IP Telephony – A Brief History of Its Technical Evolution

IP telephony (Internet Protocol telephony) uses the internet to deliver calls as packets of data on shared lines. Also know as VOIP it is the real-time transmission of voice signals over the internet or private data network.

Currently IP telephony is relatively unregulated by the government, unlike traditional telephony services.

The evolution of IP telephony is heavily reliant upon two fundamental technologies, the first and most commonly known being the telephone. The second is the internet. Internet Protocol (IP) was invented in 1972 by Dr. Vint Cerf. The evolution of IP telephony is known to fall across several stages. In 1995 a small Israel based company introduced VOIP. The company known as Vocaltec, Inc. developed a product called InternetPhone. This revolutionary product allowed a user to make a call with the use of a computer, a set of speakers and a microphone. The software and equipment would be required by both the caller and the recipient for this service to work successfully.

1998 was a big year for the development and introduction of IP telephony. A group of entrepreneurs started to market IP telephony services during this time. The solutions/products that they were offering were PC-to-phone and phone-to-phone, unlike the earlier PC to PC set up. IP telephony was now being integrated into the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

The phone calls themselves were marketed as being ‘free’ nation-wide long distance calls, so for many companies and users this was a very economical way to make long-distance international calls. At the very beginning of these calls, the caller would have to listen to a series of advertisements before the call was connected. The hardware required for IP telephony was also introduced in 1998. Three IP Switch manufacturers were involved with this and introduced VOIP switching software as a standard service within their routing equipment. Despite 1998 being a huge year for the evolution of IP telephony, VOIP calls had not yet totalled as much as 1% of all voice calls. This figure had risen to 3% by the year 2000 and by 2003 that figure had risen again, this time considerably to 25%. The use of IP services continues to grow within the call centre industry, mainly due to its flexibility and the low costs involved to make outbound calls.

IP telephony was built upon two foundation blocks, the telephone and the internet. It took over 40 years for both the telecommunications industry and the computing industry to develop the VOIP service. This technology has been brought to the forefront of communications by the freedom and flexibility of the internet.

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