There is no real difference between VoIP and IP telephony. The majority of IT professionals use these terms to refer to the same type of service. There is however a subtle difference according to many Telecommunication experts in the industry. We will explain each of these below, as the differences are in fact very subtle.
What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This is a set of standard technologies that deliver voice calls that are sent over the internet or over a private IP-based network. With reference to IP Telephony, VoIP is in effect a subset of IP telephony that does not include other non-voice-based communication services, such as faxing or text messaging. So, in simple terms VoIP is really voice only where a call is made over the Internet and usually through a broadband connection. It is used by consumers in their homes and also by many businesses throughout the world.
What is IP Telephony?
IP telephony is really only used in a business context and mainly by It professionals. It includes all of the products and services that enable voice calling, and these include voicemail, video calling, video conferencing, faxing, messaging etc. It uses IP packet-switched connections. Such information traditionally travels over the dedicated circuit-switched connections of the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
However, IP telephony technology converts calls, faxes and text messages into packets of data that travel across computer network lines, avoiding the costs of PSTN.
The simplest comparison between VoIP and IP Telephony is that VoIP refers only to voice, whereas, IP telephone covers the full range of Telecom services.
Why Should a Business Consider Using VoIP or IP Telephony?
For years business had to use a network for their telephone services, and a separate network for their Internet access and mail services. Typically, these were referred to as a voice network and a data network.
That has now changed thanks to voice and data convergence. Now a business only needs a single network that will deliver both phone services and LAN connectivity. There are clear benefits for a business in making this change. Those are:
- Lower costs
- A simplified infrastructure
- Much easier and faster to scale
- Integrates with many Apps
- Having an integrated voice and data structure helps increase business productivity.
VoIP or IP Telephony Risks
The main risk for moving to an IP telephony option is the quality of the network connection. Any IP service will rely on the quality of the Broadband connection. A poor- or low-quality connection can impact on call quality and if there is a Broadband outage, then the IP service will be lost completely. This can easily be mitigated by using a business connection such as a leased line or an “Always on Internet” connection.
Some businesses may also have concerns about their data security as this information goes out across the public Internet. In the early days of IP and VoIP that was a concern. However, with improved technology IP technology uses a private data network in a single location, or across a private network to reach remote locations.
What are IP Phone Systems?
IP Phone systems, also known as an IP PBX or a VoIP Phone System, are a replacement for traditional phone systems. The traditional phone system is a physical phone system located in the business premises. Analogue lines (PSTN) or ISDN lines (Digital lines) are connected to the phone system as are the phone extensions in the business. Any calls made are made over the PSTN public network. This worked well for many years but that type of system is inflexible.
How do IP Phone Systems Work?
IP phones can make and receive phone calls over the internet and they don’t rely on the physical exchanges that landlines do. IP phone systems convert analogue voice signals into digital signals and send them over your broadband connection as data. IP telephony relies on various open-source protocols to work. These protocols make it possible to transfer data between the IP phone and the service provider. The specific protocol used will depend on the VoIP provider and how the system is set up. These may include:
- SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)
- RTP (Real-time Transport protocol
We don’t want to bore you with what these mean, but just be aware that different phone companies use different protocols, depending on the IP phone systems they sell.
Types of IP Business Phones
There are 2 main types of IP Phones
- Soft Phones
This type of IP Phone will look very much like a normal office telephone. They also work pretty much the same as a normal phone system extension phone. The only real difference is they work by connecting to the Internet. It is also worth knowing that traditional phones can be turned into SIP phones by using an adapter known as an analogue telephone adapter (ATA) to connect to the IP network. (popular with hotels)
These can be installed on desktops, laptops and mobile devices and are called software phones (soft phones). There is no physical equipment involved and is simply a piece of software downloaded to the appropriate device as an App. As long as the device has a microphone, headset, speaker and camera this is avery good option especially for those working from home or out in the field.