This is done to prevent calls from getting scrambled.
- VoIP and internet calls convert the sound waves from the caller’s voice into digital signals using specialized IP phones. Software apps and hardware adapters can also be used to convert the soundwaves into digital signals. Once converted, these signals are transmitted in data packets over the internet until they get to the receiver, where they are then reconverted to sound waves.
VoIP and internet calls also have several advantages over landline and cell phone calls, some of which are:
- Versatility: VoIP and internet calls can be made using various devices ranging from computers, tablets, mobile phones, and even regular landline telephones. All that is required is the right software or hardware, which is easily obtainable.
- Cheaper Call Costs: VoIP and internet calls are relatively cheaper than other forms of making calls. Excluding the cost of an internet subscription, most services that can be gotten from VoIP providers are free. These same services are not always available through traditional phone service providers, and when they are, they cost extra fees.
- Voice Clarity: VoIP and internet calls generally sound clearer and more distinct than landline and cell phone calls. Note that a strong internet connection is required to utilize VoIP services properly.
- Portability: VoIP phone numbers are not tied to a particular device or network. All that is required is a working internet connection.
Does Virginia Regulate VoIP Providers?
The State Corporate Commission is responsible for regulating the telecommunications industry in Virginia. However, as directed by the Code of Virginia § 56-1.3, this agency has no jurisdiction over VoIP services. Complaints regarding VoIP services in Virginia should be directed to the FCC at 1-888-225-5322.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
A working broadband internet connection is required to make VoIP and internet calls. A proper internet connection can be gotten through high-speed data services, a local area network and an Ethernet cable, or a cable modem. Once the internet connection has been established, the next step is selecting a preferred calling device. Prospective users can choose from any of the following devices:
- An IP Phone: This is a specialized phone that can be used to make VoIP and internet calls. These phones connect to the internet through a router and an Ethernet cable or a wireless connection.
- A personal computer: Another device that can be used to make VoIP and internet calls is a personal computer. Users who select this method will have to download a VoIP enabling software to the computer and connect either a headset or a microphone and speakers. One advantage of using PCs to make VoIP and internet calls is that they are typically free.
- An Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA): This hardware converts regular landline telephones to VoIP enabled phones. When an ATA is plugged into the back of a regular landline phone, it converts that phone’s analog signals into digital data, transmitted over the internet and received by another VoIP enabled device.
- A Softphone: Even though the name suggests otherwise, a softphone is simply a software application installed on a mobile device to allow it to make and receive VoIP and internet calls. Softphones are very easy to use, and this makes them a popular option amongst prospective VoIP users. However, it is important to note that softphones only work if the person who initiates the VoIP call and the recipient both have compatible software.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
VoIP service providers issue VoIP phone numbers. These providers are required to obtain authorization from the Federal Communications Commission before doing so. Just like regular phone numbers, VoIP numbers are also ten-digit numbers. However, there are some key differences between these two types of numbers:
- Regular phone numbers are tied to a single device at a time, while VoIP numbers can be used on different devices simultaneously.
- Regular phone numbers are assigned by location, while VoIP numbers are not tied to a particular location.
- Regular phone numbers are typically assigned to devices, while VoIP numbers are assigned to users.
VoIP providers usually assign numbers to new users for free. Some providers also allow new users to retain their existing telephone numbers by transferring it to the VoIP network.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Various methods can be utilized to make free internet calls. With the proper software applications, you can make these free calls through any of the following means:
- By installing software apps like Google Voice on your PC that allows the computer to make free calls to a regular phone number
- By installing software apps like TextNow on your mobile device that allows that device to make free calls to a regular phone number. With this method, you can also make calls to a mobile device that does not have the same software app installed
- By installing software programs like Skype and Zoom on your PC that allows you to make free calls to another computer. With this method, the other computers are required to have the same software program installed on them
- By installing software applications like Viber and WhatsApp on your mobile device that allows you to make free calls to other mobile devices that have the same software app installed on them