VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)
One of the first and most important things that needs to be pointed out is that VoIP is not limited to voice communication. In fact, a variety of efforts have been made by manufacturers and advertisers to change this popular marketing term to better reflect the fact that VoIP means voice, video, and data conferencing. Most such attempts have failed up to this point, but do understand that video telephony and real-time text communication (ToIP), for example, is definitely within the scope of the VoIP.
VoIP is important because, for the first time in over a century, there is an opportunity to bring about significant change in the way that people communicate on both a personal and professional level. We haven’t seen a “displaced technology” of this magnitude since the personal PC replaced the mainframe and changed the way we do business. In addition to being able to use the telephones we have today to communicate in real-time, we also have the possibility of using pure IP-based phones, including desktop and wireless phones. We also have the ability to use videophones, much like those seen in science fiction movies. Rather than calling home to talk to the family, a person can call home to see the family.
One of the more interesting aspects of VoIP is that we also have the ability to integrate a stand-alone telephone or videophone with the personal computer. One can use a computer entirely for voice and video communications (softphones), use a telephone for voice and the computer for video, or can simply use the computer in conjunction with a separate voice/video phone to provide data conferencing functions, like application sharing, electronic white-boarding, and text chat.
VoIP allows something else: the ability to use a single high-speed Internet connection for all voice, video, and data communications. This idea is commonly referred to as convergence and is one of the primary drivers for corporate interest in the technology. The benefit of convergence should be fairly obvious: by using a single data network for all communications, it is possible to reduce the overall maintenance and deployment costs. The benefit for both home and corporate customers is that they now have the opportunity to choose from a much larger selection of service providers to provide voice and video communication services. Since the VoIP service provider can be located virtually anywhere in the world, a person with Internet access is no longer geographically restricted in their selection of service providers and is certainly not bound to their Internet access provider.
In short, VoIP enables people to communicate in more ways and with more choices.