Tuesday, December 13, 2005

VoIP getting more press

Voice over IP (VoIP) is the application of carrying voice communication over a network, specifically one using TCP/IP, the protocol suite used on the Internet. That's a very simplistic definition, of course, but the bottom line is that your calls aren't carried over the regular "phone lines", (referred to as the "public switched telephone network" or PSTN) but rather over networks. There are significant advantages and disadvantages to the practice but it's a safe bet to say it's the wave of the future of voice telephony.

Microsoft has teamed up with MCI to offer VoIP calling for home users, a report that hit the news today. In the same report reference is made to Yahoo! starting up a similar service. Of course, Vonage and 8x8 were already in the marketplace. For those interested only in calling other VoIP users, there's the free software Skype that allows PC-to-PC calling at no charge. I helped set up a user whose son is in Iraq with the software and she can talk to him every time he's on-line at no more cost than what they're paying for the Internet connection.

One of our local cable companies, Comcast, is starting to offer VoIP to its subscribers as well.

I personally use Skype at my home and I'm surprised and pleased with the performance. We have a residential DSL that usually has at least 2 computers on-line at a time and the calls sound quite clear. Distance doesn't appear to be an issue with calls down the street and calls to Ohio sounding about the same. Of course, the call quality is subject to the health of the part of the Internet we're traveling through at the time, but it's been a minor annoyance when it's happened. One note for those who are considering it: check with the provider about what happens should your power fail or the DSL/Cable go down. How can you make calls and get them to be very specific on the matter.