A major development starting in 2004 has been the introduction of mass-market VoIP services over broadband Internet access services, in which subscribers make and receive calls as they would over the PSTN. This requires an analog telephone adapter (ATA) to connect a telephone to the broadband Internet connection. Full phone service VoIP phone companies provide inbound and outbound calling with Direct Inbound Dialing. Many offer unlimited calling to the U.S., and sometimes to Canada or to selected countries in Europe or Asia, for a flat monthly fee. One advantage of this is the ability to make and receive calls as one would at home, anywhere in the world, at no extra cost. As calls go via IP, this does not incur charges as call diversion does via the PSTN, and the called party does not have to pay for the call.
For example, somebody may call someone on a number with a U.S. area code, but one could be in London, and if someone were to call another number with that area code, it would be treated as a local call, regardless of where that person is in the world. However, the broadband phone is likely to complement, rather than replace a PSTN line, as it still needs a power supply, while calling the U.S. emergency services number 911, may not automatically be routed to the nearest local emergency dispatch center, and would be of no use for subscribers outside the U.S.
Another challenge for these services is the proper handling of outgoing calls from fax machines, TiVo/ReplayTV boxes, satellite television receivers, alarm systems, conventional modems or FAXmodems, and other similar devices that depend on access to a voice-grade telephone line for some or all of their functionality. At present, these types of calls sometimes go through without any problems, but in other cases they will not go through at all. And in some cases, this equipment can be made to work over a VoIP connection if the sending speed can be changed to a lower bits per second rate. If VoIP and cellular substitution becomes very popular, some ancillary equipment makers may be forced to redesign equipment, because it would no longer be possible to assume a conventional voice-grade telephone line would be available in almost all homes in North America and Western-Europe. The TestYourVoIP website offers a free service to test the quality of or diagnose an Internet connection by placing simulated VoIP calls from any Java-enabled Web browser, or from any phone or VoIP device capable of calling the PSTN network.
Corporate and telco use
Although few office environments and even fewer homes use a pure VoIP infrastructure, telecommunications providers routinely use IP telephony, often over a dedicated IP network, to connect switching stations, converting voice signals to IP packets and back. The result is a data-abstracted digital network which the provider can easily upgrade and use for multiple purposes.
Corporate customer telephone support often use IP telephony exclusively to take advantage of the data abstraction. The benefit of using this technology is the need for only one class of circuit connection and better bandwidth use. Companies can acquire their own gateways to eliminate third-party costs, which is worthwhile in some situations.
VoIP is widely employed by carriers, especially for international telephone calls. It is commonly used to route traffic starting and ending at conventional PSTN telephones.
Many telecommunications companies are looking at the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) which will merge Internet technologies with the mobile world, using a pure VoIP infrastructure. It will enable them to upgrade their existing systems while embracing Internet technologies such as the Web, email, instant messaging, presence, and video conferencing. It will also allow existing VoIP systems to interface with the conventional PSTN and mobile phones.
Electronic Numbering (Enum) uses standard phone numbers (E.164), but allows connections entirely over the Internet. If the other party uses Enum, the only expense is the Internet connection.
Use in Amateur Radio
Amateur radio has adopted VoIP by linking repeaters and users with Echolink, IRLP, Dstar and EQSO. Echolink and IRLP are programs/systems based upon the Speak Freely VoIP open source software. In fact, Echolink allows users to connect to repeaters via their computer (over the internet) rather than by using a radio. By using VoIP Amateur Radio operators are able to create large repeater networks with repeaters all over the world where operators can access the system with actual ham radios.
Ham Radio operators using radios are able to tune to repeaters with VoIP capabilities and use DTMF buttons to command the repeater to connect to various other repeaters, thus allowing them to talk to people all around the world, however powerful their radio.