It took surprisingly long for it to catch on but people now recognize the benefits of being able to talk to friends and relatives over the Internet rather than over conventional phone lines. For one it is cheaper. Broadband connections are always on and even where there are data limits, the amount of data required for a voice call over the Internet will have little effect on these limits. This is opposed to standard phone call billing methods where phone calls are charged on a per–minute basis and by distance between exchanges. Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP as it is commonly referred to as, allows users to talk for as long as they like to anyone anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection available.
While it has yet to completely replace the traditional hard-line phone, VoIP is a significant part of most people’s communications toolkit. Another major part of that toolkit for most people is their mobile phone. The cellular phone has done more to replace the landline phone than Internet voice calling. And now that most users’ mobile communications device is a smartphone with Internet capability, it would seem logical that mobile VoIP would become the new norm.
However, mobile VoIP is a more difficult proposition than simply combining cellular phone signals with standard VoIP functionality. Because mobile Internet data is transmitted via radio waves they are obviously not as consistent as a hard-line broadband connection. This is not a problem for downloading emails, watching videos or streaming music. Data comes into the smartphone in bits which are compiled locally. If there is a disruption in the connection it just takes a little longer before the email can be read. Similarly with streaming video and music files, the program can simply increase the size of the buffer in order to provide continuous playback. Even if there is a drop in connection long enough to use up the buffer, all that happens is that the video or music track pauses momentarily. With mobile VoIP this is not an acceptable solution. First of all a buffer is not applicable when someone is speaking live on the other end of the phone. If an Internet connection cuts out during a mobile VoIP call then the call is interrupted or dropped. If the connection weakens, then the clarity of the call can be severely affected, not ideal if the call is for something important like a job interview.
4G LTE coverage promising broadband-quality mobile connections is on the way and it will bring with it high fidelity mobile VoIP capability. But it is still a while before LTE will offer the same level of coverage as current circuit switched cell phone connections. In the meantime, there is a solution that takes advantage of the LTE coverage that is currently available and combines it with the patchwork of wireless internet signals available in and around most cities and towns, supplementing it with conventional CS networks where no Internet connection is available. Voice call continuity (VCC) services provide an intelligent mobile VoIP solution that can hand off voice calls between different IP networks and circuit-switched cellular networks seamlessly.