sip vs voip

Understanding the Difference Between SIP vs VoIP

Recent figures reveal that the telecommunication services industry will be worth about $1.46 trillion by 2020. Telecommunication is the backbone of modern businesses and development. Companies invest millions of dollars every year in communication infrastructure to power growth and business operations.

In the past, communication was quite simple. All you had to do was set up a traditional phone and call the operator, send snail mail, or send emails. Nowadays, things have gotten a bit complicated.

Recent developments in internet communication and smart technologies have changed telecommunication drastically.

Today, communication systems have boiled down to unintelligible acronyms such as ISDN, VoIP, IP-PBX, PSTN, SIP, and PRI. All these modern systems have their perks and drawbacks. Some are also significantly different from others.

This leaves buyers confused over which system to use when looking to upgrade their communication systems.

When exploring modern communication systems, two technologies seem to stand out above the rest. These are Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

The two terms are often used interchangeably. They are thought of as one, but they are two very different technologies.

SIP vs. VoIP: what are the differences and which is better?

What is a Protocol

We have mentioned the word protocol in both VoIP and SIP, but what does it really mean? A protocol is a set of digital rules that two or more digital devices must follow to establish a connection and communicate with each other.

Protocols define semantics, syntax, and synchronization across digital communication channels. In simple terms, it is how communication is handled.

Under the surface, protocols are responsible for dictating and maintaining several technical variables. They control parameters such as routing, address mapping, error detection, and sequence control.  

The purpose of protocols is to secure communication lines. They also promote device compatibility in terms of both hardware and software.  

What is VoIP?

As the name suggests, VoIP systems enable voice communication over the Internet Protocol. Other terms such as IP telephony, voice over broadband, and Internet telephony are used to describe VoIP as well.

With a VoIP system, the analog voice signals are converted into digital data packets. The packets are then transmitted across a closed network or the Internet.

VoIP phones work similarly to traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). The only difference is that they transmit over the Internet and not over conventional phone lines.

There are three ways to make VoIP calls:

1. ATA (Analog Phone Adaptor)

AN ATA is s device that converts the traditional desk phone into a digital device that can connect to the Internet. The adaptor converts voice signals into digital data that can be transmitted over the local area network or the Internet.

The ATA is a simple device plugged on one end to a telephone line and the other to a computer. Many vendors sell an adapter that is configured and ready to set up. Some may need additional software to be installed on the host computer to work.

Either way, it’s a straightforward installation that follows very simple steps.  

2. VoIP Phones

These are specialized digital phones that connect to the Internet and computers via an RJ-45 Ethernet connector or by Wi-Fi. The IP phone comes enabled with VoIP capabilities and requires little configuration if any. Vendors who offer hosted VoIP services usually sell VoIP phones.

3. Computer-to-Computer

This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to make VoIP calls. All you need is a computer or smart device, a reliable internet connection, and VoIP client application.

There are currently several companies offering VoIP client applications at very low fees, and some are even free to use. Some of the most notable applications are Skype and Google talk.

Most of these applications have mobile and computer versions. They allow users with similar software, and not necessarily the same platform, to communicate over using VoIP.   

What is SIP?

Session Initiation Protocol is a signaling protocol that is responsible for creating, modifying, and terminating a multimedia session over the Internet Protocol. A session is simply a connection between two or more endpoints. An endpoint can be a smartphone or a computer.

SIP incorporates the Session Description Protocol (SDP) in describing the parameters of a session. It also uses the Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) to transmit multimedia data across a network.  

SIP is an application layer protocol defined under RFC 3261. It uses HTTP’s URL and URL schemes to create a client-server architecture.

What all this means is that in addition to voice, SIP can be used to transmit multimedia messages between two or more users. It can be used for conference calls, media distribution, instant messaging, and other forms of communication applications.

This technology allows users from all over the world to share various forms of data. They can do this using their smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers.

The SIP phone is quickly becoming the most preferred digital phone. In many organizations, SIP is an integral part of a unified communication system.

How it Works

How do you take advantage of the communication versatility of SIP systems?

For personal use or in small businesses, you need a SIP softphone installed on your computer or smart device. Different software vendors will have different applications with unique features and configuration. The prices also vary, from free versions to premium versions paid in the initial purchase or on a subscription basis.

Most of these softphones are quite easy to set up and use. You only need to create an account or address to use as your phone number.

Large businesses and institutions have substantial communication demands and need robust SIP systems to handle the traffic. This is where SIP trunking comes in. A SIP Trunking service provider enables end to end multimedia communication using SIP on IP-PBX (Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange) systems.   

The SIP service provider manages and maintains the phone traffic and also provides the necessary hardware and software. Most providers charge a monthly fee for the service, plus the initial hardware or software costs. Service features, functions, and prices differ depending on the SIP provider.

SIP vs. VoIP: What are the Differences?

VoIP is a somewhat generalized term that encompasses several modern communication technologies. SIP is a signaling protocol that is part of the larger VoIP family. However, both technologies are unique in their own rights in terms of the underlying architecture and applications.

SIP and VoIP have many similarities. For instance, they use the Internet as a communication channel, and they are both digital systems. Businesses use them to cut down on communication cost and as reliable and fast alternatives to conventional communication devices.

But now, let’s find out what makes SIP different from VoIP by looking at a few critical aspects of communications systems.

1. Versatility

VoIP only handles voice call while SIP handles several different forms of media including video, images, documents. This is the main difference between SIP and VoIP, at least from a user’s perspective.

Although most businesses calls are verbal, communication is growing more versatile and engaging. In this aspect, VoIP limits the communication options to just voice calls.

2. Hardware

The hardware and software used by either system are very different. In most cases, especially on PBX systems, the VoIP phone has to be connected to a running computer with access to the Internet. The computer links the handset to the Internet and provides the necessary software interface to make and receive calls.

SIP phones, on the other hand, don’t need to be connected to a computer. Unless it’s a softphone, all you need is an Internet-enabled device. The SIP platform also relies on a more sophisticated software interface to transfer the various media formats.       

3. Scalability

VoIP host handle and direct voice call traffic within a closed central network. If the traffic overwhelms the available channels, communication may become slow and unreliable. This is why VoIP hosts are very keen on the number of users at any particular time.

Many VoIP hosts actually limit the number of active users by introducing tiered subscriptions. This is where the more users you have, the more you pay.

SIP communications are processed by the end-to-end individual systems known as user agents. This sort of a peer-to-peer connection means there is no central network to worry about. Users can access more bandwidth, and the system can handle more traffic and exchanges.

This impacts the overall performance, reliability, and security of the system.

4. Cost

Although both systems present significant savings over traditional telephones, SIP costs a lot less than VoIP. The tiered services with VoIP systems end up costing more in the long run compared to SIP’s pricing. Also, acquiring VoIP-enabled hardware or converting analog to VoIP-capable devices usually costs more than SIP hardware.  

Which is the Winner?

In the battle of SIP vs. VoIP, SIP appears to score favor in creating unified communication systems for businesses. With SIP, business calls are no longer restricted to voice only. For businesses looking for a more functional mode of communication, SIP is the better choice.

Nowadays, VoIP hardware is equipped with SIP capabilities so that switching from one service to another incurs no extra hardware cost. In fact, many VoIP providers now offer SIP trunking services as well.

Speaking of SIP service providers, get started with us today. We offer a powerful, reliable, and flexible SIP trunking services to meet all your communication needs.  

Free SIP Trunk in 60 Seconds

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