Out in the general marketplace, it is interesting hear and see the different impressions that many people have of VoIP. One common impression is that there is some sort of “magic” about VoIP that allows a user to make “free” phone calls anywhere in the world over the internet. Other impressions I have heard is that it generally has voice quality problems or is unpredictable in its functionality. At a detailed level, users rarely understand how it works or what makes it different from a traditional analog phone system.
The impression that VoIP will provide free phone calls in general is a misconception. Ultimately, because every call has at least two end points involved, one of the two users is likely residing on the traditional phone network. An example like Skype does allow free (no per call charge) calling to other Skype users, but a call to anyone on the traditional network, in general, will involve a per-call charge of some kind. This does not take into account the cost of having an internet connection in the first place to be able to make a Skype call. So even in this scenario, there are costs that are not insignificant to take into account when trying to compare costs. As with almost anything, there really is no free lunch.
In actuality, in many ways, VoIP is not all that different from its analog counterpart. Most analog phone systems in the last ten years have likely been performing an analog to digital conversion of its voice path somewhere along its path to the outside world. Many systems in recent years are at least hybrid systems that both analog as well as digital (i.e. VoIP) components to them. Most business systems in recent times have at a bare minimum had a digital-to-analog conversion happening at the interface to the outside world normally referred to as a PRI or equivalent.
Because VoIP is such a generic term it can be used to describe anything from a simple phone handset to a full-blown phone system or simply to describe a service such as Skype. A VoIP phone handset does the analog to digital conversion right at the phone handset itself. It will then be passed along through the system likely staying a digital voice stream all the way to its final destination. At the second users site, a digital to analog conversion will happen either at the receiving phone system or at the handset itself. In general most users have no way of easily knowing exactly how, where, why or when these conversions have taken place and likely don’t care as long as communication is clean, clear and uninterrupted.
If installed properly and provided with the correct infrastructure, a VoIP system should in general have a higher voice quality sound than its analog counterpart. Converting voice to a data stream has various significant other advantages that are fairly apparent just from observing that every significant phone company (carrier) today handles voice as a digital stream. As is seen with the enhanced capabilities and feature set that VoIP phone systems have today, it makes sense to consider a VoIP system. In making comparisons with your current phone system it is important to make sure all costs both indirect as well as direct are taken into account including equipment, training, installation, down time, phone line cost, data bandwidth (if applicable), hardware and software maintenance and productivity savings, etc. Helping you to fully understand and compare all the costs and benefits of your current system versus a premise based or hosted VoIP system is our expertise. We can go as deep into the technical aspects of your options as you would prefer and we are happy to have an open discussion about options that will best fit your specific needs. You can reach out to us at (970) 221-9119 x107, and we will be there to help in any way we can.Rich Browne is President/CEO of CTI Communications.