IP phones are a special type of desktop phone that can be used with a VoIP system.
An IP phone uses Voice over IP technology to connect phone calls through the Internet instead of the old-fashioned system. Unlike regular phones, an IP phone connects to a signal via an Ethernet port like a computer instead of a phone cord.
IP phones can be used to create a pure IP PBX system or converged network (voice and data on one network) where all data is digital and sent via the Internet. IP phones are usually used in business environments, where there is a hardwired Ethernet.
IP Phone Basics
IP phones convert the analog voice signal to digital packets right in the handset, using included software. IP phones are highly advanced hardware components, with built-in features to leverage compatibility and functionality with an IP PBX and the company LAN or WAN. IP phones feature multiple codecs and can support various transport protocols such as SIP or the proprietary Cisco protocol, SCCP.
Softphones, VoWiFi, and USB VoIP Phones
Some IP phones simply software programs (softphones) installed on a computer desktop, with dialing interfaces that emulate traditional desktop sets. Softphones eliminate the need for costly handsets, and make hot desking even simpler.
VoWiFi phones, or Voice over WiFi, tap into the corporate LAN or WAN. Mobile phones using VoWiFi act like portable landlines for employees, such as IT professionals, who are rarely in one location on the corporate campus.
While most desktop IP phones plug into the Ethernet using the RJ45 cable, some VoIP phones can be connected to the computer using the USB port. These USB IP phones are usually used in residential or SoHo VoIP situations (without a hardwired Ethernet network), with VoIP softphone programs such as Skype. USB IP phones generally require device driver installation, offer lower performance, and are less reliable — but they are also typically less expensive than fully-featured IP phones.
IP Phone Advantages
While standard handsets can be used with a hybrid PBX system, they still use the traditional phone jacks and wiring of a legacy PSTN infrastructure. IP phones plug directly into the company Ethernet, either by wall outlet or via the computer.
Unlike a standard phone, VoIP phones are configured with the employee's profile information using the onboard software. In this way, the phone can easily be taken to a new location, such as a conference room or a new cubicle.