The future of ICT is something that nobody really knows for sure, but one thing that has an opportunity to make an impact is VoIP. VoIP is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks. It is basically a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of the PSTN. This can present many benefits to consumers who are looking for an alternative method to standard telephone lines. While some VoIP networks only allow you to connect with other people using the same service, many allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number. This includes local, long distance, cellular and international numbers.
To get started, you are going to need a broadband (high speed) internet connection, a computer, an adaptor or a specialized phone. It requires very little bandwidth to operate and can be set up with low cost. Many businesses are turning to VoIP and getting rid of their traditional copper wire because of these exact reasons. Other benefits include the ability to integrate it with other services over the internet such as video conversation, message or data file exchange during a conversation, audio conferencing, managing address books and passing information about whether other people are available to interested parties. Location is also not an issue and you have the ability to transmit more than one telephone call over a single broadband connection without the need to add extra lines. VoIP is an ICT that has a lot of potential in the future IT marketplace and will make an impact on our everyday lives because it is a technology that is extremely flexible, easy to use and can be implemented with our current IT infrastructure.
The marketplace for VoIP can be best viewed from the perspective of incumbent telecommunications companies who both possess the technology expertise and resources to make VoIP available to the average household, and do not already offer voice services over the PSTN. A good example of such a company is Comcast. For these companies, the market proves to be very lucrative, given their strengths.
A company such as Comcast would have many objectives in implementing a VoIP service. One such objective would be to utilize their existing infrastructure to provide a new, revenue-generating service. Another would be to win over some customers from competing companies whose core business is providing voice service. Further, another objective might be to offer a comprehensive service that includes television, internet, and telephone services (which are attractive to consumers). Finally, implementing a new technology would help the company market themselves as tech-savvy and could help the such a company remain competitive with other incumbent telecommunications firms. The top-ranked objective, in this situation, would have to be the utilization of existing infrastructure to create revenue. While gaining a competitive edge and marketing are important goals, these are just other means to achieve an increase in revenue.
The strengths of existing telecommunications companies are numerous and varied. Several already have large Internet customer bases, which would be helpful in initially rolling out service. These firms clearly have plenty of experience providing telecommunications service to end-users. Also, these companies have the resources to develop the technology needed to use the existing infrastructure. Additionally, these companies have built consumer trust, which would help attract existing customers.
These companies, however, would have to develop VoIP service. They also do not have experience with providing voice service, so potential issues could arise. Many of these companies are tied into certain technologies (such as DSL) that do not lend themselves to a VoIP solution, and would make it difficult or impossible to implement. Finally, many of these companies are moving towards wireless solutions, away from in-home, VoIP-type solutions.
The opportunities in the area of VoIP are large. First, the necessary cable or UTP wiring already exists to the vast majority of homes. Second, packet-switched networks would more efficiently capture the burstiness of voice communication. Third, the Internet is growing in terms of pervasiveness and speed, which would allow VoIP service to be more successful. Finally, many consumers have grown tired with traditional, PSTN-type voice service.
There are several threats to the development of VoIP service. First is the current trend away from home-based phone service and towards mobile phone service. This trend is the main threat to successful VoIP service, as home voice subscriptions decrease. Second, existing phone service is decades old and dominant in the market. Third, there are concerns about some services with VoIP, namely emergency services. Overall, the market lends itself to existing telecommunications companies providing VoIP service, but only with limited initial cost, as VoIP is unlikely to be a large, money-making service for an extended period of time.
Even though there are many advantages of using VoIP, there are certainly some disadvantages that should be addressed. The main problem with using a VoIP service is the quality of service, or QoS. The major externalities that put a damper on QoS are delays, extra noise, echoes, and other external sounds. When having a conversation, parties would expect to enjoy the same quality as using a landline phone, which isn’t always the case with VoIP.
Various factors that can affect VoIP QoS include your broadband connection, the quality of your service provider, your hardware, the destination of the parties, etc. Although quality is improving and many are enjoying high-quality conversations, there are still many who complain of having sub-par service, like weird noises and a lot of lag before an answer is heard. While VoIP offers more advantages, its technology still proves to be less robust than the technology of PSTN. Since basic telephone service provides such good quality, people expect any new technology to be much better and crisper, which in this case may be true some day, but that day has yet to come.
A significant causality of errors in VoIP revolve around the data transfer, which is mainly voice. The data must be compressed and transmitted, and then decompressed and delivered. It sounds like a lengthy process, but this all has to be done in a very short time. If there is a slow connection or a hardware issue, it will cause the process to take longer, therefore degrading the call quality, even if the process is extended by mere milliseconds. This is mainly where echoes come from, which is when you hear your own voice being repeated after you’ve stopped talking. I’m sure anyone would vouch that this type of QoS error is one of the most annoying things that can happen during a conversation.
As long as you have a good broadband connection, you will most likely not suffer from unsatisfactory QoS. However, for the many people who don’t have a quality connection, or are still using a dial-up connection, those would definitely be too slow to use VoIP. As we all know, when an internet connection goes down, it’s an awful feeling to endure, but at least when you also have a landline, your telephone service will still work. However, if you are using VoIP and your internet connection goes down, your telephone line won’t work either. This can be very frustrating for someone at home, and a much bigger disaster for a business. In addition, the VoIP hardware needs electricity to function, so if the power goes out, you won’t be able to use the internet or phone!
A good broadband connection will protect you from most harmful effects of QoS, however keep in mind that VoIP is a shared connection, which can cause many problems for a business. Chances are that for any business, you are using the connection for various data and communication services on top of just using it for internet and telephone. If services like email, server connectivity, and downloads are being executed, bandwidth may exceed the available amount, which would cause call quality to deteriorate. It would be difficult to provide adequate bandwidth for a business using VoIP because you’d have multiple users using the internet at the same time as well as different times.
So, even though there are some clear advantages of using VoIP, there are still many drawbacks. If the technology is ever going to become widespread, quality of service and internet connectivity must be addressed. VoIP can’t be successful if the service isn’t available to everyone who would like to use it. The only way it can prove effective is if everyone switches to broadband connections, and we do away with the slow and dial-up connections we’ve grown so accustomed to.