Everyone has heard of VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol, since it’s the basis for some of the most popular apps like Skype and Google Hangouts. Though it’s a fairly recent technology, it has really come of age in the era of the expanding cloud. VoIP started in the mid-90s with the service quite simply called Internet Phone. One Internet user could call another and communicate using the microphone as a mouthpiece and speakers as a receiver. The drawback was that both users had to be using the same software, and they could not interface with the PSTN – public switched telephone network.
By 1998 users had the ability to communicate telephone to telephone, or computer to telephone and enjoyed the ability to leave messages via voicemail. Telephone equipment manufacturers began to come on board and add IP capabilities to their equipment, finding the new technology appealing for speed, quality, and cost. By 2003, VoIP calls constituted 25 percent of all voice calls made. With the increasing availability of broadband, calls were still prone to static and connectivity issues, but were a vast improvement over calls made on the increasingly obsolete dial-up services.
The explosive expansion of broadband and Wi-Fi availability, the widespread adoption of smart phones and the subsequent need for software applications for those phones, and the expansion of the cloud to support these needs has increased the adoption of VoIP substantially. When reckoned in petabytes, Statista projects that total VoIP traffic will reach 158 petabytes by next year – that is 1 million gigabytes or 1000 terabytes. For comparison, computer weekly notes that in a filing to the US security and exchange commission on February 1, 2012, Facebook reported that it was storing 100 PB of data. So you could say that VoIP users are moving a Facebook and a half plus change every year.
VoIP is no longer a standalone service. When combined with a hosted PBX, it becomes part of a unified communications plan for businesses of all sizes that can include such features as auto attendant, call logs, mobile integration, and Outlook integration. Previously, these enterprise-level services were only available, and economical, for the biggest of big businesses. Providers like Broadconnect USA now offer IP phone systems convenient and cost-effective solutions to small and medium-size businesses as well. These systems are scalable, recoverable, and do not require on-site staff or contractors as the equipment and software is maintained by the provider.
Make the Most of It
Value-added features can enrich the VoIP experience of both client and customer. People use the phone for so much more than just making and receiving phone calls, and communications are no longer limited to a landline connected phone. With mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, the phone and Internet is everywhere we are.
- Video and audio conferencing help you connect whether it’s a face-to-face or a large audio conferencing call.
- Mobile linking to smart phones and tablets allows your staff to use their workplace identity and phone number.
- Voice broadcasting serves many purposes, such as appointment reminders, account collections calls, calls to confirm delivery or receipt, and other services.
- Interactive voice response leads callers through a defined series of steps using prompts to help them self-direct their call.
- Call analytics allow you to see just how your unified communications plan is working for you.
While North America currently leads the globe in VoIP adoption, recent report from Infonetics shows that global adoption of VoIP is rapidly becoming a standard. The global market for VoIP has grown from a low of $2.59 billion to a 2014 level of 4.24 billion. Furthermore the first quarter of 2015 showed usage in Latin America shooting up by 88 percent. Voice Over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) and Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) are also up-and-coming technologies that businesses need to be aware of. Communications are changing rapidly not just from year-to-year, but from quarter to quarter. In 2015 a significant number of providers will either be testing, expanding, or launching these networks in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Though numbers of current subscribers for these technologies are statistically low, the rapid expansion of VoIP should be seen as a benchmark for adoption. By implementing a VoIP and hosted PBX as part of unified communications plan as soon as possible, businesses can have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of these emergent technologies as they come. Present benefits of increased productivity, decreased expenses, and streamlined communications are certainly on everyone’s mind, but being prepared for future developments and being able to adapt to a changing marketplace are easily as important. Getting head of the curve and adapting to changing conditions in the market bodes well for a business’s ability to survive and compete using the best available technology.