Voice over IP is a way of having phone calls via the Internet or local computer network. Calls on Face Time, Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, or Telegram are VoIP calls. But these services are locked to itself. You can’t call somebody on WhatsApp from Skype.
Luckily, VoIP is not limited to locked services. The technology is open and widely used in combination with traditional phone services. If you want to call somebody on a regular phone number, you can make it using VoIP. Similarly, you can answer regular phone calls with VoIP.
VoIP is supported by hardware IP phones or apps. The apps exist for all platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows. These apps are often called softphones. You can talk either using the built-in microphone and speaker or connect a headset.
Like with traditional or mobile phones, to make calls using softphones you need a phone provider. To be able to call on a mobile phone, you need to insert a SIM card into it. The SIM card stores phone provider settings for your account. To configure a softphone, you need to enter your account settings manually. These settings you receive from your phone provider. In the simplest case, it’s a server name, a user name, and a password. Configuring a softphone is often easier than setting up an email app.
It’s already there
Many people already use VoIP at work. That phone at your desk is very likely an IP phone. An IP phone is just a computer running software. The same kind of software can be run on a normal computer or mobile phone as an app.
Many people already use VoIP at home. Some home routers like FritzBox are VoIP servers. You can plug a normal analog phone into it. You can also configure a softphone with router VoIP settings. When you answer or make a call, you’re free to choose what is most convenient for you at the moment: a normal phone or an app.
VoIP gives you freedom. Many phone providers work over the Internet. You can choose almost any of them. You can choose better prices, better services, better customer support. You’re not locked to your local phone provider anymore.
Many VoIP providers offer more features than normal phone providers. You can have multiple simultaneous calls for a single phone number. You can transfer calls between colleagues. Your team members can be located anywhere in the world. No roaming fees for calling a colleague in another country. You can have those voice menus like “Press one to connect to customer support.” You can redirect incoming calls to your mobile phone during business hours and to a mailbox otherwise. You can have call conferences. You can have local phone numbers in several countries redirected to your mobile. All of that is available for big and small teams or individuals without buying expensive phone hardware.
Where to start
You can start using VoIP by asking your current phone provider. They may offer their services via VoIP in addition to the normal way. If they do, they’ll send you settings to use in an app.
If your current provider doesn’t offer that, you can search the Internet for a SIP provider. SIP is a standard protocol for VoIP that the providers and the phones support. After the registration, the provider will send you settings to use in an app.
If you have a VoIP-capable router like FritzBox at home or office, you can create a SIP account for your softphone yourself. Then you use the router’s address and the created user name and password in a softphone.
If you have an IP phone at your desk at work and would like the flexibility of calling from your computer, you can ask your company IT service to give you SIP settings for your account.
VoIP is a technology for phone calls over the Internet or local computer network. It is already everywhere and integrated with the traditional phone network. It gives you the freedom to choose better prices and more possibilities than the traditional phone providers usually offer. You can carry your personal or business phone number with you anywhere without roaming fees and without anybody noticing it.