VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Put simply, it refers to making phone calls that are made through the internet, rather than through a regular landline or a mobile network.
A VoIP system works by taking your analogue voice signals, converting them into digital signals, then sending them as data over your broadband line.
It’s a very useful way of making calls – for a start, once it’s set up it’s a lot cheaper than using normal phone lines. It means that, depending on your setup, you may not have to pay for your phone calls based on distance, which country you’re calling, or how much time you spend chatting.
Your VoIP system could be:
With a phone and a VoIP adapter – Using a special adapter, you can make VoIP calls from a regular old landline phone. These adapters plug into either a phone socket in the wall or into your router.
With a computer – There are dozens of programs that let you make voice calls to anyone who also has it installed, including Skype, Google Talk, and Apple FaceTime. Some, such as Skype, can be used to call regular landline or mobile numbers too. Calling someone else who has the app is free, but calling an actual phone number will usually cost a little.
With a smartphone – You can use your smartphone to make voice calls using certain apps. See below for more on how this works.
Some broadband and home phone providers offer VoIP as part of their services, so they may do things a little differently. It’s the standard form of phone line from a number of FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) providers, for example, and VoIP is available as part of almost any business broadband or phone package. Either way, your provider will give you all the info you need.
Office worker on phone
What equipment do I need?
The exact equipment you need depends on which method of VoIP you’re using.
The first thing you’ll need is a broadband connection – a fibre optic one so it’s more reliable, and an unlimited one means you can talk as much as you want to. You’ll get the absolute best VoIP experience possible with a full FTTP or an ethernet connection, which are available with some business broadband providers.
For VoIP with an adapter, you’ll needÖ a VoIP adapter (of course), and a compatible phone. If it plugs into a router, you’ll need a compatible router too.
For VoIP with a computer, you’ll needÖ a laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection, the right software, and either a headset or speakers and a microphone. Headsets are better for clarity and sound quality, but you can get by just fine without.
For VoIP with a smartphone, you’ll needÖ a smartphone, connected to Wi-Fi and with your chosen app installed.