Skype and Internet Telephony
Skype is a internet telephony network that allows people to call through the internet instead of traditional phone network by combining VoIP(Voice over IP) technology and P2P technology.
The Technology behind: VoIP
Before going into Detail of Skype, let us look at the technology behind VoIP.
Technically speaking, VoIP means ?transferring sound over IP based network?, which really doesn?t sound that complicated.
Unlike traditional telephony that directly transfer uncompressed raw sound data through phone-lines, VoIP compresses the sound data into little data packets, transfer them through the internet or IP network, and decompresses the packages and piece them back into sound.
In other words, VoIP is a technology that allows users to unify all their data transfer, including telephony, all into one network. This is why originally it was developed for corporations to communicate within their own network because it cuts the cost of using a phone service. However, it was not until High-Speed internet became popular that VoIP became possible and practical for individual users.
Skype is one of the many service providers of VoIP launched in 2003, co-founded by Niklas Zennstr?m and Janus Friis. Zennstr?m is also the creator and CEO of KaZaA, a popular P2P file sharing software client.
Unlike most other IP phone service before Skype which requires expensive IP phones or other hardware, Skype brings it onto the computers and makes it free for subscribers. The innovation immediately crabbed attention, and Skype?s brand became the most popular VoIP service out there.
- Skype: It works in similar ways as most chatwares such as MSN or AIM. You can chat with text, voice, and there is also the new video chat. As long as users has high-speed internet, the program, a microphone and a speaker, they can use Skype for voice chat. What makes it superior to services like MSN is that since it uses P2P, its connection speed does not rely on a single server, which means les lags and better speed and sound quality. Calling people on another computer using Skype is free.
- Skype Email Toolbar: It detects your outlook contacts so you can directly click and call from your outlook.
- Skype Web Toolbar: It detects phone numbers on web pages so you can click on the number and call using Skype immediately.
Low fee: Intermediate
- SkypeOut: Users can also call from a Skype equipped computer to a regular phone with relatively low fee. The difference in price became extremely large especially when it comes to international calls. This is probably the biggest advantage of Skype service.
- Skype Voicemail: It allows Skype users to send voice messages to other users.
- SkypeIn: If users want a regular phone number, or to receive calls from a regular phone, they will need SkypeIn. It is still in Beta testing phase and each number is 30Euro/year or 10 Euro/3 months. The cool thing about this service is that users can have a phone number in LA while they are in NY, and have their LA friend call the number in LA so they can pay less. Skype Voicemail comes free with this service.
Good things about Skype:
- Calling among subscribers through their PC is free.
- Users can connect from anywhere and use it.
- Through using P2P net work, Skype is able to achieve decent connection and voice quality. This is the primary advantage of Skype over other chat-ware when doing PC to PC calling.
- Skype out is really cheap for international calls to many countries.
- The service can be used with cell phone with SkypeOut fee. (i.e. transfer calls from Skype to Cell)
- The area code associated with your Skype number no longer needs to be location specific. You can have a phone number in LA and be in NY when using it.
Problems with Skype:
- VoIP has to compress sound information into bits of data, send them through internet, piece the data back together, and uncompress them into sound again. If any pieces gets lost in the middle, the sound may get lost completely.
- The service is usually outbound. For receiving calls from a regular phone (skypein) users are required to have a monthly subscription. It mat not be cheaper for the caller side either.
- when using Skype, users? bandwidth may also be used to transfer other people?s information.
- no emergency calls are allowed yet, and it does not work during power outage. (So don?t cancel your regular phones yet?)
- IP phones that do not go through a PC are SUPER expensive. They are usually over 0 because they are basically a mini PC that connects to the internet and runs Skype or whatever dedicated programs provided.
- Security is a problem. The reason VoIP were used primarily within corporation through VPN network is that that VoIP through unsecured internet makes it easier to hack into people?s conversation.
- It does not work without high-speed internet. Users? connection quality may dictate their sound quality.
- There is no guaranty that users are always around free wireless internet or Skype friendly hotspots while traveling. As a result, it makes Skype a lot less mobile compare to mobile phones.
Skype can be very useful when used certain ways. However, most of its service so far seems like they can easily be substituted by other similar services such as cell phone, phone cards or traditional phone lines.
The fact that it relies heavily on the development of internet technology also limits its spread through developing countries without effective high-speed or wireless internet.
It also still seem like Skype is not transferring smoothly to other phone services in many ways. Unless they figure out how to solve these problems, it will be hard for it to replace traditional and cell phone market.
Explanations for the Newest IT Terms. Chapter 16 VoIP(voice over IP). 22 November 2001.
Wikipedia. Skype. Skype>(24 January 2006)
Skype-The whole world can talk for free. 2002