Although it sounds like the name of an alien race you might expect to encounter on the set of a Star Trek film, VoIP is merely an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP is simple, user-friendly technology that is remarkably mundane, while simultaneously causing consumers to wonder if sci fi films might actually have gotten some things spot on. With VoIP, one can transmit voice signals via computer, either with a handset or a microphone directly wired into the computer. Your voice is converted into a digital signal, which then emerges on the other end sounded exactly like your voice. Original VoIP technology operated only computer to computer via microphones, but today VoIP technology can also work computer to handset, or handset to computer. Normal telephone calls can be placed over long distances with incredible clarity and without long-range cell towers, overseas phone lines, or use of similarly expensive structures. We might not be saying 'Beam me up, Scotty' yet but VoIP tends to lead one to think of technology in terms of when and not if.
In 2009, due in large part to the ubiquitous nature of the internet, businesses that span oceans and encompass multiple nations are not uncommon. In addition, increased prosperity and technology have resulted in more business and leisure travel, as well as the immigration of individuals to countries far from the land of their birth. This immigration can be temporary, for business or school, or permanent, but regardless of their reason for being abroad, all of these individuals, like E.T., want to 'phone home.' Before the advent of VoIP technology, calling home in many cases was so expensive that it was a luxury to the average individual, and a primary expense outlay for any international business. However, VoIP, also called IP Telephony has much lower operating costs, and therefore can offer connectivity at considerably lower rates. VoIP's advantage in the consumer market was quickly exploited by a variety of entrepreneurs, whose rapidly formed companies (Skype, Vonage, Lingo) are sometimes more well-known descriptors of VoIP technology than the VoIP acronym itself. The cost-effective service being offered by Vonage and its competitors was rapidly seized on by individuals and businesses that depended on international, and even national, communication but wished to avoid prohibitive long-distance rates.