SIP vs VOIP: Are they the same thing?

Every search for the right business communications solution seems to come complete with a side of alphabet soup. Is a SIP phone the same as VoIP? What do they even mean? IP-PBX, PSTN, PRI, VoIP, SIP, ISDN – there are at least 280 telecom abbreviations out there. It’s no wonder buyers can become confused. 

To make matters worse, those in the industry tend to use some terms interchangeably, even when the terms have very different technical meanings that matter. VoIP and SIP are good examples. Although they accomplish the same goal of connecting calls via the Internet, they are not the same thing. In fact, they are connected. Let’s explore the differences between SIP vs VoIP so you can better explain it to your customers.

SIP definition

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and is a communication protocol that organizations widely use for managing multimedia communication sessions, such as voice and video calls. SIP, therefore, is one of the specific protocols that enable VoIP.

SIP defines the messages that are sent between endpoints, and it governs establishment, termination and other essential elements of a call. Organizations can use SIP to transmit information between two endpoints or many. SIP has been developed and standardized under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

When trying to explain the SIP definition, it’s easier to discuss what it enables your customers to do instead of getting bogged down with the technical definition. In addition to voice calls, they can use SIP for video conferencing, instant messaging, media distribution and other applications. Being able to embrace multiple ways of working and communicating is more important than ever, and SIP is a technology that enables that flexibility.

Related: How does a SIP trunk work?

In short, if buyers want an all-inclusive solution for their business communication needs, SIP trunking is their best bet. Employing further tools, such as Asterisk, will make SIP phones and communications platforms even better because they can be customized to specific business needs.

The importance of SIP

A protocol is a system of digital rules for message exchange within or between computers, phones or other digital devices. For one device to communicate with another, developers of those devices must use well-defined formats for exchanging messages.

A protocol defines the syntax, semantics and synchronization of communication. To be effective, developers of each connected device or application (often called endpoints) have to agree on and use protocols. For this reason, protocols tend to evolve into industry standards, making it easy for multiple vendors to create endpoints that can communicate with each other.

VoIP definition

The term VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. It is a broad term that covers any phone calls made over the Internet, as opposed to traditional telephone lines, otherwise known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Other terms that are used interchangeably with VoIP include IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband, broadband telephony, IP communications, and broadband phone services.

While they may make the heads of those outside of the industry spin, all of these technologies use the Internet to digitally transmit the voice signal to another telephone or endpoint. VoIP encompasses a group of protocol technologies, such as Skype Protocol and open standards, of which SIP technology is an example. Organizations typically deploy VoIP in conjunction with an application, such as Skype or Google Talk, with IP-enabled PBX hardware, or via a hosted VoIP service.

For the most basic function, you customers only need a VoIP-enabled phone and VoIP software. This should be enough to make and receive calls through the Internet. It’s a prime choice if you want to remove the clutter of landline phones in the office and do so without having to rely on mobile phones as an alternative. With a VoIP setup, your customers retain an official line for their business.

Because VoIP is limited in voice transmissions, it helps keep usage to a minimum. A VoIP provider may even offer unlimited minutes for your customers to get a better deal. This is why, for the most basic voice communication, VoIP is hard to beat when it comes to practicality and price.

Deployment examples

When most people hear the term VoIP, they imagine a hosted VoIP solution where the vendor hosts and operates the PBX functionality that manages call handling, voicemail and other applications. The customer’s IP-enabled phones connect to the Internet and ultimately to the vendor’s servers and software. This, however, is just one type of VoIP deployment.

SIP trunking delivers telephone services and unified communications to customers with SIP-enabled PBX and unified communications solutions. In this case, the PBX provides call management, voicemail, auto attendants and other services. 

The SIP trunks establish the connection between the PBX and the public telephone network, replacing the need for legacy telephone lines or Primary Rate Interfaces (PRIs). This gives businesses the ability to select the IP-PBX hardware and software that works best for them, while freeing them from the expense and inflexibility of traditional phone lines and carrier relationships.

The other ways to deploy VoIP are managed and hosted IP PBX. The latter is a hassle-free version where your customers have a provider who oversees everything for them. You may serve in this capacity or partner with a third party that offers this service. With a hosted IP PBX, your customers don’t have to buy the hardware or set up the SIP trunking, because they are getting a pre-configured VoIP system.

A hosted IP PBX is ideal for companies that don’t have the capital to put up for a fully-customized SIP trunking service. Remember that it involves creating applications and buying hardware, so if a company isn’t ready or has the budget to do all of that, they have the choice of going for a managed IP PBX.

SIP technology, however, is fast becoming the preferred method of deploying VoIP across an enterprise. Among the benefits that indicate how SIP works better in VoIP are the reduced cost it offers, the augmented efficiency, and the scalability compared with older systems.

So, if your customers ask what the difference is between SIP vs VoIP, you can tell them there really isn’t such a thing. SIP is an industry standard method of achieving VoIP, but it is a preferred deployment method because of scalability. A company won’t be limited to using voice communications, as they can expand into video, instant messaging and more. 

Businesses looking to improve their communications and reduce costs by moving to VoIP should carefully consider each of the ways they can deploy it, including SIP trunking, and select the one that provides the greatest benefits for them. Your customers don’t necessarily need to understand the intricacies of the SIP definition, but if they can appreciate the benefits SIP and VoIP bring, they are more likely to give the green light to modernize their communications platform.

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