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Staying Connected in Israel

VoIP - The Basics

By: Jonathan Z. Kremer

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows people to make telephone calls by sending voice data in packets, and using IP over a network (such as the Internet) instead of a regular phone line (PSTN). VoIP converts analog voice signals into digital data packets and supports real-time, two-way transmission of conversations using Internet Protocol (IP).

So what's so great about VoIP?

For most people, the biggest plus is the cost - VoIP services are much cheaper than traditional landline phones, and in some cases are even free. VoIP usually comes with some great features too, depending on the type of service you sign up for. Since it's all electronic, services like call logs, call screening, forwarding, multiple phone numbers, conference calls and more are easily handled. Another major VoIP strength is that since most VoIP runs on the Internet, it's portable, and you're not tied to any one physical location to make and receive calls. As long as you have a broadband connection, computer, and/or an analog telephone adaptor (if its part of your service) you can make calls using your VoIP account.

So what are the cons?

Even though VoIP is improving all the time, most VoIP is run over the Internet, which itself is not as stable or reliable as we would like it to be. Also more components need to be working for the service to be up and running. Depending on the type of service you have, you'll need some or all of the following to make a phone call:

1. A broadband Internet connection
2. A computer
3. electricity
4. An analog telephone adaptor (if it's part of your service)
Most analog telephones need only a telephone connection.

VoIP - Not All The Same

As mentioned above, VoIP is a generic term used for sending voice data using IP protocol. But not all VoIP services are the same. When the VoIP provider owns and controls the network itself, quality of the lines and power-over-ethernet can be ensured, thus making it a "full fledged" VoIP network. When the VoIP service is used over the Internet, or other network quality cannot be totally controlled by the VoIP provider it is called "Voice Over Broadband" (VOB in Israel). To read more about this and other telephone services click here.

Types of VoIP Configurations

There are a few VoIP configurations you can have that range from FREE to paid for subscriptions. The following are common setups available to a home user.

PC to PC

This FREE VoIP service has been around for a while, but has only been made popular in the last few years by such services as Skype and MSM. This is the type of VoIP service that most people are introduced to first.

To use PC to PC VoIP you will need a computer with a microphone and speakers (preferably a headset) or a USB phone. Both the caller and receiver need to be signed up and using the same service.

Pros: Free to use and easy to set up. Good way to try out VoIP.

Cons: A computer is required and both caller and receiver need to be running the same 3rd party VoIP software.

Computer to Phone

Computer to phone. These services work just like the PC-to-PC but also allow you to call any number in the world, usually for a per-minute fee that is much lower than traditional calling fees. This is achieved by your VoIP service provider connecting your call to the regular landline phone exchange and routing your call to the desired landline number.

Pros: Easy to set up. Cheap calls to any landline phone in the world.

Cons: You still need your computer and VoIP software to use this service. You usually don't get a "real" phone number, so people who don't have that specific software can't call you.

Phone to Phone

The ultimate VoIP service which competes with traditional landline calls.

Telephone calls are made using the services of a specialist VoIP service provider. One usually has an adapter to which any telephone can be plugged into. Behaves like a normal phone service. The adapter can also be wired into your phone lines and be available around your home like any standard landline. Depending on your service plan, you can usually have one or more phone numbers in other countries, and/or phone lines, that can be used like any other phone number in that specific area.


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