In this age of the Internet there seems to be an overwhelming array of choice especially within this area of communication technology. Voice over IP or VOIP surprisingly was first introduced in 1973 and was used mainly by Government and Educational Institutions. It was not until 1995 that the first commercial use of VOIP hit the market. Enthusiasts spoke via the net using headphones and microphones for free hence the name voice over the Internet.
Today, there are many variations of this and indeed it is possible to speak via this exact means using the well known programs such as Live messenger and Yahoo. Conversations can and are being made for free all over the world by people using internet cafes or their own trusted home computer.
In order to understand however whether this can replace the traditional phone line and phone hand set you would have to assess whether the inconvenience of using a speaker and headphones outweighs the benefits. Certainly the cost for the internet user is of no extra, i.e. the broadband supply is all that needs to be paid for. However the main disadvantage is that the person you may want to speak to is not on the internet and you would therefore have to wait in order to contact him or her.
In the early 90s there were inevitably technical problems which needed to be overcome and certainly due to the slow 'dial up' connections, only 3% of U.S. telephone users were using VOIP by the turn of the Century. With the introduction of faster broadband connection by 2001, VOIP now had its chance to expand, but issues still with sound quality had to be resolved and it wasn't until 2005 that a satisfactory system was in place to change the landscape of the telecommunications industry forever.
Needless to say, today the VOIP industry is competing with every landline supplier out there and the breakthrough although not fully realised as yet will soon become the norm as the general public begin to understand the relative ease of installation.