How is VoIP Different from Regular Telephone Service?

Posted on: 2016-04-27 | Categories: VoIP Services

Voice communication has been moving away from the PSTN and towards VoIP for a while now. In fact even though many consumers don’t realize it, they may already be using VoIP as most of the major carriers are upgrading their infrastructure. Both consumer and enterprise VoIP have been seeing exponential growth and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

However the average person may not really understand the difference between VoIP and regular phone service. Since VoIP is set to become the standard for voice calls, it is useful for everyone to understand what VoIP is and why it popular. Consumer and enterprise VoIP differ when it comes to pricing, breadth of features and business model but utilize the same underlying technology. So if you’re asking yourself “How is VoIP different from regular telephone systems”, read on!

What Hasn’t Changed?

Before we look at how VoIP has revolutionized voice communication, it should be understood that some things about making a phone call have not changed. For instance, the experience of making a call remains the same – you pick up the phone and dial a number. The same goes for receiving the call – the phone rings and you pick up the receiver (or press the talk icon if you’re on a smartphone). Behind the scenes however, a lot of things are considerably different.

Many of the features that we take for granted on landlines still work on VoIP. Voicemail, putting someone on hold, forwarding calls to an alternate number and IVR systems are all available on VoIP. Even though quite a few people are not aware of it, even faxing is possible on VoIP systems. Nevertheless the way these features are implemented, configured and modified has changed considerably.

The Differences Between VoIP and Regular Phone Service

Underlying Technology – Circuits and Packets

VoIP is not just an upgrade from regular voice calls, it utilizes completely different technology to send you voice across to the other person. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and it describes quite accurately how it works.

Normally voice calls travel through copper lines over the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). The PSTN utilizes circuit switching technology to accomplish this task. VoIP on the other hand, routes voice calls over data networks such as the Internet or internal enterprise LANs. To do this, VoIP uses packet switching technology – the same principle underlying all forms of communication on the Internet.


When a call is made over the regular landline, circuits are opened from the location of the caller up to the other person. The entire circuit has to be kept open for the duration of the call, which is part of the reason why long-distance calls are more expensive. The more distance a call has to travel, the more number of circuits have to be opened and held up since no other call can travel the same route.

With VoIP, the human voice is converted into data packets and these packets are then sent to their destination. These packets don’t have to travel together and in fact, quite often take different routes to get there. They are then assembled back in the right order and converted into sound at the other end.

Additionally there is no separate infrastructure required for VoIP, it utilizes the existing broadband are Internet connections that are already available. This allows VoIP operators to charge only a fraction of the price when compared to telephone carriers.

The Distinction Between Consumer and Business Lines

Generally speaking, business and consumer lines have very clear distinctions. It is too expensive for an individual household to purchase or lease a business line. Suppose you work from home as a freelancer or run your small business from your garage. Even though you need certain business features to present a professional image to clients, the cost would have ensured that they remained out of reach.

VoIP erases this distinction or at least makes business features more affordable to small businesses and entrepreneurs. In many cases, the only difference between consumer and enterprise VoIP service is the price or portfolio of features offered. There are quite a few vendors who cater exclusively to small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups and contractors by offering an optimal mix of business grade features at affordable prices.

Power and Internet Requirements

One of the biggest advantages of regular phone service is that the instruments do not require an external power source. Even if the power and Internet is knocked out, the phones will still work which can be invaluable during a disaster or emergency. Contrary to the above, VoIP requires both power and an Internet connection to make or receive calls.

Silo Versus Interoperability

Landlines existed for a long time as a silo, separated from other digital services like email or instant messaging. In the early days of the Internet, this was not so much of a problem but over time online connectivity or rather cloud technology has become an integral part of workflows. It meant that phone calls remained outside the new Internet and app ecosystem. VoIP bridges this divide by bringing phone calls to the same network as other forms of communication such as video, email, instant messaging, file transfer etc. Hosted VoIP systems are now integrated with many enterprise applications to enable easy data transfer and more efficient processes.

Calling from any device

With the landline, users were pretty much restricted to use a single instrument that was fixed at a particular location. The phone number was attached to the physical location (through area codes) rather than the user. VoIP does things differently. Any phone number that you purchase is assigned to you and can be used to make calls from any compatible device. It means any device – desk phone, computer, mobile phone, tablets – can be used to make or receive calls.

Since the number is not tied to a physical location, you can take it with you if you are moving or traveling. It is a particularly useful feature for enterprises is there is no need to wait for a technician to physically transfer lines from one place to another. As long as the network has Internet access, calls can be made from any device.