Business calls just got easier, cheaper!

There’s good news in the offing for corporates who constantly travel and need to stay in touch with their home and colleagues even while ensconced in distant lands.

There’s good news in the offing for corporates who constantly travel and need to stay in touch with their home and colleagues even while ensconced in distant lands. The voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is here to make their lives easier as it facilitates quicker and much cheaper calls by routing conversations over Internet lines. And among the many areas where it scores over traditional calling is in the matter of flexibility.

Says David Foulcher, regional director, Cincom Systems, India, “As a company providing solution frameworks for call centres, we have seen the impact of VoIP in the Indian outsourcing business.” Concurs Vipin Gupta, business head - FTTH, Sterlite Optical Technologies Ltd, “Staying connected was never the toughest thing to do, but IP telephony has made it so much simpler and cost-effective, with the added element of video telephony. In our daily lives, the applications we use for business and entertainment have evolved from voice to data to video. Today’s lifestyle demands seamless connectivity and we access applications like IP/video telephony, peer-2-peer file sharing, video conferencing, etc via PCs, smart phones etc.”

Frequent travellers can take an IP phone and access their home phone if needed. They can also attach a phone to their laptop and place calls from anywhere in the world while connecting to the Net. VoIP technology, in essence, takes the analog signals from your voice and converts them into digital signals able to travel over the Internet.

Then, at the other end, it converts the digital signal back to the spoken word. Some service providers only allow you to call other users of the same VoIP provider; others allow you to call anyone with a telephone. To break it down, there are three basic types of VoIP service: With an ATA (an analog voice adaptor), which is a box that connects your computer (or your Internet connection) to your telephone for VoIP use.

You can either buy a VoIP-ready phone or an adaptor that connects your phone to your broadband line. You will need to sign up with a VoIP service provider to accomplish this. Usually you will be charged a monthly fee, and typically get all your landline phone calls free.

Or you can purchase a special phone that looks much like an ordinary phone, but offers an ethernet connector. This means you can connect the phone to your router and make IP calls easily from your computer once hooked up. Developers are also currently working on Wi-Fi versions of these phones, which will allow consumers to place calls from anywhere Wi-Fi is available.
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Today, there are many products and services available. Polycom has launched the Polycom Communicator suited for IP telephony services like Skype. The device can also be used for various VoIP services and is not only restricted to Skype. Sify presents SifyTalk, the Internet telephony service, which can be used from the convenience of your home. Sifytalk is an international PC-2-phone prepaid card that offers cost savings of more than 80 per cent as compared to ISD call made from landline or mobile. It uses MPLS technology to provide voice clarity to customers.

A call to the US costs Rs 7.20 per minute from your landline, while from SifyTalk it’s Rs 1.99. Tadiran Telecom has launched SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and IPx Office for the Indian SME segment.

HelloSoft is providing VoIP technology for mobile devices and handsets. It enables mass deployment of low-cost, power-efficient, fully featured multi-mode mobile devices by providing optimised RISC-based VoIP software and hardware. Net 4 has launched the ‘One World’ plan, offering calls to more than 40 countries worldwide in just one rupee! It facilitates voice calls from a PC to phone or mobile globally by using Net4 One World calling card.

Sunil Nikhar, president, Pyxis Systems, says, “The best form of Internet telephony used by many in our company is Skype. When I was in the US recently, while trying to avoid paying for the exorbitant calling rates to India from hotel phones, I tried using Skype on my mobile phone (which had picked up the free wireless connection from nearby office) and it worked. Internet telephony and latest PDAs are surely going to revolutionise the way we keep in touch with the office.”

Moninder Jain, director, South Asia, Logitech, agrees. “Applications like Skype have changed the way I communicate with colleagues. Any member of my team is just a soft dial or instant message away.

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Logitech has launched Skype-certified PC headsets so that users get the true Skype communication experience,” he says. But Skype is not the only provider of Internet phone calls; they are also available with Vonage, BT Google Talk and several others.

Today VoIP is an almost constant topic in our daily dose of business and tech-related news. It is an old technology re-emerging with a new face and marketing spin.
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