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What is VoIP? Definition and examples

VoIP is the transmission of voices, sounds, and multimedia content over Internet Protocol networks. We also call it IP telephony or Internet telephony. It is a methodology and series of technologies for the delivery of multimedia sessions and voice communications over Internet Protocol networks.

We refer to the set of rules that govern the format of data sent over the Internet as the Internet Protocol.

The Internet is a global network of networks that interlinks several billion computers. Imagine the postal service but at super-fast speeds. We often refer to it as the ‘Net.’

Voice Over Internet Protocol

The letters VoIP stand for Voice over Internet Protocol. The group of technologies and methodologies that enable VoIP also enable voice and multimedia transmissions over wide area networks and enterprise local area networks.

Put simply; the term refers to making telephone calls over the Internet with, for example, a laptop or tablet. With most smartphones today, it is possible to make ‘Internet calls.’

An example of a residential network including VoIP. (Image: Adapted from Wikipedia)

TechTerms has the following definition of the term:

“VoIP is basically a telephone connection over the Internet. The data is sent digitally, using the Internet Protocol (IP) instead of analog telephone lines.”

“This allows people to talk to one another long-distance and around the world without having to pay long distance or international phone charges.”

VoIP versus PTSN

Before the advent of the Internet, telephony used a dedicated line. The telephone company allocated one line per call. We refer to this system as PSTN (public switched telephony network).

Voice over Internet Protocol does not use a dedicated line for telephony. That is why it is much cheaper to call people using the Internet than with a landline.

Lay people rarely use the term VoIP

When making a call using VoIP, we typically use the name of the service provider. For example, somebody might say:

  • Verb: “I will Skype you when I have the new price.”
  • Noun: “I’ll send you a Skype (means text message).”
  • Adjective: “Just one moment, I need to answer this Skype call.”

Skype is a telecommunications application software product that specializes in providing video-conferencing, VoIP, and Instant messaging. Each month, there are over 300 million active Skype users.