VoIP (voice over IP) definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: The basics of SIP trunking explained

VoIP (voice over IP) is an IP telephony term for a set of facilities used to manage the delivery of voice information over the Internet.VoIP involves sending voice information in digital form in discrete packets rather than by using the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). A major advantage of VoIP and Internet telephony is that it avoids the tolls charged by ordinary telephone service.

VoIP derives from the VoIP Forum, an effort by major equipment providers, including Cisco, VocalTec, 3Com, and Netspeak to promote the use of ITU-T H.323, the standard for sending voice (audio) and video using IP on the public Internet and within an intranet. The Forum also promotes the user of directory service standards so that users can locate other users and the use of touch-tone signals for automatic call distribution and voice mail.

In addition to IP, VoIP uses the real-time protocol (RTP) to help ensure that packets get delivered in a timely way. Using public networks, it is currently difficult to guarantee Quality of Service (QoS). Better service is possible with private networks managed by an enterprise or by an Internet telephony service provider (ITSP).

A technique used by at least one equipment manufacturer, Adir Technologies (formerly Netspeak), to help ensure faster packet delivery is to use PING to contact all possible network gateway computers that have access to the public network and choose the fastest path before establishing a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) sockets connection with the other end.

Using VoIP, an enterprise positions a "VoIP device" at a gateway. The gateway receives packetized voice transmissions from users within the company and then routes them to other parts of its intranet (local area or wide area network) or, using a T-carrier system or E-carrier interface, sends them over the public switched telephone network.

This was first published in March 2008

Next Steps

Products migrate from legacy PBX to VoIP

VoIP phone systems offer versatility but require more purchasing considerations than legacy telephony. Learn more about comparing VoIP vendors in order to make the right purchase choice.

VoIP products can accommodate thousands of users. Discover how Cisco UCM offers VoIP technology that can replace a telephone system.

In this product overview, get more information on the Panasonic VoIP KX-TDE system, which is designed to support 1,000 extensions and up to 64 SIP trunks. 

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