How Does an IP Phone Work?

Undaunted by competition from services such as Skype, the IP phone market keeps growing. Over 20 million desktop IP phones ship each year, a number that will continue to climb over the next decade, Frost & Sullivan data shows. Growth projections are highest for IP phones in the cloud/communications space, which accounted for 22 percent of desktop IP phone shipments in 2014 but will account for 55 percent by 2021. Shipments of IP media phones that support video chat, estimated at 1.5 million phones in 2014, will quadruple over the same period. Demand for IP phones is on the rise because of the important advantages they confer over other communication alternatives. Here’s a closer look at how these devices work and why they’re so popular:

What Are IP Phones?

IP phones are VoIP communication devices that combine traditional phone hardware devices with the ability to send voice signals over the internet. IP phones can be contrasted with traditional landline phones and mobile phones on the one hand and VoIP software services on the other.

Traditional phones communicate using landline wires. Most mobile phones communicate using cellular networks, which are made up of geographical areas called cells consisting of territories covered by radio station signals. In contrast to these options, IP phones send signals over the internet.

In sending signals over the internet, IP phones are similar to “softphone” VoIP services such as Skype which let you send voice or video signals over the internet. But whereas softphone services are software services not specific to any particular hardware device, IP phones include hardware modeled after traditional and mobile phones.

How IP Phones Work

IP phones work by translating analog voice signals into digital data packets that can be sent over the internet. These packets are transmitted the same way as any other data sent over the internet, such as emails, texts, images, or videos. This enables you to use an IP phone from anywhere you can establish an Internet connection. For instance, IP phones with Wi-Fi capability let you talk using any Wi-Fi hotspot. You can talk to other IP phones as well as to traditional landline phones, cell phones and VoIP-connected devices. Since IP phones use the internet, you can use them to send video chat signals as well as voice signals.

Types of IP Phones

IP phones come in a few major varieties, parallel to the different types of hardware available for other phones. Most IP business phones are desktop units that resemble traditional landline phones, with a handset, a cradle, and buttons. An increasing number of IP phones are modeled after cellphones and resemble smartphones. Traditional phones can also be converted into IP phones by using an analog telephone adapter (ATA).

IP phones can connect to the internet in different ways. Some use a USB connection. Others use a Power over Ethernet (PoE) connection. IP phones that support Wi-Fi can use a Wi-Fi connection.

Most IP phones are geared toward voice calls. However, many newer IP phones have larger screens to support video chat calls as well.

Benefits of IP Phones

IP phones have become popular because they confer a number of distinct advantages over traditional landline phones and cell phones. The most significant is cost. For instance, businesses that use IP phone networks instead of traditional PBX call routing hardware can save as much as 30 percent on their monthly phone bills, according to Vonage.

IP phones also simplify your communications services and billing. Instead of using separate Internet and phone services, you can handle everything over the internet. You can even make video calls using the same service, providing truly unified communications.

Another major advantage of IP phones is flexibility. You can use IP phones to make a call from anywhere with an internet connection. And your number stays the same no matter where you call from. With all these benefits, it’s not surprising that many consumers and businesses are adopting IP phones.

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