What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refers to technology that uses IP networks to deliver telecommunications services like voice calls, video calls, and multimedia sessions. The most common IP networks used for VoIP services are local area networks (LANs) and high-speed broadband internet connections. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are over 573,000 VoIP subscriptions in Oregon as of June 2021.
VoIP services are mostly used for making phone calls over the internet. For this reason, VoIP phone calls are sometimes referred to as internet calls and vice versa. However, VoIP services are not just limited to making voice calls using the internet. With VoIP, users can also perform other actions like sending instant messages, multimedia messages, pictures, and video files. VoIP can also be used to make video calls.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Making telephone calls is one of the most common means of telecommunication. These calls connect people from different parts of the world almost instantly. Three distinct ways of making these telephone calls are landlines, cell phones, and VoIP enabled devices. Even though these methods generally work using similar methods, they differ in the way they transmit the voice of the person making a phone call to the person that receives the call:
- Calls made via cell phones transmit the caller's voice to the receiver by transforming the caller’s sound waves into electrical signals that are beamed from the cell phone to a cell phone mast. These electrical signals are beamed via radio waves. Because numerous cell phone calls are made at any given time, there is a high probability of these signals getting mixed up and scrambled. To prevent this from happening, network coverage areas are divided into cells. Each cell has cell phone masts and a base station that routes all calls made in the area. This prevents cell phone signals from getting scrambled across networks. When the radio waves from a caller get to the nearest cell phone mast, they are transferred to a local base station; the base station routes it to the recipient's phone. This person’s phone then transforms the electrical signals back into sound waves that can be heard by the receiver.
- Calls made via landline phones transmit the caller's voice to the receiver by transforming sound waves into electric energy. This electric energy is transferred along copper wires from the caller’s phone to various telephone exchanges until they get to the receiver. Once the electrical energy is successfully transmitted to the receiver’s phone, it is transformed into sound waves.
- Calls made over the internet using VoIP enabled devices to transmit the caller's voice to the receiver by transforming sound waves into digital signals. These signals are moved in data packets through the internet until they get to the receiver’s phone, then convert the digital signals back into sound waves.
Just like for landlines and cell phones, you can use reverse phone number lookup searches to identify callers registered to VoIP numbers.
The preferred method for making phone calls is dependent on the caller. However, when compared with the other methods for making these calls, VoIP and internet calls have a few advantages:
- They have the advantage of flexibility and versatility. With VoIP and internet calls, users are not restricted to a particular type of device, and phone calls can be made using PCs, landline phones, and mobile devices.
- They provide extra features that are mostly unavailable on landline and cell phone calls. Examples of this are instant messaging, multimedia messaging, and video calling. A bonus is that these features are usually free.
- They are generally cheaper. With VoIP and internet calls, the expenses involved are typically limited to the cost of obtaining the proper equipment for making the calls and the cost of an internet subscription.
- They are more portable than landlines and cell phones to an extent. While landline calls can only be made from a particular location, and cell phone calls can only be made in an area that has network coverage for the cell phone service provider, VoIP and internet calls can be made anywhere that has a decent internet connection.
- Calls sound crisper and clearer. However, this depends on the strength of the internet connection used. VoIP and internet calls have better clarity with a good internet connection than landline and cell phone calls.
Does Oregon Regulate VoIP Providers?
Even though the Oregon Public Utility Commission regulates the telecommunications industry in Oregon, this agency has no regulatory jurisdiction over VoIP services. However, the Federal Communications Commission regulates VoIP services in the United States. Oregonians that have issues or concerning VoIP services can direct their queries to the FCC at 1-888-225-5322.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
The requirements for making VoIP and internet calls are a VoIP enabled device and a broadband internet connection.
A broadband internet connection can be gotten through:
- Local Area Networks
- Wi-Fi modems and routers
- Ethernet cables and modems
The following VoIP enabled devices can be used:
- Specialized phones that are designed to connect to the internet. These types of phones are known as IP Phones.
- Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices have software programs installed on them that allow VoIP and internet calls. These software apps and programs are known as softphones.
- Regular landline telephones that have been fitted with an analog telephone adapter (ATA). An ATA is a device that converts electrical energy from a landline into digital signals that can be transmitted over the internet.
- PCs that have VoIP enabling software programs installed on them. These PCs have to be fitted with a sound card, a headset, a microphone, speakers, or any device to allow the callers to hear themselves.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
The service providers typically issue phone numbers in the United States, and all interconnected VoIP providers have to get authorization from the Federal Communications Commission before doing so. These numbers are ten-digit numbers that are issued per the North American Numbering Plan. Also, users who wish to switch to a VoIP provider can port their regular phone numbers. This means that the user will retain the same phone number on the new service.
Despite their similarities, VoIP phone numbers and regular phone numbers have some key differences. These are:
- The way they are assigned: VoIP phone numbers are typically assigned to a user, while regular phone numbers are typically assigned to a device. This also means that VoIP numbers cannot be tied to a particular location, unlike regular phone numbers.
- The way they can be used: VoIP phone numbers can be used on different VoIP enable devices simultaneously. However, regular phone numbers are restricted and can only be used by a single device at any given time.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes, you can make phone calls for free over the internet. However, you can only do this if you have the right set-up in place:
- An App to Phone set-up: with this, you can make free internet calls by installing a software app on your mobile device that allows it to make VoIP calls to a regular phone. Various software apps can be used for this. An example is TextNow.
- A PC to PC set-up: this allows you to make free internet calls from one PC to another. To use this method, you have to download an appropriate software app on all the PCs used to make and receive the calls. Examples of software apps that can be used for this are Skype and Zoom.
- An App to App set-up: this allows you to make free internet calls between two mobile devices with the same VoIP enabling software installed on them. Software apps that can be used for this are Viber, Zoom, and WhatsApp.
- A PC to Phone set-up: with this set-up, you can make calls to a regular phone number by installing an appropriate VoIP enabling software program on your PC. Google Voice is an example of the software programs that can be used for this.