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What is VoIP?

Voice over IP (VoIP) is all the rage lately. So what it is? Voice over IP is a category of telephony products. The VoIP protocol allows voice traffic to best of IP based networks. Of course, the largest IP network in the world is the Internet. Because VoIP uses the internet, it can provide tremendous savings for individuals and businesses because there is no additional infrastructure for the providers to build. All they need is and access point to the WWW and the equipment to process the calls.

For the customer, the investment is equipment is minimal. They must have a broadband internet connection, a wireless router, and a VOIP enabled phone. Many people already have the internet connection and a compatible router.

It greatest advantage over the existing systems is the fact that it merges all forms of communication into a single platform. In the past all voice communication was carried over circuit switching. That means that an actual wire connection or frequency for wireless devices is reserved for each individual telephone. This eats up bandwidth.

Currently the following services are available:

SOHO/Individual – this service is designed for the small business, home office, or individual. They connect over DSL or Cable and provide a very competitive alternative to conventional phone service. They have small startup costs and usually provide flat rate local, regional and long distance calling and very reasonably priced international calling. Voice mail, call forwarding, caller ID, and three-way calling are normally considered part of the base service.

Most services will also include a “soft phone” which is a program installed on a pc used with a headset and microphone to make telephone calls. This can make an employee appear to be in the office no matter where they actually are…a great feature for telecommuters. The leading providers of this service are AT&T, BroadVoice, CrystalVoice, 8x8, VoicePulse, and Vonage. Prices range between $15 and $50 per month.

Managed VoIP services – the most popular service is called IP Centrex. This service has all the usual Centrex services but also includes flat-rate voice calls for about $40 per seat. The equipment can be located on either the client site or the service provider’s site. Competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) and the traditional carries offer this service.

Hybrid IP PBXes – These are upgrades to existing PBX systems for companies that want to make the change more gradually because they have thousands of employees and millions invested in existing equipment. The cost is between $500-800 per user. The major sellers of this type of equipment are Cisco, Alcatel, Avays, Nortel, Mitel and Siemens.

Pure IP Systems – This is the system of choice for a company moving into new quarters or expanding. The cost per user is approximately the same as the Hybrid PBS system making it a better idea and more cost effective in the long run than moving an old system. The primary manufacturers are Cisco and 3com.

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