There are a lot of misconceptions about “VoIP”. At one time, this was an up and coming buzzword in the telecommunications industry. Today, though, virtually everyone is at least familiar with the term Voice Over Internet, or Voice Over IP. This kind of ubiquitous familiarity, regardless of the subject matter, inevitably leads to misunderstandings and inaccurate assumptions about the topic. This is no different when it comes to VoIP.
When I am speaking with customers or colleagues outside of the Telecom Industry, they often express concerns to me about the reliability of Voice Over IP systems. This is due largely to the fact that they have heard from others that anything that is classified as VoIP has a real chance of compromising the voice quality of phone calls. While there may be circumstances where the quality of a phone call can be compromised, the opinion that this is a common problem in VoIP applications is uninformed.
The assumption people make is that all phone calls on a VoIP system literally travel over the open Internet to their destination. In the case of an in-house VoIP system, in fact, all of the voice traffic is still traveling into and out of the on-premise system using traditional phone carrier services (individual phone lines, PRI, SIP Trunks – a topic for a different blog!). The only true ‘IP’ traffic in such a scenario is between the system and the on-premise IP phones, utilizing the local and secure data network.
When off-premise IP telephones are used on a VoIP system, some introduction to an exterior network is necessary, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the introduction of voice quality problems either. In most cases, yet another traditional carrier service is utilized to extend the local data network to another location so that there is a completely dedicated network existing within, and between, each location. In this case, while the voice traffic does travel between locations, it is not exposed to the open internet.The only scenarios in which voice quality is vulnerable to being compromised are if a secure network over which to send the traffic is not in place…typically this would be seen in hosted services whereby there is no on-premise equipment except for the IP telephones themselves. In this case the IP phones are reliant on the hosting company’s network. While this hosted remote network may in fact be secure, in many cases the access the network is only available over an internet connection.