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VoIP telephony has been and still is one of the controversial technologies on the planet. Born out of a need to reduce communications costs, as well as a shift towards a more open infrastructure where monopolies are harder to establish, VoIP telephony is now about 47 years old, believe it or not. The first experiments were obviously done on ARPANET in the US and it wasn’t until mid-1990’s when the first Internet phone software was released – by Vocaltec, a company from Israel.

First used by hobbyists and technology companies to reduce costs on long-distance calls, VoIP has always been considered an experimental, not-so-good solution for business, even though, once embraced by big telco entities – since early 2000’s – millions of people have used the technology for long distance calls, mind you, mostly unknowingly. Most calling card solutions allowing cheap calls to other countries were using the VoIP telephony technology once the call was off the local telecom provider’s infrastructure.

With the onset of high-speed broadband Internet, popular apps such as Yahoo messenger, Skype and others have pushed the envelope and made VoIP clearly a winner. But that also generated a lot of intense discussions worldwide, once the large multinational telecommunication companies realized an unregulated, free-for-all VoIP services world will deeply cut into their hefty profits. Furthermore, governments in countries where freedom of speech isn’t necessarily a right have constantly tried (and are still trying) to block certain VoIP services or protocols, in an effort to control the flow of information.

In Australia, VoIP telephony has penetrated the market slowly (like everything else), leading to a delay of about 5 – 10 years compared to the rest of the world, given the lack of high-speed broadband until recently and even today. Whilst in other countries in the world, landlines are a thing of the past, we are still wondering if VoIP telephony is any good or if it is worth even talking about it. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the NBN roll-out, we could have been using landlines and the costly ISDN technology for another two or three decades…

In today’s internet-focused world, the reality of cheaper, better and more flexible services is starting to change the landscape. The entire telecommunications industry is reshaping itself in front of us, with new entries from big technology companies such as Google and Microsoft trying to make their mark on the future of communications. Unified Communications is now a trend that deeply transforms the business world, as well as the personal space. We are now increasingly able to choose how we communicate: email, voice, instant messaging, chat, video or a combination of all three.

We definitely live through historical transformations and it’s exciting to see how many new innovations are showing up in the race to change our lives and make them better and more fun. VoIP telephony is one of the technology areas where we are seeing fast transformation and deeper impact on everything, from our personal lives, to the way we do business.