People & Interviews

VoIP: Who Invented this Revolutionary Technology?

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Telecommunication has changed significantly since Alexander Graham Bell’s created the first practical telephone model in 1876. While there have been changes in design, function, features and much more, few can argue that there are any changes bigger than the move to VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology. This new invention has not only produced the emerging VoIP market, but it is also leading to the take over of traditional phone systems.

Who is the man behind VoIP?

None of this would be possible without Alon Cohen. Born in Israel in 1962, his multiple patents have both created and improved on Internet telecommunications. Let’s look into who Alon Cohen is, how he developed this technology and how it has changed the face of phones and audio communications forever.

Beginnings

Creating the VoIP industry was not on Alon Cohen’s mind when he first started learning about technology. In fact, it wasn’t even the original aim of his first company. Before producing his patented VoIP technology, Alon Cohen attended Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel.

This public research university initially offered courses in law, economics, and natural sciences before including programs in technology. Cohen received both a BSC.EE and MBA with Magna Cum Laude honors.

It was just after graduating that he and his associate Lior Haramaty founded VocalTec Communications in 1989. This would serve as the launching pad for the creation of VoIP technology.

Original Aim and Products

In these early years, the Internet was not nearly as robust as it is today. The original aim of Cohen wasn’t to create the VoIP industry, but to just commercialize products that could add video and audio transfer to computers.

Their first product was a sound card for computers named the SoundBoard TM. This was available in Israel and converted text to speech to help the visually impaired. Shortly after in 1993, Cohen struck again with CAT. This gave audio capabilities to computers that allowed for real-time vocal communication through computer networks.

These inventions laid the groundwork for a huge change to telecommunications.

Birth of the VoIP Market and Overcoming Challenges

Cohen first produced VoIP technology in 1995, but it wasn’t released to the public until the following year. This started with people being able to leave and listen to voicemails over the Internet, and then it expanded into computer-to-telephone telecommunication.

While expansion into a larger market didn’t take long, there were many technical obstacles to overcome before VoIP would reach its potential. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was that dial-up was still the most common type of Internet connection during this time. Cohen’s invention only offered low-quality audio transmission because of the slow speed and low bandwidth of dial-up connections.

Another major issue is that dial-up prevented people from using both the Internet and phones of any kind simultaneously. Some people overcame this by purchasing two phone lines, others bought switches that would immediately switch between phone or Internet connections. It wasn’t until the broadband Internet was released that VoIP really took off.

Not only did the increased bandwidth improve call quality with VoIP, but it also made it much more widely adopted. The flexibility and reliability of this technology were beginning to be recognized, and other companies were taking notice.

Expansion

It only took a few short years for the VoIP industry to explode. By 2000, three companies were adding switching software to their existing routing hardware, making it possible for calls to occur over the Internet.

VocalTec wasn’t the only company expanding on VoIP technology. The creators of Kazaa, a popular peer-to-peer application, took it  a step further in 2003 with the world’s best-known VoIP software: Skype. This not only used voice communication but video as well.

Many other companies, both small and large, have entered the fray. There’s Magic Jack, which eventually took over VocalTec in 2010. Others included in this list are Vonage and Google Voice.

The VoIP industry has expanded so much that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)  is starting to phase out traditional telephony applications in favor of the affordability and audio fidelity of VoIP. This is now being used with regular and wireless telephones.

The VoIP market has also added many new features to this technology. For example, you can now make conference calls, faxes, call routing, unlimited domestic and worldwide calls and so much more. Home automation tools, like Amazon Echo, can also use this feature. The Internet has allowed phone systems to take off in a very new and interesting way, all because of Cohen’s invention.

Statistics

Even though you may not recognize it, many calls are now made over Cohen’s invention without you even knowing it. Most calls with 4G phones are made via VoIP, and even regular telephones are starting to adopt this technology. Since over 70 percent of Internet connections are through broadband, VoIP services are both reliable and affordable. This is especially true with those who use smartphones as their sole phone connection. Many large companies are phasing out traditional copper wires to make room for VoIP technology.

In 2003 alone, about 25 percent of calls were made through VoIP. Vonage was able to persuade 1.9 million people to believe in this technology in 2006, and now over a billion people are using this technology in some form or another.

Global traffic and features are always expanding, constantly improving the VoIP industry.

Alon Cohen in the Present

Even though Alon Cohen left VocalTec and other companies are using his inventions, he didn’t fade into obscurity. He has created several successful companies both in and out of the VoIP market. He is currently head of Phone.com, a business that primarily caters to large businesses in need of enterprise-level features.

He was the leader of Bitwine and Remote Ability, which produced voice meeting software for groups and businesses online. Cohen also has his own blog where he writes about software and telecommunications, and he has become a frequent speaker at conferences and meetings about VoIP and other technologies.

Conclusion

Alon Cohen is a brilliant man who was able to create one of the most significant technologies of the modern era, give birth to the VoIP market and revolutionize telecommunications. Not only did he create the software and hardware needed for VoIP, but he has also been the head of many successful companies in this field and his current company Phone.com is a leading authority amongst businesses owners who need Voice Over IP services.