Voice Over Internet Protocol
Table of Contents
Description of VoIP Trends and Characteristics
Companies Involved with VoIP
Global Implications of VoIP
VoIP: Current and Future Trends
Description of VoIP Trends and Characteristics
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, as it is also known, is a combination of telephonic technology with Internet applications. This rapidly advancing technique is used in a number of applications, including desktop IP phones, mobile VoIP-enabled handheld devices, and gateways (Wyss, 2003). What is particularly remarkable about the growth of the VoIP industry, is the fact that the Internet was originally designed for purposes not related to voice communications.
Indeed, voice communications were handled effectively by public switched telephone networks (PSTNs) and cellular networks (Wyss, 2003). The very nature of the Internet used as it was for asynchronous data communication made it unfavorable for the voice communications industry. Other factors playing a role in this include the loss and retransmission of data packets and no specific bandwidth dedicated for each user (Wyss, 2003). Unlike telephonic networks such as PSTNs and the cellular industry, the Internet is not controlled by a single centralized entity for coordination purposes. Real-time communication services powered by the Internet should thus prove highly unlikely or at the very least challenging.
However, VoIP technology appears to have evolved to become part of businesses and homes around the world, and financially it is doing increasingly well annually, and projections for the future are rosy. Wholesale VoIP for example generated over $400 million in 2002, whereas sales of VoIP gateways and equipment are estimated to reach $12 billion by 2006. This is a six-fold increase from 2001 (Wyss, 2003). Wired IP phones, as well as mobile IP phones and private phones within homes have also proved popular with the public.
Several reasons have been cited for the popularity of VoIP systems, despite all the challenges facing it. Four of these are highlighted by Wyss (2003):
Reduced total cost of ownership
More efficient network utilization
Greater operational flexibility
New services enhancing end-user productivity
These four advantages are discussed in some detail by Wyss (2003).
The first advantage is made possible by the fact that the Internet is an open network, offering wider opportunities to more voice service providers. Thus competition is encouraged, which lowers prices (Wyss, 2003). Discounts can also be made possible via cable and satellite services, and subscriptions of various kinds can then also be offered. Most important perhaps is the fact that distinctions between long- and local distance vanish with Internet technology. Thus VoIP technology would enable the voice service can save on long-distance calls.
More efficient network utilization is achieved by bandwidth efficiencies made possible by VoIP. Again cost is reduced and quality of service is increased. The elimination of silence is for example one of the factors contributing to the increased efficiency of bandwidth use (Wyss, 2003). This means that VoIP contrasts with other telephony services in that bandwidth is allocated only according the time used for speaking, rather than for the times during which there is silence. This system is thus more flexible than PSTNs and cellular services, and can thus also be applied with greater efficiency, not leaving a large amount of the network unused as a result of the inevitable silences in voice conversations.
VoIP technology is not only flexible in terms of technical efficiency, but also in terms of advantages for individuals and organizations. Unified messaging for example enables users to access messages in the form of voice mail, e-mail, faxes, and video via a single system....
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Wyss, Balz (March 2003). "Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)". Microsoft Corporation. M Microsoft Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group (EAPG). http://download.microsoft.com/download/c/2/0/c20581e5-33bb-45a1-8d76-f367fb26a612/VoIP_white_paper.doc.
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