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VoIP and PSTN integration

Updated on January 6, 2011

Integration Issues with VoIP

As an Internet service, VoIP brings a whole new paradigm to the concept of phone communications. For decades now, phone calls have been charged on the basis of how long a call is in progress with varying rules from country to country and from provider to provider. In the US for example, both incoming and outgoing calls are charged which is not the standard in any other part of the world.

With VoIP however, there is an entirely new way of going about things. The Internet has changed the way people communicate. Take email for example. It's almost free even when you're using a paid service. And if you're on a service like Gmail or Yahoo!, it's entirely free. Even services such as Youtube which transfer massive quantities of video every day are free to use.

VoIP too can be free in many cases when you're calling someone within the same network. Skype to Skype calls and Gtalk to Gtalk calls for example are free. The problem is integration between services and this applies to PSTN lines as well. The service is useless as a serious communication platform unless it can interoperate with regular phone lines because most people use them. Below, we look at some of the Integration issues that persist with VoIP and PSTN and how this is limiting growth in the business VoIP phone solutions segment.

Business VoIP Phone Solutions
Business VoIP Phone Solutions

PSTN and VoIP Integration

We can of course, use VoIP gateways to make calls to the PSTN network and this works as well as it can. But what if you need to make a call to a person who's using a VoIP provider other than your own? Will the call travel over the PSTN network even though it doesn't need to? The answer - sadly - is yes. And the reason for this is the telephone number.

As of now, the telephone number is the most prevalent way of identifying another person on the network. When you get a VoIP service through a provider, you too will have a telephone number which your provider leases from the telcos. Only your VoIP provider knows that your phone number is VoIP based. So if anyone using the same provider dials your number, they will direct the call to you through their VoIP proxy server systems.

But when a person on another network dials it, they will have to route it over the PSTN system since their provider has no idea whether or not it's a regular number or a VoIP one. This increases the cost for the call since the carriers have to be paid and also many features such as HD voice for example are disabled since the PSTN lines are a bottleneck.

This isn't going to change anytime soon. The only solution is to stop using telephone numbers and start using the real SIP address of the person you wish to call - something like abc@xyz.com, but that's a long way off.

Till that time, VoIP service even between two providers will be crippled and we're all paying the price for our inertia.

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