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Voice over Internet Protocol (Voice over IP, VoIP) is one of a family of internet technologies, communication protocols, and transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. Other terms frequently encountered and often used synonymously with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone.
Internet telephony refers to communications servicesVoice, fax, SMS, and/or voice-messaging applicationsthat are transported via the Internet, rather than the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The steps involved in originating a VoIP telephone call are signaling and media channel setup, digitization of the analog voice signal, encoding, packetization, and transmission as Internet Protocol (IP) packets over a packet-switched network. On the receiving side, similar steps (usually in the reverse order) such as reception of the IP packets, decoding of the packets and digital-to-analog conversion reproduce the original voice stream. Even though IP Telephony and VoIP are terms that are used interchangeably, they are actually different; IP telephony has to do with digital telephony systems that use IP protocols for voice communication while VoIP is actually a subset of IP Telephony. VoIP is a technology used by IP telephony as a means of transporting phone calls.
VoIP systems employ session control protocols to control the set-up and tear-down of calls as well as audio codecs which encode speech allowing transmission over an IP network as digital audio via an audio stream. The codec used is varied between different implementations of VoIP (and often a range of codecs are used); some implementations rely on narrowband and compressed speech, while others support high fidelity stereo codecs.
There are three types of VoIP tools that are commonly used; IP Phones,Software VoIP and Mobile and Integrated VoIP. The IP Phones are the most institutionally established but still the least obvious of the VoIP tools. The use of software VoIP has increased during the global recession as many persons, looking for ways to cut costs have turned to these tools for free or inexpensive calling or video conferencing applications.
Software VoIP can be further broken down into three classes or subcategories; Web Calling, Voice and Video Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing. Mobile and Integrated VoIP is just another example of the adaptability of VoIP. VoIP is available on many smartphones and internet devices so even the users of portable devices that are not phones can still make calls or send SMS text messages over 3G or WIFI.
VoIP software is used to conduct telephone-like voice conversations across Internet Protocol (IP) based networks. VoIP stands for "Voice over IP". For residential markets, VoIP phone service is often cheaper than traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) service and can remove geographic restrictions to telephone numbers, e.g. have a New York PSTN phone number in Tokyo.
For businesses, VoIP obviates separate voice and data pipelines, channelling both types of traffic through the IP network while giving the telephony user a range of advanced capabilities.
Softphones are client devices for making and receiving voice and video calls over the IP network with the standard functionality of most "original" telephones and usually allow integration with IP phones and USB phones instead of utilizing a computer's microphone and speakers (or headset). Most softphone clients run on the open Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) supporting various codecs.
Skype runs on a closed proprietary network, though the network (but not the official Skype client software) also supports SIP clients.Online "Chat" programs now also incorporate voice and video communications.
Other VoIP software applications include conferencing servers, intercom systems, virtual FXOs and adapted telephony software which concurrently support VoIP and PSTN like IVR systems, dial in dictation, on hold and call recording servers.