Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) plays a fundamental role in the lives of many individuals and business owners globally and has seen a wide-ranging implementation. Experts agree that it represents both a revolution and an evolution, and independent communication architect Daniel Berninger states: “The VoIP insurrection over the last decade marks a milestone in communication history no less dramatic than the arrival of the telephone in 1876”. Currently, VoIP technology is shaping services and applications to include trends such as Video Conferencing as a Service (VCaaS), Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS), and Unified Communications as a Service UCaaS.
VoIP includes features more than just ‘voice’ in a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) or a signalling protocol used for initiating, maintaining, and terminating real-time sessions. It allows access to video, content, and other forms of crucial data in a rapidly changing communication environment. Although VoIP is part of the contemporary digital age, its origins go back much further.
A brief journey of VoIP’s evolution
Two entrepreneurs and the founders of VocalTec, Lior Haramaty and Alon Cohen, capitalised on the potential of packet voice technology they witnessed as members of the Israel Defense Force. Although most military command and control used TCP/IP distributed data networks since the 1980s to transport voice over the networks, the idea of the commercialising of packet voice did not occur to anyone before Haramaty and Cohen released the first Internet phone in February 1995. It was released to the public in 1996.
Despite VoIP being an incomparable approach to access future communication technology, it was still dependent on an Internet connection that needed access to traditional PSTN networks. Since dial-up lines were designed for rich data connections available through VoIP, the transmission of data alongside voice was impossible and thus ‘voice’ was the only option.
With the introduction of line-free connectivity when broadband arrived on the market, subscriptions to VoIP increased and paved the way for further innovations in communications technology. In 2003, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom purchased Kazaa, and developed the technology for the creation of the peer-to-peer telephony application Skype. It was sold to eBay in 2005 and Microsoft acquired it for $8.5 billion in May 2011. Skype has had an enormous impact on the communications industry in terms of affordable connections and improved call quality.