The Evolution of Virtual Phone Systems
A virtual phone system is referred to as a cloud-based phone service that can be used to send and receive voice-based calls over the Internet and a cloud-based PBX system as opposed to sending information through the copper wiring of a traditional landline.
"The 19th century exposed the world to a technical approach to communication."
During the early 19th century, sending mails was the only available means of transmitting information between individuals and institutions. There was no way of being placed on instant contact with family, friends, or business partners as the emails sent were subject to transportation services. At that time, mails sent across long distances were transported by boat; there also had stipulated days for sending the emails, so the entire process was both expensive and time-consuming. In 1844, the telegraph was made public by Samuel F. Morse. The telegraph was used to send and receive textual messages by wire (telegraph lines) over long distances using Morse codes. The telegraph transmitted information almost instantly, and as such, it was widely adopted all over Europe and America until 1874, when Alexander Bell Graham introduced the Telephone.
Convenience, speed, and availability to transmit real-time audio information over long distances are the characteristics that fueled the widespread use of the Telephone during the late 19th century. To this day, the introduction of the Telephone to the world is still the most impactful innovation in communication technology. Since Sir Alexander Bell Graham made the first landline-to-landline call in 1876 - establishing the landlines phones system of communication as the new superpower, it has been subjected to renovations to enhance further its capacity to service the demands of the advancing world of business and technology.
The Pathway to Virtual Phone System:
The evolution started with the robust Landlines phone systems, which required underground wires to run between locations; each location had a center where users sometimes had to queue up to access the phone in turn. Gradually, innovative features like voicemail, call forwarding, etc., were introduced to subsequent versions of the telephones, as well as the adoption of the revolutionary PBX switchboards.
Phone companies - also known as Phone Branch Exchanges (PBX), began using manual switchboards in order to avoid crowds at the phone centers. The manual switchboard used plugs, switches, and indicators to operate; whenever a call was placed to a location, it went first through the PBX center. The switchboard operators would manually connect the plug of the intended Telephone for the call to connect.
In 1925, electromagnetic fields were observed to be reinvented and could create wireless signals which could be maneuvered using the Internet; this led to the introduction of VoIP service later in 1995. The introduction of virtual phone systems is often considered a critical checkpoint in the history of phone systems.
The Role of ARPANet on the First Voice Data Packet Transmission:
In 1969, the United States Department of Defense forged the ARPA (Advanced Research Project Research Agency), an agency charged with the development of military technology. Initially, their objective was to source a way to remotely access computers and enhance communication between two or more computer systems.
During the research, the ARPANET was built. It was the first packet-switching network to be created and probably the earliest adopter of the TCP and IP network protocol communications suite. It was used to interconnect small computers with the use of modems. Later in 1990, the network was formally closed.
Bob McAuley, Ed Hofstetter, and Charlie Radar developed the first voice packet over ARPANET in 1973 at MIT's Lincoln Lab. This voice transmission was made possible with the help of the LPC (Linear Predictive Coding), a foundation for the VoIP service, which was established in 1990.
Linear predictive coding (LPC) is a technique used in processing audio signals. It is also applied in representing the spectral envelope of digital signals of speech in compressed forms, with the use of the data of a linear predictive model.
Voice data packets were later transmitted successfully between Culler Harrison and Lincoln Lab in 1974 before LPC was used to connect over a local cable network, an interface with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network.), and a mobile packet radio net in 1982.
The Birth of CompuServe Chat Service and The G.722 wideband Audio Codec:
During these years, the Internet was strictly restricted to military use - business institutions, as well as civilians, was not permitted access to even essential internet services at the time. This went on till 1975 when the pioneer wide-ranging commercial internet service provider, CompuServe, started out as a subsidiary under Golden United Life Insurance, allowing interested business institutions paid temporary access to their computer systems.
The services were rendered during business hours. In 1975, CompuServe became its own company and went further to launch the first chat service in 1980, allowing users to send and receive messages between each other. Its independence was short-lived as the company was acquired in 1997 by its business rival, AOL. In late 1988, G.722 wideband Audio Codec which offered a remarkably advanced audio quality, was approved by ITU-T. It also housed a wider speech bandwidth and the ability to indicate audio data with twice the speed of any previously possible. The data rate goes up as far as 64,000 bits per second, making it perfect for VoIP service rendition.
The VoIP Service became Public for The First Time:
The first system to apply VoIP services in sending Voice over Ethernet networks is RASCAL. RASCAL was built by a renowned developer Brian C. Wiles (later developed Skype) in 1989. It gives access to video game players to communicate with each other. Wiles later designed a system for the reduction of the necessary bandwidth by half the initial 64,000 bits per second. The design was later released publicly as NetFone. The founder of Autodesk architecture, Engr. John Walker basically used NetFone to communicate with workers within his company and to attend meetings virtually.
