What Are VoIP and Internet Calls?
Voice over Internet Protocol, popularly known as VoIP, refers to a series of technologies that utilize Internet Protocol networks, including local area networks (LANs) and broadband internet connections to facilitate voice communications and other telephone communications. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are about 1.6 million VoIP subscriptions in Missouri as of June 2021.
VoIP and internet calls are quite synonymous. They both refer to the process of transmitting telephone communications, including phone calls, video calls, and messages through an Internet Protocol network as a channel of delivery. VoIP and internet calls send data as packets using Internet network protocols, as opposed to traditional circuit transmissions of the public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
There is a major difference between VoIP and internet calls and regular telephone calls. The channel of delivery for both calls significantly differ. Regular telephone calls, namely landlines and cell phones, use circuit switching, which involves two nodes establishing a specialized channel through the network for both nodes to interconnect. On the other hand, VoIP and internet calls use packet switching to convey data in packets over digital networks. The destination point of each packet determines the transmission, which is usually in separate, small blocks. On getting to the recipient, the packets are reassembled in an accurate sequence to deliver the message.
The sound waves of regular telephone calls are converted into electrical signals, including copper wires and radio waves. The electrical signals are then converted back into sound waves when they reach the recipient. In landline calls, there is a copper wire transmission via telephone exchanges. The transmission procedure for cell phones is by radio waves, which connects to mast towers and are routed via base stations to the point where they reach the recipient. The transmission procedure forms a grid pattern, allowing each mast to receive and route calls within its grid. This grid pattern also enables the same set of frequencies to be reused; hence, maximizing the number of phone calls a mast tower can manage without disruption.
On the contrary, during VoIP and Internet calls, sound waves are converted into digital signals, and these signals are conveyed to the recipients using IP network connections. VoIP and internet calls require the specialized tools to function, including ATAs, IP telephones, and softphones. ATAs (Analog Telephone Adapters) are devices attached to traditional analog phones such as landlines to allow VoIP calls. The IP telephones connect directly to routers and modems to allow telephony communications. Softphones are software program telephones that are used for telephony services on computers and internet-connected communication tools. IP phones convert sound waves into digital signals using codecs, which are computer algorithms. The advantages VoIP and internet calls have over cell phones and landlines include:
- Cheaper operation costs: VoIP services are relatively less expensive to operate compared to regular telephone services.
- Accessibility: VoIP call services are easily accessible as individuals can use them anywhere there is a stable internet connection.
- Lower charges: VoIP and internet calls do not charge as high as regular telephone services because they function with internet connections as their means of transmission. VoIP and internet calls also provide free added premium services that would typically incur additional charges on regular telephone services.
- Easy phone number porting: VoIP numbers can be ported easily and do not require the setting up of new devices and connections
- Flexibility: VoIP calls are flexible and are not restricted to telephones, unlike regular telephone services. VoIP and internet calls can be made from various devices, including tablets, computers, and VoIP phones, provided they have the necessary software or application. Landlines can also be configured to support VoIP and internet calls with ATAs. VoIP calls are only restricted by available bandwidth.
- Enhanced voice quality: VoIP calls can provide HD call quality with stable internet connections and high bandwidth.
Individuals can use reverse phone lookup searches to identify callers linked to VoIP numbers, like regular phone numbers.
Does Missouri Regulate VoIP Providers?
According to RSMo Section 386.250(2), all telecommunications services, irrespective of the technology utilized, are under the Missouri Public Service Commission's regulatory jurisdiction. This law does not exempt Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). However, VoIP services are regulated differently from other information service providers because they may interconnect with the public switched telephone network as a replacement for traditional telecommunications service.
The statutes also require that telecommunications service companies in Missouri have a certificate of service authority from the Missouri Public Service Commission. The certification enables the state to have a record and contact information of all telecommunications service companies within the state. It also allows the Commission to ensure that minimum consumer protection rights are enforce
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP and internet calls require an active broadband internet connection to function properly. Most people prefer to use fiber-optic, but there are other viable options available to them. Users may use FTTP or ethernet connections and fast (4G/LTE and 5G) mobile networks for a smooth VoIP experience without disruptions. Other necessary tools are determined by the user's preferred VoIP calling method. It could be any of the following:
- Cell phone
A user who prefers to make VoIP and internet calls with a computer is required to have a laptop or desktop computer, microphone, headsets or speakers, and the applicable software. Software programs that enable internet calls include Zoom, Google Talk, Skype, Apple Facetime, etc. VoIP calls made using compatible software programs at both ends are free, but calls made with regular phone services will attract additional charges.
A user can make VoIP calls with a landline but will need to possess an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) and a compatible telephone. The ATA should be connected to either the wall phone socket or a compatible router.
VoIP calling with a cell phone requires that the user possesses a smartphone with the user's preferred internet call mobile application installed on it. These mobile applications include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Viber, Line, etc. The call recipient must also have the same app installed on their smartphone call as well for the call to be sent. Some mobile applications enable phone calls to regular landlines and mobile phones, but such calls attract extra charges.
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
Even though VoIP numbers have ten digits just like regular telephone numbers, and both numbers are similar, there are some distinguishing factors between these VoIP numbers and regular phone numbers. They include;
- VoIP numbers are assigned to separate users and not individual telephone lines or devices like regular phone numbers.
- VoIP numbers are not limited by geographical locations, as long as there is an active internet connection in both locations. In contrast, individuals can only use regular phone numbers within the number's geographical coverage area unless they activate data roaming on their phones through the settings app.
- VoIP numbers can be used on more than one device simultaneously, while a telephone number can only be used on one device by one user at the same time.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
Yes, it is possible to make free internet calls, provided certain requirements are fulfilled. As a standard requirement, both the caller and the recipient must have an active broadband connection and use the same telephone mobile applications that allow free internet calls. Individuals can make free internet calls in the following ways:
- PC to Phone – Use mobile apps that allow free internet calls from a PC to a regular telephone number.
- App to App – Internet call applications on smartphones and tablet devices enable free internet calls between devices with the same mobile applications installed. App to App internet calls will not go through if the landlines or other mobile phones do not have the same apps.
- App to Phone – Use applications that enable free calls from a smartphone with the installed app to regular telephone numbers, including landlines with the installed apps.
- PC to PC - The same internet call software program is installed on both PCs (caller and recipient), enabling free phone calls between the two systems.