How did it develop?
Without the Internet, VoIP rather obviously would not exist. Therefore the history begins in 1989, when British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web whilst working at the CERN laboratory. He was working on a way of enabling scientists around the globe to share information.
In 1993, CERN released its World Wide Web software into the public domain and the Internet as we know it was born.
Following the invention of the Internet, there was an increased focus as to how it could improve other forms of communication. Once it was established that voice “data packets” could feasibly be sent from one IP address to another across the Internet, the idea of internet calls became possible. It was initially seen as a way to get around the often prohibitive call-charges associated with long distance calls.
The first business to enter the VoIP market was a company called VocalTec. In 1995, it released the first widely available Internet phone, allowing one Internet user to call another utilising the speakers and a microphone found on almost all PCs at the time. In 1996, VocalTec released its new Internet phone software in partnership with Microsoft NetMeeting, subsequently expanding its offerings in 1998 by creating computer-to-telephone capacities for VoIP.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a significant growth in the use of VoIP; indeed by 2003, VoIP calls made up 25 percent of all voice calls.
The increase in availability and improvements to the speed of broadband in the early part of this century meant that internet call quality improved significantly, and connectivity was far more reliable. This extra speed meant that users could now write documents, browse the Internet, or even play games at the same time as they made calls.
2003 saw the launch of Skype’s beta software. This was a significant moment, as it allowed its users to make computer voice calls (as well as use its own instant messaging service) completely free of charge. In 2005, Skype introduced video chat into its software.
The past decade has seen VoIP continue to grow in importance and capability. Businesses use VoIP to reduce traditional telephony costs and to conduct teleconferences with people dialling in from across the globe. Meetings can now be held online (thus minimising travel costs and commuting time).
There are an increasing number of VoIP specialists such as IDT offering bespoke solutions and voice termination services. IDT is the only carrier that offers a unique mix of wholesale and retail and also delivers several messaging and payment services.
Why is VoIP so popular?
The principal reason behind the popularity of VoIP is cost. Calls from computer-to-computer over the Internet are free, and calls from computer-to-phone are far cheaper than traditional calls. VoIP also means that both voice and data communications can use the same network.