Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) is a remarkable technology that lets us talk to one another from our home computers. It provides an efficient and flexible way for us to communicate at work and at home, and the cost savings versus conventional telephone services are incredible. It requires little upfront investment, and you have the ability to travel with your phone number all over the world. It is a technology that almost seems too good to be true. As with any relatively new technology, though, there are technical kinks with VOIP that continue to need refining and development in order for the technology to reach its fullest potential as a replacement for the current telephone systems that we are accustomed to using.
At the beginning of a VOIP phone call, there is an analog phone (in use with an ATA), an IP phone, or software that converts data from analog to digital and routes the call to an endpoint. Along with these pieces of equipment, there are protocols that are employed to get the job done efficiently. A protocol is a set of rules that control data transfer between two points, in this case, from the placement of a phone call to the destination. Protocols are put into use by any combination of hardware and software to define real-time communications performance.
There are several VOIP protocols used at this time that mark out which programs (that transform the data) connect with one another along with the network. The most common protocol being used for VOIP is know as H. 323, which was created by the International Telecommunication Union for the purposes of videoconferencing. This protocol is actually a group of several specific protocols that provide provisions for videoconferencing, data sharing, and audio transmission (VOIP). However, since it was not expressly designed for VOIP, there are often compatibility issues with its use.
A newer protocol has come out known as Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP. SIP was developed specifically for VOIP, and it is less complex than H. 323. Yet another protocol used for VOIP is known as Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP). It focuses on destination control, and is intended to be used for supplemental features such as Call Waiting. A big problem arises because these three protocols do not always work together very congruently. This is often a problem when placing VOIP calls between different networks that use different protocols. And since there has not been yet developed a uniform set of standards for protocols to use for VOIP, problems are likely to continue until they are established.
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Despite the technical glitches that can be encountered in using the technology to place phone calls, VOIP is still far more efficient, accommodating, and cost effective to what we are used to in telephone communications. The direction in which VOIP is heading hints that it is poised to one day replace our traditional telephone technology altogether. As with any technology-driven product or service, developers of VOIP will likely continue to improve upon current standards of VOIP and its protocols, further improving the technology for widespread use. This will provide users of VOIP even greater efficiency and reliability when they want to make a telephone call.