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TTS Services: VoIP (Voice Over IP)

What is Voice Over IP?
Voice Over IP (VoIP) is a technology that allows voice traffic (for example, telephone calls and faxes) to be transmitted over an IP network, such as the public internet. Using VoIP and, usually, a broadband internet connection (cable modem or DSL), it is possible to use a broad range of equipment to make telephone calls over the net. An intermediary (either hardware or software) is needed to translate back and forth between an analog stream (ie: your voice) and the digital packets which are transmitted over a network. Recent advances allow for VoIP to connect directly to the basic PSTN telephone system so that internet calls can be made to any phone number in the world.

What are the advantages to using VoIP?
There are several advantages to using Voice Over IP, including advanced features that standard telephone systems are not capable of and the ability to have a phone number usually associated with a particular local area anywhere in the world. But the biggest single advantage VoIP has over standard telephone systems is cost. In addition, international calls using VoIP are usually very inexpensive. One other advantage, which will become much more pronounced as VoIP use climbs, calls between VoIP users are usually free. Using services such as TrueVoIP, subscribers can call one another at no cost to either party.

Can I use VoIP to replace my standard phone line entirely?
Many people are doing just that. But keep in mind that there are some disadvantages to using VoIP as your exclusive phone line. These include:
  • If your internet connection is down, you lose your phone service also;
  • While voice quality is almost as good as with traditional phone lines, there are occasional glitches such as echoes and slight delays;
  • If you can't get a phone number in your local area, your neighbors' calls to you will be long distance for them;
  • If your broadband connection is DSL, you will probably still need a traditional phone line into your home;
  • Your phone number will not appear in the phone book or directory assistance;
  • Downloading a large file off the internet while on the phone can cause significant call degradation, or cut the phone call altogether. Low-cost routers are available that prioritize a VOIP connection to eliminate this problem.
What do I need in order to be able to use "phone-to-phone" VoIP in my home?
At a minimum, you'll need a connection to the internet. If your connection to the interent is through a standard dial-up modem, you will also need a computer in order to get online. Keep in mind that a dial-up connection, can only provide a maximum of 56 Kbps in bandwith, which limits the kinds of VoIP service you can use (a bit more on this later).

Ideally, you will have a broadband connection to the internet, often provided by a cable company, DSL or a T1 line. These kinds of connections usually provide plenty of bandwith, enough to be able to use any service there is. If you want to use your VoIP phone just like any other phone, it is best to have an "always-on" broadband connection: one where you do not need to log-in to be connected. If you have a broadband connection, adding a low-cost router or gateway can even turn an internet account that requires log-in into an "always-on" account, because the router or gateway ensures a constant connection.

What's the minimum internet connection speed I need to use VoIP?
That really depends on what service you are using. Companies such as TrueVoIP allow for calls to be made even through a 56 Kbps dial-up modem because they compress the digital packets that carry the voice streams in each direction. Other companies recommends a minimum of 90 Kbps, in both upload and download speeds, because they do not use compression in transmitting voice packets. It is generally agreed, however, that a broadband connection will always result in higher-quality voice over the phone. And if you plan on using advanced features such as three-way-calling and conference calls, you will need connection speeds higher than 90 Kbps.

What is analog telephone adaptor and how does it work?
An analog telephone adapter (ATA) provides an interface that allows you to use a standard telephone to communicate over an IP network such as the Internet. The name "analog telephone adapter" was originated by Cisco for their ATA-186. Other manufacturers use slightly different acronyms, but they essentially mean the same thing.

An ATA-type device is a kind of computer that handles all of the tasks related to providing a telephone-line experience while talking over an IP network. This includes providing dial tone, understanding touch tones, authenticating to the VoIP provider, encoding your voice in a way that allows it to be transmitted over an IP network, decoding IP packets into voice, and so on. The ATA-type device will typically have a web server that will allow you to configure the device. Depending on whether the device is provided with a service provider or purchased from somewhere else, that web configuration may or may not be accessible or portions of the configuration may be restricted.

What options are available to offset the latency or delay in satellite connections when using VoIP?
A special voice compression type, or equipment, router, etc.? The latency you are experiencing in this case is inherent to using satellites for two-way communication. The satellite-leg of the connection is a minimum of 500ms, and that's before you take into account the latency of the Internet itself.