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VoIP (voice over IP - that is, voice delivered using the Internet Protocol) is a term used in IP telephony for a set of facilities for managing the delivery of voice information using the Internet Protocol (IP). In general, this means sending voice information in digital form in discrete packets rather than in the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). A major advantage of VoIP and Internet telephony is that it avoids the tolls charged by ordinary telephone service.
VoIP, now used somewhat generally, derives from the VoIP Forum, an effort by major equipment providers, including Cisco, VocalTec, 3Com, and Netspeak to promote the use of ITU-T H.323, the standard for sending voice (audio) and video using IP on the public Internet and within an intranet. The Forum also promotes the user of directory service standards so that users can locate other users and the use of touch-tone signals for automatic call distribution and voice mail.
In addition to IP, VoIP uses the real-time protocol (RTP) to help ensure that packets get delivered in a timely way. Using public networks, it is currently difficult to guarantee Quality of Service (QoS). Better service is possible with private networks managed by an enterprise or by an Internet telephony service provider (ITSP).
A technique used by at least one equipment manufacturer, Adir Technologies (formerly Netspeak), to help ensure faster packet delivery is to use ping to contact all possible network gateway computers that have access to the public network and choose the fastest path before establishing a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) sockets connection with the other end.
Using VoIP, an enterprise positions a "VoIP device" at a gateway. The gateway receives packetized voice transmissions from users within the company and then routes them to other parts of its intranet (local area or wide area network) or, using a T-carrier system or E-carrier interface, sends them over the public switched telephone network.