What exactly is VoIP and is it right for me?

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, put simply it means that voice conversations are carried as data packets over a data connection.

Traditionally voice conversations were carried over a single line that routed through a local telephone exchange, area telephone exchange another local telephone exchange and ultimately the distant end telephone. Although this still applies to many users, the significant improvement in data connections has resulted in the ability for voice to be carried over an internet connection. This means that multiple voice conversations can take place on what is effectively a single connection. The number of conversations that can take place is dependent upon the bandwidth that is available and importantly the UPLOAD. A voice conversation requires around 100k of bandwidth, therefore, an upload of 1Mb will allow around 10 simultaneous conversations.

The UK core network has utilised VoIP technology for decades, the continuing improvement of broadband products and particularly Fibre to Cabinet (FTTC) has meant that is has become possible for end users to utilise such connections to carry multiple voice channels.

The big issue that many VoIP providers don’t discuss with end users is the necessity to provide some form of ‘management’ to a circuit so that the voice element is protected. This can be done to some extent with local QUALITY OF SERVICE (QoS) which provides local separation. An even better solution is to utilise a CONVERGED product where the data and voice packets are managed separately not just locally but throughout the whole of the network thus ensuring voice quality.

BT are aiming to close down the traditional telephone network by 2025, this will mean the end of legacy telephony products such as ISDN. Therefore, at some point in the next few years those end users that are not utilising a VoIP connection will have to migrate their services.

So what’s the first step? Simply find out the type of data connectivity you have access to. Most organisations in the UK should have access to products such as ADSL2+ as a minimum. If you have access to Superfast Broadband (FTTC) then generally you will also have access to the ability to have a managed broadband installed over which you would be potentially able run both voice and data.

Secondly you may have to update the cabling network within your premises, VoIP handsets will generally require Cat5 (Ethernet) cabling. It’s sometimes possible to share a single connection for both voice and data.

Thirdly engage with a recommended supplier who is able to demonstrate competency by providing references of satisfied customers.

The world of VoIP presents many exciting and innovative ways to how we can work. Integration with mobile telephones allows you to work anywhere, voicemail to email keeps you on contact wherever you are, call recording becomes a low cost feature rather than an expensive add-on, telephone bills disappear as call packages become free.

Eastern Voice & Data have been providing VoIP solutions for over 10 years, we are able to provide easily understandable advice and best practice solutions.