What is a wireless VoIP network, and how can it help your business?
For the VoIP user, it’s just like making a regular phone call. VoIP access is much cheaper than traditional phone plans because VoIP service providers are using the existing infrastructure of the internet – they don’t have to build or maintain their own network of lines and towers.
A wireless VoIP network simply uses WiFi to access the internet. It’s a lot like setting up a wireless network in your house that you’d use with your laptop. In fact, companies like Cisco and Netgear that make networking devices for home networks also make VoIP devices. You might even be able to use your existing WiFi as your wireless VoIP network, depending on what you plan to use it for.
The primary advantage of a wireless VoIP network is cost. Home users can save $50 or more on their phone bill by switching to VoIP. If you imagine that savings multiplied by dozens or hundreds of workers, it’s easy to see why many large businesses have set up their own wireless VoIP networks. The United States Social Security Administration uses VoIP in their field offices, making it one of the largest VoIP networks in the world.
Here’s what a typical business implementation of a wireless VoIP network might look like: the company has a broadband internet connection, which they already use to allow employees to connect to the internet (and to allow customers to connect to the company web site, if the company servers are kept onsite). The routers that are part of the company’s LAN (local area network) connect to one or more WiFi access points, which employees can use to access the internet with laptops and other wireless devices. Each employee also has a VoIP phone which uses the WiFi access points to access the VoIP provider and make phone calls. If an employee has a smart phone, like an iPhone or an Android device, an app installed to the smartphone will also allow access to the VoIP network.
Wireless VoIP is not entirely without drawbacks. VoIP is vulnerable to packet loss. Internet communications involve splitting data into packets which take a variety of routes to reach the destination. Sometimes the packets get lost, but communication protocols can detect this and resend them. Packets also might reach the destination out of order. This is no big deal for an email, because the receiving node just reassembles the packets once they all arrive.
For real-time communications, such as VoIP, lost or late packets can degrade the quality of the signal, resulting in drop-outs or lag. However, the human ear is well adept at filling in the gaps so don’t mistake this as a major issue.
If you’re researching VoIP for your business, you might have heard the term QoS, or Quality of Service. QoS basically means, “What is being done to mitigate packet loss and keep my VoIP calls reliable and clear?” QoS measures are taken by the devices on the network – both the VoIP phones and by routers and WiFi access points. Remember earlier, when we said that you might be able to use your existing WiFi for VoIP? The typical home user can probably get away with it. A business with more than a handful of employees needs some QoS help. Luckily, that help is built into newer wireless routers and access points from companies like Cisco and Ruckus that are designed for use with wireless VoIP networks.
There are also security issues involved with wireless VoIP networks. Frankly, these issues are no greater than those with typical cell phone service or with wireless data networks. There are several layers and types of security available, and again, these are built into newer wireless devices designed for use with wireless VoIP. Unless you have extreme sensitive security requirements, the authentication and encryption protocols used in today’s VoIP-optimized routers and access points will keep your data and your voice calls safe and secure.
If your business is looking for a flexible, scalable system that will help you trim huge chunks out of your yearly communications costs, a wireless VoIP network is definitely worth exploring.