What are VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. It refers to technology that allows people to make phone calls and perform other telecommunications services through IP networks like broadband internet connections and local area networks instead of traditional mobile networks and landlines. According to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are about 1.5 million VoIP subscriptions in Washington as of June 2021.
VoIP is sometimes used interchangeably with internet calls, and both of them involve making calls through the internet. However, unlike internet calls, which are basically calls made over the internet, VoIP also includes other telecommunications services like sending and receiving videos, images, multimedia messages, and making video calls.
How Do VoIP and Internet Calls Compare to Landline and Cell Phone Calls?
Telephone calls serve the purpose of connecting two or more people. Phone calls can be made via cell phone, landline, or VoIP, and the way these calling methods connect people slightly differ.
Landline calls connect a caller to a receiver by transforming the sound waves from the caller into electric energy and transferring this energy through copper wires and telephone exchanges until it gets to the receiver. Once the electric energy gets to the receiver, it is transformed into sound waves that the receiver can hear.
Cell phone calls work by transforming the caller’s sound waves into electrical signals. These signals are beamed through radio waves from the cell phone’s antenna to the nearest cell phone mast and a base station. The base station is responsible for routing the call to the receiver’s phone, transforming the electrical signals back into sound waves. To avoid the radio waves from calls getting scrambled across networks, geographical areas are divided into grids. Each grid has a base station and cell phone masts responsible for routing all calls that are made and received in it. An added advantage of this grid system is that it increases the number of calls that can be made at any given time by allowing the same set of radio wave frequencies to be reused.
VoIP and Internet calls work by transforming the caller’s sound waves into digital signals using appropriate equipment and software to transmit these signals across the internet in data packets. Once these digital signals get to the call receiver, they are converted back into sound waves.
When compared with calls made using landlines and cell phones, VoIP and internet calls have certain advantages:
- VoIP and internet calls are not limited to a special type of calling device, unlike landlines and cell phones. VoIP and internet calls can be made using mobile devices, computers, and even analog landline phones. This also allows VoIP providers to offer extra services like instant messaging and video calling;
- VoIP and internet calls are generally cheaper than landline and cell phone calls. In most cases, the only expenses are the costs of getting the calling equipment and the cost of subscribing for an internet connection;
- VoIP and internet calls sound clearer and crisper than cell phone and landline calls. Note that the voice clarity of VoIP and internet calls is dependent on the strength of the internet connection used to make these calls;
- VoIP devices are portable and can be used anywhere with a working internet connection, unlike landlines that are fixed in one location or cell phones tied to a particular network.
Just as it is possible for regular phone numbers, it is possible to use reverse phone lookup to identify the owner of a VoIP number.
Does Washington Regulate VoIP Providers?
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission regulate telecommunications services in the state of Washington. However, this agency does not regulate VoIP services. Washingtonians that have VoIP related complaints should contact the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322.
What Do You Need for VoIP and Internet Calls?
VoIP and internet calls can only be made with a working broadband internet connection, and a VoIP enabled device. Broadband internet connections can be gotten via local area networks, Ethernet cables, cable modem, Wi-Fi modems, and other high-speed data services. Depending on the caller’s preference, any of the following VoIP enabled devices can be used to make VoIP and internet calls:
- A specialized phone known as an IP phone that connects directly to the internet wirelessly or through a router and an Ethernet cable;
- A regular landline telephone and an analog telephone adapter (ATA), which converts the phone’s analog signals into digital signals. ATA’s are generally plugged into the back of the phone instead of traditional copper wires;
- A personal computer that has a headset or a microphone and speakers, and a VoIP enabling software app downloaded and installed on it;
- A mobile device like a smartphone or tablet that has a VoIP enabling software application installed on it
Are VoIP Numbers Different from Regular Phone Numbers?
Even though VoIP phone numbers are ten-digit numbers used to connect two or more people just like regular phone numbers, there are a few differences between these numbers:
- A VoIP phone number can be used simultaneously on multiple devices, unlike a regular phone number that cannot be used on more than one device at a time;
- A VoIP phone number is not tied to a particular location and can work anywhere that has an active internet connection, unlike a regular phone number that is either tied to a landline telephone or the coverage area of the cell phone network provider;
- A VoIP phone number is issued to a user, unlike a regular phone number that is typically issued to a device.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission does not regulate VoIP services in the state, and as such, VoIP phone numbers in the state are issued by VoIP providers. However, these providers are required to get authorization from the Federal Communications Commission before they do so. New phone numbers are typically issued free of charge. In most cases, VoIP providers offer new users the option of retaining their regular telephone numbers on the VoIP network.
Can You Make Free Internet Calls?
It is possible to make free internet calls, but this can only be done with the proper set-up and the right software applications. The following methods can be used to make these free calls:
- App to phone: this method allows you to make internet calls from a smartphone or a tablet to a regular phone number by installing software applications like TextNow on your smartphone or tablet. An advantage of this method is that the person receiving the call does not need to have the same software application installed on their phone;
- PC to phone: with this method, you can make internet calls from your computer to a regular phone number by installing software applications like Google Voice on your computer. This method does not require the receiver to have the software installed;
- PC to PC: this method allows you to make internet calls from your computer to another computer. With this method, the computers making and receiving the calls must have the same software programs installed in them. Examples of software programs that can be used for this method are Zoom and Skype;
- App to App: with this method, you can make internet calls from your mobile device to another mobile device by installing the same software application on both devices. Examples of software applications that can be used for this method are WhatsApp and Viber.