Phones for VoIP service contain the software to convert voice signals to send calls over an IP connection.

What Are Internet Phones?

Internet phones, known as VoIP or IP phones, are telephones purposefully built for placing calls over the Internet with VoIP service. IP phones are a VoIP-compatible hardware component and they automatically convert voice into packetized data so it can travel over the Internet. Traditional phones use analog signals that are not transmissible over an IP network and need adapters to integrate into a VoIP phone system.

VoIP phones support the various control protocols of VoIP, like Cisco's proprietary Skinny Call Control Protocol and the widely used Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP-based phones are occasionally referred to as SIP phones.

IP phones feature:

  • Speakerphones with high-quality audio
  • A display for input feedback, messages, and caller ID
  • Internal software for voice signal conversion
  • Ethernet port (RJ-45 port) or a wireless network card to connect to a LAN or WAN
  • Battery, power adapter, or Power over Ethernet capabilities
  • Multiple line functionality with varied configurations (4-line, 6-line, and so on)
  • Headset support
  • LCD color screens on video-compatible models


Software-based phones called softphones are another type of VoIP phone used to place VoIP calls. Softphones will install to your computer and run as a program or they can be web-based and operate within a browser. Softphones allow calls to be placed using the microphone and speakers of the computer. VoIP headsets are available for hands-free calls. Softphones are cheap phones, sometimes even free, that work for residential, business, and mobile customers.

Softphones enable employees that are traveling or telecommuting to access the office phone system's account and place or receive calls wherever they have a laptop and an Internet connection.

Implementing IP Phones

IP phones are suggested for use with VoIP business phone systems because they can converge voice, video, and data into one network. This will reduce communication costs, simplify IT needs, and connect offices across multiple sites. In-network VoIP calls are free, so calls within the office network will be free regardless of the office's location.

IP phones have the ability to transfer desks and locations and remain connected to the office business VoIP phone system for increased mobility at the workplace.

Read our article about IP phone integration for SOHO systems to learn more about using IP phones in a SOHO.

Purchasing IP Phones

There are a few ways to purchase IP phones for your phone system. Service providers often partner with hardware manufacturers to offer phones at a discounted rate to customers. You can order service and the phones in one transaction and set your system up once they arrive.

Cheap phones are available for small office/home office (SOHO) applications that can't afford the more costly models by various online retailers. In fact, purchasing older models is a great option for anyone looking for cheap phones. This Polycom 301 model on is only $65.99, whereas the newer 450 model is over $200.

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