Gone are the days of the legendary telephone landline systems when folks had to be connected to physical telephone lines.

We now live in the digital age. Wires are no longer needed, and the internet is driving the integration of communication technologies on a level never seen before.

Voice communication is one of the hottest areas where integration is happening. Phone services are migrating to the internet, and service providers are making voice applications for devices of every ilk, including laptops.

Today, you can make calls from your laptop or desktop PC, all thanks to VoIP technologies.

What is VoIP?

VoIP is a short form for “Voice over Internet Protocol,” which simply means an internet-based phone system. VoIP phone systems are designed to use the internet as a medium for transmitting voice signals. This means you can use just about any internet-enabled device to access VoIP services.

An illustration of VoIP architecture (photo credit: Thabet Slimani via Researchgate)

Using VoIP on your laptop

VoIP systems come in all shapes and sizes. Some require special hardware while others work well on standard devices without the need for any unusual add-ons.

This article focuses on VoIP solutions that you can use on your laptop without special equipment.

VoIP transmits calls through the internet (Photo: Adapted from Wikimedia commons)

Requirements

Internet

Since VoIP calls are transmitted through the internet, you will need a stable internet connection. The recommended internet speed depends on the number of concurrent calls that you wish to make as well as your internet usage needs.

The minimum required bandwidth for one call is 100Kbps (uplink and downlink). This translates to a speed of 3MBps, at least. You can test your internet speed with online tools like www.speedtest.net.

Laptop

Any type of laptop is good. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Chromebook, MacBook, Ultrabook, or 2-in-1. Desktops will also do the job.

Headset

Your laptop may have a built-in mic and speakers, but these are not exactly suitable for phone calls. Besides, you don’t want to entertain everyone in the room. So get yourself a headset.

A headset mimics the functionality of a telephone handset by offering privacy and clarity of voice. An added bonus is, you can use it and still have your hands free during the entire conversation.

Softphone Application

This is where VoIP comes in. A softphone is an app that allows you to place and receive calls over the internet. You can view it as a virtual phone that substitutes an actual telephone set.

Softphone applications are designed to work like traditional phones. Some softphones use interfaces with a display panel that looks exactly like that of an ordinary phone.

An example of a simple softphone interface (photo credit: laptopanalyst)

There are hundreds if not thousands of free VoIP softphone apps on the web for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android users.  You’ve probably used some of the most popular ones (Google Voice, Viber, Discord, Skype, and Facebook Messenger). Other free options include MicroSIP, Linphone, Mumble, and Teamtalk.

While free softphones are effective and generally offer sufficient telephone features, paid VoIP solutions such as Vonage and ooVoo provide more augmented features to enhance productivity and security.

Most VoIP services come with features that your phone company charges you extra for, including Caller ID, Call waiting, Call transfer, Repeat dial, Return call, and Three-way calling.

Why use a VoIP on your laptop?

One major advantage of VoIP phone systems is their low cost. Free softphones won’t cost you a dime, and even if you choose the paid option, you will incur fewer costs on call charges and recurring expenses.

Another upside is the added accessibility. As the world becomes more connected through the internet, you can be sure to place or receive calls from anywhere with your laptop. All you need is a decent data connection. In the event of an internet outage, you could direct calls to another phone number or have voicemails sent to you.

VoIP phone systems that support multitasking can allow you to share images, documents, and videos while conversing. This opens a range of opportunities for freelancers and business people who want to stay updated about ongoing projects.

A greater share of advantages and disadvantages of VoIP hangs on the quality of your internet connection and your VoIP service. Fast internet connections mean clearer voice quality. Services with more advanced features mean better flexibility and so forth.

Author: Victor Wachanga

A technophile who appreciates the value of technology.

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