What is a Softphone?
Softphone is a software program used for making telephone calls using internet or data connection. Unlike Telephone, there is no dedicated device used for this purpose and any general computer can be used.
In order to give a feel of using traditional telephone, computer displays few activities like dialing, ringing, on hook, off hook conditions etc.
What are the requirements?
Basic requirements for running Softphone system consists of –
- A computer, Modem and Headset ( Microphone and Speaker)
- Software Program of Softphone
- Reliable Broadband Connection ( DSL or Cable Service)
Picture of a basic Softphone
How does it work?
Softphone uses a technology called VoIP(Voice over Internet Protocol). In this mode of communication, voice travels over Internet in the form of IP packet.
In telephone communication, technology used is TDM(Time Division Multiplexing) and voice signal travels over transmission medium on a dedicated channel. In case of VoIP technology, voice signal does not require dedicated channel and it travels over Internet connection across the world.
What are its advantages?
- Softphone uses existing Internet bandwidth and does not require any dedicated connection for voice communication
- Since it does not require any dedicated channel, it uses bandwidth efficiently
- Softphone is the cheapest means for Voice calling, very cost effective for International calling
- Video calling and multi-party conferencing can also be done using Softphone without incurring any additional cost
- Easy to add new line without doing any additional wiring
What are the limitations?
Despite having so many advantages, Softphone has few limitations as well
- It uses IP and compression technology, due to which voice quality does not match the clarity of Telephone
- Delay in voice is more for international calling compared to normal phone
- Difficult to use for people having lesser exposure to technology
- In few countries, VoIP has not been allowed by Government. Due to this restriction, Softphone initiated call to normal telephone cannot be done to users of such countries.
What is the Global trend of Usage?
Due to being most cost effective, Softphone is gradually becoming the most popular means of communication. During last decade many improvisation of VoIP technology has helped it mitigated most of the limitations. IETF(Internet Engineering Task Force) has developed a standard protocol SIP(Session Initiation Protocol) to be used by Softphone.
Nowadays, most of the call centers across the world has started replacing traditional PRI (Primary Rate Interface) based Phone line with Softphone.
There is large number of VoIP providers operating across the world. Few of them charge some fee for the service. Quality of service from paid providers is of much higher grade and they offer some unique features like multi party video conferencing, lesser latency and jitter etc.
One of the most popular Softphone providers in the world under paid category is Skype. There are many providers which offer free service. Google Talk is one of the most popular free Softphone. Apart from these few other popular free Softphone providers are –Zopier, X-Lite, Mirial Softphone, SJphone, SIP communicator, Kiax etc.
Gradually Softphone is becoming very popular across the world due to its cost effectiveness and software based multiple features. Recent advancement done in the field of VoIP technology has made it popular among enterprise segment as well.
Many features like Audio and Video Calling, Recording, Multi party video conferencing, Phone Book, Video Console etc, without incurring any additional cost, has made it a technology of choice for enterprises.
Considering the trend of deployment during past few years, it seems that Softphone may capture most of the market dominated by traditional Telephone.