Voice over Internet Protocol (Voice over IP, VoIP) is a general term for a family of methodologies, communication protocols, and transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. Other terms frequently encountered and often used synonymously with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone.
Internet telephony refers to communications services voice, fax, SMS, and/or voice-messaging applications that are transported via the Internet, rather than the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The steps involved in originating an VoIP telephone call are signaling and media channel setup, digitization of the analog voice signal, optionally compression, packetization, and transmission as Internet Protocol (IP) packets over a packet-switched network. On the receiving side similar steps reproduce the original voice stream.
VoIP systems employ session control protocols to control the set-up and tear-down of calls as well as audio codecs which encode speech allowing transmission over an IP network as digital audio via an audio stream. Codec use is varied between different implementations of VoIP (and often a range of codecs are used); some implementations rely on narrowband and compressed speech, while others support high fidelity stereo codecs.
A Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) connection is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service offered by many Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs) that connects a company’s private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) via the Internet.
Using a SIP connection may simplify administration for the organization as the SIP connection typically uses the same Internet access that is used for data. This often removes the need to install Basic Rate Interface (BRI) or Primary Rate Interface (PRI) telephone circuits.
Hosted PBX systems
A hosted PBX system delivers PBX functionality as a service, available over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and/or the internet. Hosted PBXs are typically provided by the telephone company, using equipment located in the premises of the telephone company’s exchange. This means the customer organization doesn’t need to buy or install PBX equipment (generally the service is provided by a lease agreement) and the telephone company can (in some configurations) use the same switching equipment to service multiple PBX hosting accounts.
Instead of buying PBX equipment, users contract for PBX services from a hosted PBX service provider, a particular type of application service provider (ASP). The first hosted PBX service was very feature-rich compared to most premise-based systems of the time. In fact, some PBX functions, such as follow-me calling, appeared in a hosted service before they became available in hardware PBX equipment. Since that introduction, updates and new offerings from several companies have moved feature sets in both directions. Today, it is possible to get hosted PBX service that includes far more features than were available from the first systems of this class, or to contract with companies that provide less functionality for simple needs.
In addition to the features available from premises-based PBX systems, hosted-PBX:
Allows a single number to be presented for the entire company, despite its being geographically distributed. A company could even choose to have no premises, with workers connected from home using their domestic telephones but receiving the same features as any PBX user.
Allows multimodal access, where employees access the network via a variety of telecommunications systems, including POTS, ISDN, cellular phones, and VOIP. This allows one extension to ring in multiple locations (either concurrently or sequentially).
Supports integration with custom toll plans (that allow intra company calls, even from private premises, to be dialed at a cheaper rate) and integrated billing and accounting (where calls made on a private line but on the company’s behalf are billed centrally to the company).
Eliminates the need for companies to manage or pay for on-site hardware maintenance.
Allows scalability so that a larger system is not needed if new employees are hired, and so that resources are not wasted if the number of employees is reduced.