The Technology of VoIP

So, I’ve decided to try to be a little more topical in my posts as opposed to just doing a brain dump every time I take a minute to write.  Rather than post once with all kinds of material, I’ll instead opt for multiple posts and try to keep to one subject.  One thing near and dear to my heart (as a technology based consultant for about 15 years now) is technology.  So, I’m planning on doing a lot about that.

Todays topic, VoIP

So VoIP (as you so often see it in articles on the web) is the phenomenon known as "Voice over Internet Protocol" and has been around for some time now.  The premise behind VoIP is that you use the plentiful resources of network bandwidth as the medium to provide regular voice communications that you would otherwise use the public switched telephone network for (did Ma Bell ever see this coming).  In business, it is the notion that you leverage this expensive network that you have put together by carving out some bandwidth for voice communications.  Cisco (for example) has a very compelling solution for businesses.  For the casual home user there are a number of options to allow you the home user to better leverage your broadband connection and possibly save you some money.  This idea is not new, in the past you would see all kinds of advertisements for "free internet phone calls" that would use software on a PC to act as the dialer.  These pieces of software are now referred to as "soft Phones".  What needs to be understood is that when these services first appeared, they were predicted to be the downfall of the traditional telephone providers.  Fact was, the Net was simply not mature, nor reliable enough to handle something as utility as telephone service.  Today, that is simply not true.

More and more you are finding providers of VoIP service to provide an alternative to traditional telephone providers.  What they offer today, is a reasonably priced and VALID alternative.  That’s right, I said valid.  The perception is that when you pick up the phone, you have a dialtone.  That is true, but what is not accurate is the perception that a broadband based phone provider can be as reliable and service oriented as the phone company. 

Let me give you an example.  I recently documented on this site that I did some significant renovations to my house.  During that time we had a strange incident where for the course of 2 months, whenever wet weather occurred (rain, snow, etc), my phone line would go dead.  Dead.  No dialtone or anything.  Interestingly enough, my DSL service which travelled over the SAME COPPER inside my house, continued to work fine despite the fact that I could not make a phone call.  Fortunately for me, I decided at one point to set up a VoIP phone in my home over my broadband connection as a "business" line.  Since the DSL worked, so did my VoIP line and thus, I was able to contact my local provider to report the outage.  What I sincerely found amazing was that my provider couldn’t get me a tech to come out to my house any sooner than 5 days later (business days).  I was very surprised to find out that my lack of 911 service was not enough to get a tech to come out.  To pay as much as $30 for local calling and than an additional $20-$30 in long distance seems absurd when you can’t get a tech to come out when your line is dead.  After months of troubleshooting and days without phone service, we finally got the problem corrected.  In the meantime, my confidence in my local phone company started to disappear and that viability of VoIP replacing my home phone became closer to a reality.

The Gamble

So what prevents greater adoption of this technology.  It seems like a no brainer when you consider the costs I quote above for regular service w/long distance, when for as little as $25 you can have unlimited long distance anywhere in North America.  Well, its what I refer to as "the Gamble".  What you the homeowner have to decide is whether you believe that your broadband connection (whether cable, DSL or satellite) is at least as reliable as your telephone company.  When you consider reliability, you also need to consider some other items (such as time to turn around customer care requests) and compare Apples and Apples as best possible.  For example, my cable service is as reliable as my telephone.  I don’t lose cable.  Arguably, my cable company is more responsive than the phone company.  They have competition from Satellite providers and that lends itself to providing additional customer service where they might not have originally, where as the phone company has noone.  There is no compeition really and thus the phone company is not necessarily as responsive as you would like.  Enter in VoIP solutions. 

Me, I’m not ashamed, I have a Vonage phone in my house.  Do I also have a Verizon traditional account with phone? Yes I do.  I think part of that has to do with all of the new wiring I put in during the renovations.  The reality is that the Vonage serive has been more reliable my Verizon service.  I have been approached many times about switching to Optimum Voice (which would accompany my digital Cable and Optimum Online).  The reality is that Optimum Voice is not priced competitively as other services.  Even at $29.95, they are still too high.

Nevertheless, the point here is to educate everyone that they do NOT have to remain a hostage to their telephone monopoly.

Have fun and TTFN

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About scavali

20 years of Information Technology experience, including 15 with Microsoft Services and Sales to some of the largest and smallest companies in the world, give me some unique perspective on the technology industry as a whole. Now I am the Unified Communications Practice Manager for Janalent, 2 time UC Worldwide Partner of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Combine that with my passion for photography, scuba diving, all things Key West and my time volunteering with the Madison, NJ Fire Department and you will find an eccletic combination of thoughts and experiences conveyed on this blog. Please contribute, I value people's productive feedback.
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