The Beginning of Video Telepresence (Teleport, Skype and Vonage):
Teleport was the first telepresence software, built basically for video conferencing by David Allen and Herold Williams. Skype was built later in 2003. It gives paid access for users to make calls via PSTN, although in-network communications were performed for free. In 2004, Vonage was developed specifically for businesses.
The DialUp Software:
In 1994, Jeff Pulver, Brandon Lucas, and Izak Jennie created the Free World Dial-Up (FWD). The FWD gave their subscribers access to a network where they could communicate with each other over the PSTN. At this time, FWD was the first and only window to make and receive calls over the PSTN. Subscription to the service was free but the idea brought about a profit-oriented approach to VoIP service provision.
Development of Profit-oriented VoIP Software:
After the official launch of VoIP services in 1990, Free VoIP services were available until 1995 when the first commercial VoIP software, VocalTel internet phone, was developed. It was built to function over the H.323 protocol. The minimum requirements for a mobile device to run the software are; 8MB of RAM space, a 16-bit soundcard, either an SLLP or PPP connection, and a 486 computer processor. VocalTel Internet Phone billed its users per minute of call time and for first-time registration. The long-distance call rates were economical for subscribers. They were technically the first Virtual PBX
SIP and Hosted PBX (The development of the First IP-PBX):
Making phone calls via VoIP service only requires a SIP-compatible desk phone (wireless) or a VoIP calling software on your preferred mobile device; it is a prerequisite for the device to have an IP address to enable calls to be made directly from your network. Both large companies and small business owners battling with high call volumes and already own Hosted private branch exchange (PBX) equipment have to select a SIP trunking option. A Hosted PBX refers to a cloud-based, virtual phone system that offers secure, reliable VoIP service to individuals or business institutions over the Internet. The first Hosted PBX, The IP-PBX, was established in 1999 by Mark Spencer as a solution for his company since he could not afford a PBX. He then named it Asterisk.
The widespread adoption of Asterisk is owed to the fact that it is an open-source program, and many developers further enhanced it to suit their preferences.
Pathway to the Mobile VoIP Service and Automation of the VoIP service:
The release of C1250i (the first phone with infrared WiFi connectivity) in 2005, served as the inception for the idea of VoIP mobile applications for phones later in 2006. Truphone, an app that allows users to send free in-network texts, make free in-network telephone calls, and make VoIP calls over the PSTN was developed and made accessible for smartphones. Truphone also made calls using the internet connection, bypassing cellular networks with the use of SIP.
Six years later, VoIP services and SIP trunking became massively adopted globally. VoIP service providers started exploiting several features and subscription plans to promote mobile VoIP applications further.
The Future of VoIP:
Jeff Thompson said, "The implementation of VoIP was the only solution that would allow voice traffic at a very small cost." He explains the fundamental essence of the VoIP service. The VoIP service provides the business institution with reliable and affordable voice traffic for internal communication as well as to improve customer experience. VoIP services have comfortably replaced landlines. The Internet keeps developing, and the same will go to the VoIP services offered through the Internet.
When should a Business Institution Adopt Virtual Phone System?
The virtual phone system possesses a vast range of aesthetic additions to improve productivity when it is adopted by a company. Even so, some key observations indicate to a business owner whether or not a virtual phone system is necessary to improve productivity in the organization. A few possible situations include;
I. The daily call volume is so high that it disrupts call traffic, virtual phone systems can accommodate call queuing services to solve the problem.
II. The cost of communication is enormous; if the communication bills of the business organization weigh on the income structure, then the company has to adopt VoIP services to avoid a financial situation.
III. For business organizations that already have or are about to open new branches and would like to centralize communication for better integration, a virtual phone system is an optimum option to satisfy their need.
IV. In a situation where the business structure or size of the company is such that a lot of employees have to work remotely, the company will be forced to adopt the virtual phones system as it does not require heavy equipment to set up.
Rumors about the end of VoIP service may be hovering but with the growing yearn for decentralization, wireless technology cannot be sidelined. Global companies prefer patronizing VoIP services for their local and international calls, so virtual phone systems will never be overlooked in the future.
In the words of Sir Jeff Thompson, "VoIP has really changed the way we do business," It has been conveniently established that VoIP service is a pillar for the positive evolution of our businesses. Hence every company must try to adopt the most convenient virtual phone system for their financial plan.