Cell phones and VoIP phones

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Cell Phones and VoIP Phones

There’s been some interesting news surrounding cell phones and VoIP phones lately.  As the two technologies find more common ground, the distinction that so long kept them apart is fading.  In this post, I like to cover the similarities and differences of these two technologies, and how they will be taking effect in society in the coming years.


Cell phones have been around now for nearly 40 years. In the last 15 years, they’ve become quite common.  More than 50% of all cell phones are smartphones. This fact is significant because of a newer technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  It is only now that the idea of VoIP is being considered as a replacement to traditional voice calling. With the widespread use of pocket computers, also known as smartphones, it has become possible to change how calls are made.

Where our current cellular technology sends signals as voice only,  VoIP first converts to a data connection to be sent. Cell phones require particular frequencies to send the call, whereas for VoIP that doesn’t matter, since the calls are sent over the internet.

Breaking Old Barriers

In the news recently,  it was announced that Comcast was running  a trial in Houston,  TX.   The Idea is simple, but allow me to give some background on the concept.  If a customer orders Internet service, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) usually gives that person some equipment to use for the service.  That equipment is usually a single device that includes both a modem and a router.  The router part usually includes WiFi, and here’s where it gets different.

The WiFi router / modem has a completely separate channel that Comcast has setup with the name “xfinitywifi”.  This channel uses the customers connection to the internet, but it is not counted towards that customer’s service plan.  Comcast presumes that if all their customers had these new routers, that this extra connection would be widely available throughout the US, and they would be correct.

A New Idea

Currently, for those customers who have this featured router, the extra channel is just a convenient way to get internet, but Comcast has other plans.  The end idea was revealed recently, that Comcast intends to work with Verizon to build a cell / VoIP network for phones.  These phones will need to smartphones for the capacity to switch between the cell network and VoIP actively (that is to say that they can switch back and forth without dropping the call).

This is where the idea of the cell phone and the VoIP phone is blurring into one.  As an example, a company called Republic Wireless has already implemented the idea.  They offer smartphones and service for much less money than any other carrier, because most of their calls go over WiFi and reluctantly over cell networks.   It is possible to get a VoIP-only phone through Republic Wireless for $5 / month.  The plan includes unlimited voice, text, and data because it all goes over WiFi.

The Future

It might not seem significant that all this is happening as I write this post, but it will be in the future.  Right now the cell carriers have control over all wireless phone communications.  But once the idea of wireless VoIP becomes more common, the carriers will lost control thereby introducing more options and decreasing the costs (just like what Republic Wireless).  And if other companies start offering WiFi everywhere (not just Comcast), you may find that cellular networks are only found or used outside of metropolitan areas.

I’m not completely sure where this new tech will be taking us, but I expect that it will change the way that we communicate, in much the way that smartphones have made that change to our lives.  Personally, I rarely hold a phone to my head to communicate.  Most of the time I’m using my bluetooth headset or my headset at home that is connected to my home computer.  The ideal created by Alex Bell and the original American Telegraph and Telephone is changing to a new standard.

As always, if you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me via my email account wes@tekhandy.com and be sure to check out the Glossary for the new terms from this and every article.

Have a wonderful week



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