IP Phones - Special Phones for VoIP

What are IP Phones and What Are They Used For?

Snom 300 IP Phone
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There exist a number of phones which are designed specially to be used for VoIP. We normally call them IP phones, or SIP phones. SIP is a standard used for VoIP signaling. These phones very much resemble a normal PSTN/POTS phone, but they are equipped with an internal ATA.

I have made a list of the top IP phones, but I have differentiated between wired and wireless phones (read below for wireless IP phones):

Convenience of IP Phones

Being fully equipped for ready VoIP use, a SIP phone can directly be connected to your phone network, be it a LAN or simply your ADSL Internet router. Unlike simple conventional phones, a SIP phone does not need to be connected to an ATA, since it already has one embedded.

Some IP phone models even come with Ethernet ports, which allow you to plug RJ-45 cables into them for LAN connections. You can connect them to your networked computer or directly into a LAN, which in turn is connected to the Internet through a router.

You have of course RJ-11 ports as well, which allow you to connect directly to an ADSL router working on PSTN line.

The RJ-45 port can even be used to feed the phone with power, such that the phone draws its electricty from the network; thus you don't need to plug it to an electricity outlet.

Types of IP Phones

There are numerous types of IP phones, just like you have numerous types of cell phones.

SIP phones range from those that are simple with basic features to those that are so stuffed that they even support web surfing and videoconferencing.

Whatever be the type of IP phone, all of them should:

  • Support the IP protocol (it's for Voice over IP, right?), which comes as a protocol suite generally called TCP/IP, which is the main protocol suite used over the Internet.
  • Have at least one RJ-45 port, for Ethernet LAN connection.
  • Have a keypad for dialing numbers.
  • Have an ATA. Those IP phones that do not have an internal ATA are normally called IP-enabled phones.

Some SIP phones come with multiple RJ-45 ports and contain an embedded switch/hub, which can be used to connect Ethernet devices (computers or other phones) over the network. Thus, a SIP phone can be used to connect another SIP phone.

Wireless IP Phones

Wireless IP phones are getting more and more popular with the advent of wireless networks. A wireless IP phone contains a Wi-Fi adapter that allows it to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

Wireless IP phones are slightly more expensive than wired IP phones, but they are better investments.

Top 5 Wireless IP Phones

IP Phone Features

IP phones have many features which make them very interesting machines. Some of them even have color screens for webconferencing and web surfing. Read more on IP phone features here.

The Price of IP Phones

VoIP phones are quite expensive, with prices starting at $150 for good phones. The cost of the VoIP phone is its main drawback, and this explains why it is not so common. You are more likely to find these phones in corporate environments, which have VoIP service running in-house.

The price gets higher as the phones get more sophisticated. The price also depends on the quality and the brand.

What explains the high cost of SIP phones?

There is an ATA inside. That’s one reason, but even with this, mass production could considerably lower the price.

Well, the answer lies in production quantity. Mass production decreases price. Since VoIP still has some way to go before being adopted in ‘mass’; and also since many people prefer get some more juice out of their normal POTS phone, VoIP phones are still at the niche stage, both in manufacturing and use.

There is no doubt that in the future, when people will be adopting VoIP phones in mass, the cost of production will drop drastically, thus reducing the market price.

You will recall this same phenomenon for the PC and mobile phone industries.

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