Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is a fairly recent development in phoning and thus in audio conference call services. Audio conferencing by VoIP works very much like a standard conference call using the common everyday analog phone. In the conference call the participants connect to a server referred to as a conference bridge that lets many people talk to each other. This happens with VoIP as well. The options of these conference services, however, are two – connection by phone or by computer.
The main difference between conference calls automated or manual made by standard analog phone or VoIP is the method and means of moving the call data from one point to another. Analog phones use circuit switches. For circuit switched conferencing services, the phone system routes the calls by way of a series of switches that are interconnected until it reaches the system’s conference bridge. This conference bridge then connects each participant’s call to all the others. If all the participants are in the same building, their calls connect to the conference bridge by way of a private branch exchange (PBX).
A PBX is simply a small version phone network dedicated to that office. No matter where the calls are connected – from one room in the office to another in the same office, from the UK to Paraguay, or whatever – the connections are open as long as the conference call continues.
Circuit switching is not used by a VoIP conference services network, however. The alternative, packet switching, is used instead. Unlike circuit switching the connection is open briefly as needed – long enough to transmit a packet (a tiny chunk of data) from one system to the next. Rather than the traditional analog path of travel from switch to switch the VoIP data travels by way of the Internet, along the most efficient path.
Conference call services and capabilities may come built into your VoIP network. If not, you can have them installed as an upgrade to your service. If your firm uses a VoIP not just for its conference services but for its telephones in general, calls form outside the firm can usually still connect by conference bridging. Lines coming in from outside might connect direct to the server of this bridge, or could reach the server by way of your VoIP network.
VoIP, is best described as taking the standard analog phone signal and converting it into digital data so it can be transmitted via the Web and then converted back to analog once it reaches the recipient’s phone. With conference services it completes this process to many recipients simultaneously.
This is a very handy and cost effective conference service, as you can often take your high speed Internet connection and turn it into a source for free phone calls or conference service. Sometimes this is free for calls internationally – say if you wanted to call the UK and were in the US, though most times international calls by VoIP still incur a charge. The charge, however, is considerably less than the standard long distance phone carrier fee.
With VoIP you can bypass the use of a standard phone and its regulatory fees, monthly charges and taxes. Add on to that the considerably conference service savings and you have one cost effective conference and remote communication service.