Packetizer Logo
Understanding VoIP

Hype vs. Reality

VoIP has enjoyed a significant amount of hype in the marketplace. It was initially viewed as a way to get free phone calls over the Internet and has evolved to being viewed as the technology that will replace the legacy PSTN. There have been literally hundreds of companies who have entered the market, the vast majority of which have failed. As with any new technology, there is a certain time required to grow the market and the growth of the VoIP market has been much slower than anticipated.

Even so, VoIP is real, it works, and companies that have been able to "hang in there" are starting to reap the reward. Literally hundreds of thousands of end users and a very large number of enterprise customers are now using VoIP as their primary phone service. Also, while many people do not know, a very large percentage of international phone calls going over IP VoIP networks today.

The work on VoIP is far from over, though. Many experts in the field are still actively working to make improvements on the technology. Over time, it should prove to be an adequate replacement of the traditional voice service provider. Many of them, in fact, have already largely moved voice off of legacy PSTN networks to well-managed IP networks. However, those providers are still quite happy to charge the same high prices to make a phone call around the world. For this reason, efforts continue to ensure that VoIP works well "over-the-top" (OTT), bypassing the traditional service provider and sharing the Internet with all of the other traffic. Some services already work pretty good, as you probably already know if you're reading this article.

With that said, there is still a lot of hype. The technology does not always deliver the same QoS as the PSTN, so customers on networks that are not well-managed may hear distorted or poor quality audio. As a practical matter, nobody today can come to a person's home and help install VoIP service so the customer can use VoIP service on all phones in the house. This may sound like a small matter, but some people simply cannot or will not do the necessary re-wiring in the home. (That said, with the movement to mobile phones, perhaps the "home phone" is about as legacy as the PSTN itself.) One can get good service from the traditional carriers, mobile operators, and cable companies. The OTT providers are improving their services and, depending on the quality of your IP connection and the person you call, the quality might be good enough. It varies right now, but it is improving.