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Is there a difference between VoIP and IP telephony?

VoIP and IP telephony are two terms used sometimes interchangeably -- but are they really the same thing?

Is there a difference between VoIP and IP telephony?

On one level, very little. VoIP -- Voice over Internet Protocol -- refers to the technology for taking a voice "call" and routing it over a data network like the public Internet. This acronym is commonly used now to refer to any method used to make phone calls over the Internet. This could be done using your home phone, your cell phone, your office phone, a soft phone on your PC, or directly on your PC by plugging in a headset. All of these are VoIP.

IP telephony is really just the business term for VoIP. It refers more to the device on your desk used to make a VoIP call than the VoIP call itself. TDM calls are made with conventional business phones, but unless equipped with a special adapter -- an ATA-type device -- these phones cannot make VoIP calls. An IP phone, on the other hand, is designed for VoIP, and is connected to the data network (or broadband router in small businesses) rather than the phone network.

When vendors talk about IP telephony, they are usually referring to the IP phones themselves, which businesses need to buy or lease when deploying VoIP. Implicit in this is the fact that the business is using them for VoIP. This is really mostly semantics, and in essence the two terms mean the same thing. The main difference would be that IP telephony is almost always used to refer to business telephony, whereas VoIP is used in both the consumer and business worlds.

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