What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP is a group of technologies that facilitates telephony services using IP networks. The typical medium used for VoIP transmissions is the internet, but it is also transmitted over local area networks (LANs). According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 11.69 million VoIP subscriptions in California as of June 2021.
VoIP and Internet calls are interchangeable words that refer to the delivery of voice and multimedia communications over an IP network, typically the internet. In other words, VoIP calls are the making of phone calls, video calls, and sending text messages using the internet as the medium of delivery. With VoIP calls, data is transmitted as packets using IP protocols rather than traditional circuit transmissions of the public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Landlines or Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS) transform voice sound waves into electrical signals, which are transmitted along copper wires and through telephone exchanges. When the signals reach their recipients, they are converted back into sound waves.
Cell phones transform voice sound waves into electrical signals that are transmitted over radio waves and converted back into sound waves when they reach the recipients. Cell phones connect to mast towers, which are basically large fixed antennas that route the phone calls through local base stations onto their destinations. Interference mitigation involves using grid patterns, and each grid (cell) has its own mast that collects and routes calls from phones within that cell. This system enables the same set of radio frequencies to be reused, increasing the number of calls grids can handle and ensuring there is no interference.
VoIP transforms voice sound waves into digital signals and uses IP network connections to transmit the signals to the receivers. The IP network typically used is the internet. Specialized telephones (IP telephones) are used to connect directly to modems and routers through ethernet connections. The IP phones transform the sound waves into digital signals using CODECs, which are basically computer algorithms. Softphones and Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs) can also be used for VoIP calls. Softphones are software-based phones that provide telephone services on a computer or web-based applications that function as hard phones.
VoIP calls offer the following advantages over landlines and cell phones:
- Lower costs- VoIP calls use internet connections for transmissions and are practically cheaper than traditional phone services. They also come included with premium services that incur extra charges on conventional phone services.
- Accessibility- The lack of reliance on fixed physical structures to make calls means VoIP call services are accessible anywhere there is a stable internet connection.
- Flexibility- VoIP networks are extremely flexible. Users are only limited by available bandwidth regarding the number of phones and calls that can be handled on a VoIP network. VoIP calls can also be made with any compatible device instead of just a telephone handset. These include computers, tablets, and VoIP phones. They can even be integrated with landlines using ATAs.
- Improved voice quality- Provided there are stable internet connections and high bandwidth, VoIP calls can deliver HD call quality.
- VoIP numbers can be used on multiple devices simultaneously.
- Easy phone number porting- VoIP numbers can be ported easily without having technicians come and set up the new devices and connections.
It should be noted that reverse phone lookup services can work with VoIP numbers as well.
Does California Regulate VoIP Providers?
Telecommunications and broadband services in California are under the regulatory purview of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). However, California law restricts the CPUC from regulating VoIP and IP-enabled services except as required by federal law. The CPUC does maintain limited authority over these services regarding lifelines and universal services, compensation disputes, and consumer complaints. The CPUC’s authority concerning support structures, pole attachments, and construction and maintenance of network infrastructure is also not superseded by this law.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
To make internet calls, you need a broadband internet connection, ideally fiber-optic but not necessarily. The best VoIP experiences use full FTTP or ethernet connections. Other equipment required depends on your preferred VoIP method.
If your VoIP method is with a landline, you need an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) and a compatible telephone. The ATA plugs into either the wall phone socket or a router. If it plugs into a router, then you will need a compatible router.
If your VoIP method is with a computer, you need a laptop or desktop computer, the appropriate software, headset or speakers, and a microphone. Various types of software facilitate internet calls, such as Skype, Google Talk, and Apple Facetime. Calls between compatible software are free, but calls made to actual phone numbers carry charges.
If your VoIP method is a mobile phone, you need a smartphone with the preferred application installed. Mobile apps such as Skype, Facetime, Viber, Line, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger enable internet calls on smartphones. The same app must be installed on the receiver’s device for the phone call to go through. Some apps allow phone calls to regular landlines and mobile phones, but such calls incur charges for the caller. Generally, it is a better idea to use Wi-Fi connections for these calls. If you use mobile broadband and do not have unlimited data, the phone call can quickly run through your allowance.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
While a VoIP number is a real telephone number, there are some basic differences from regular phone numbers. These include;
- VoIP numbers are assigned to individual users and not specific phone lines or devices.
- VoIP numbers are not restricted by physical locations.
- VoIP numbers can be assigned to multiple user-devices and used simultaneously on all the devices.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
It is possible to make free internet calls, but there are certain caveats. To make free internet calls, you require internet phone applications that make free phone calls. These internet phone applications facilitate free phone calls in the following ways;
- PC to Phone Applications- these applications enable free calls from your computer to real telephone numbers.
- App to Phone Software- these make free internet calls from mobile devices to real phone numbers. These services support making phone calls to any number, even landlines and mobile phones that do not have the app installed.
- PC to PC- free phone calls are made from one computer to another using compatible phone applications installed on both computers.
- App to App- these services run exclusively on smartphones or tablets and enable phone calls only if the recipients have the same applications installed. This method can not be used to call landlines or other mobile phones that do not have compatible software.