What Are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP is the abbreviation for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP is defined as a set of technologies that use Internet Protocol networks, including local area networks (LANs) and broadband internet connections, to enable voice communications and other telephone services. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 5.88 million VoIP subscriptions in Florida as of June 2021.
The terms VoIP and internet calls can be used interchangeably. Both terms refer to the delivery of telephone communications over an Internet Protocol network. Specifically, VoIP and internet calls involve the delivery of phone calls, video calls, and text messages with the internet as the method of delivery. VoIP calls transmit data as packets using Internet network protocols instead of traditional circuit transmissions of public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Landlines and cell phones are traditional telephone services. The medium of delivery is the clear difference between these traditional telephone services and VoIP. Traditional telephone services depend on circuit switching, where two nodes set up an exclusive channel in the network to communicate. With packet switching, VoIP and internet calls transmit data in packets over digital networks. The destination address in each packet determines the transmission which is in separate, small blocks. When they get to recipients, the packets are rearranged in the appropriate sequences to deliver the messages sent.
Traditional telephone services convert sound waves from voices into electrical signals and transmit those by copper wires and radio waves. On reaching the recipient, these electrical signals are converted back into sound waves. Landlines receive copper wire transmissions through telephone exchanges. Transmission to cell phones is by radio waves that connect to cell towers and are routed through base stations till they get to recipients. A grid pattern is created during transmission which allows each mast to receive and route calls within its grid. The system also allows the same set of frequencies to be reused and maximizes the number of phone calls a tower can handle.
VoIP transforms sound waves to digital signals and transmits these signals using IP network connections. VoIP and internet calls require dedicated equipment such as ATAs, IP telephones, and softphones to function. ATAs (Analog Telephone Adapters) are peripherals connected to analog phones such as landlines to allow VoIP calls. IP telephones link directly to routers and modems to facilitate communications. Softphones are software programs used for telephony services on computers and internet-connected communication gadgets. IP phones convert sound waves into digital signals using codecs, which are primarily computer algorithms.
VoIP calls have the following advantages over cell phones and landlines:
- Accessibility: VoIP call services are accessible anywhere there is a steady internet connection.
- Lower costs: VoIP calls, especially long-distance and international calls, are more affordable than calls placed using traditional telephone services. VoIP phone services also include free added premium services that would typically incur extra charges on conventional telephone services.
- Minimal operation cost: VoIP services are cheaper to operate than traditional telephone services.
- Flexibility: VoIP calls are not restricted to telephones, unlike traditional telephone services. VoIP services enable calls from various devices such as computers, tablets, and VoIP phones provided they have the appropriate software and hardware. Landlines can also be set up to make VoIP calls with ATAs. VoIP calls are only limited by available bandwidth.
- Simple phone number porting: VoIP numbers can be ported easily without the need to switch devices and connections.
You can use reverse phone lookup to identify subscribers with VoIP numbers.
Does Florida Regulate VoIP Providers?
The Florida Public Service Commission has regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunication services in the state. However, under Chapter 364.011 of the Florida Statutes, VoIP services are exempted from the commission’s jurisdiction. Despite being exempted from the state’s regulatory jurisdiction, VoIP providers must adhere to the generally applicable business regulation, trade practices, and consumer protection laws governing other telecommunication services in the state. These laws are enforced by the appropriate state authority or through actions in the judicial system.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
Users require access to a stable broadband internet connection to make internet calls. Fiber-optic is an ideal option but other options are also available. Wired Ethernet connections and fast mobile (4G/LTE and 5G) networks usually provide the best VoIP experiences. The other required tools depend on the user’s preferred VoIP calling method.
Users that prefer computers for VoIP calls will need laptops or desktop computers, VoIP software, microphones, and headphones or speakers. There are a number of popular VoIP programs for making internet calls. These include Google Talk, Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. Calls made between those using the same VoIP software are free but calls to landlines and cell phones attract extra charges.
If a user’s preferred VoIP device is a landline, they will need an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) and a compatible telephone. The ATA should be connected to either the wall phone socket or a compatible router.
To place VoIP calls on a cell phone, a smartphone will be required. On the smartphone, the user is required to install the preferred internet call application. Mobile applications such as WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Viber, Line, and Facebook Messenger facilitate internet calls on smartphones. The call receiver must also have the same app installed on their smartphone to receive incoming calls.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
While a VoIP number has the same ten digits as a conventional telephone number, and both numbers appear similar, there are some basic differences between this number and the phone numbers assigned to landline and mobile phones. These differences include;
- VoIP numbers are assigned to each user and not distinct telephone lines or devices like regular phone numbers.
- There are no geographical restrictions to VoIP numbers. VoIP numbers can be assigned outside of the area codes they bear and can be used when traveling abroad without incurring roaming charges.
- A VoIP number can be used on multiple devices simultaneously while a landline or cell phone number can only be used on one device by one user at a time.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes, users can make free internet calls as long as they meet certain requirements. Essentially, the caller and the recipient must have active broadband connections and use compatible telephony mobile applications that support free internet calls. These apps enable free internet calls in the following ways:
- PC to PC - A compatible internet call software is installed on both PCs (caller and recipient), allowing free phone calls between the two users.
- PC to Phone – These apps allow free internet calls from a PC to regular telephone numbers.
- App to Phone – These applications installed on smartphones enable calls to regular phone numbers, including landlines that do not have the apps installed.
- App to App – Internet call applications on smartphones and tablet devices enable free internet calls between devices with the same applications installed. However, this method does not permit internet calls between landlines or other mobile phones that do not have the same apps.