Overview of VoIP (Voice over IP) and FoIP (Fax over IP) technologies like Session Initiation Protocol and H.323.
Even though voice over IP (VoIP) was hailed as a technological innovation, the idea to transport real-time traffic over TCP/IP networks was not new back in the 1990s when VoIP started being deployed in networks. Chapter 2.5 of the venerable RFC793 (TCP) shows both data oriented application traffic as well as voice being transported over IP based networks.
Nevertheless, VoIP puts high demands on signal and protocol processing capabilities so it became possible at reasonable costs only in the 1990s.
VoIP can be roughly split into two main functions. Signaling protocols like SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), H.323 and MGCP/H.248 are used to establish a conference session and the data path for transporting real-time voice data packets. SIP has largely supplanted H.323 in recent years to its simpler structure and packet sequences. MGCP and H.248 are mostly used in carrier backbone networks.
Protocols like RTP (Real Time Protocol) transport voice packets and provide the necessary information for receivers to equalize packet flow variations to provide a smooth playback of the original voice signal.
Voice codecs are one of the core functions of the data path. Voice compression reduces the bandwidth required to transport voice over an IP based network. Compression may be less of a concern in local area networks with gigabit speeds, on slower links like 3G (UMTS, LTE) it still makes a lot of sense.
The algorithms used in different codecs make use of various characteristics of the characteristics of human speech recognition. Redundant information is removed from the signals thus slightly reducing the quality, but greatly reducing the required bandwidth.
In VoIP networks, the echo problem is typically compounded by the increased delay incurred by packetization of voice signals. To counteract the echo problem, VoIP gear (hard phones, soft phones, gateways) include echo cancelers to remove echo signals from the transmit signal.
To transport facsimile over an IP based network, even more technology is needed. Facsimile protocols are very susceptible to delay and delay variation and thus need more compensation algorithms. Protocols like T.38 terminate facsimile protocols like T.30 (analog facsimile) and transport the fax images as digitized pictures over IP based networks.
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