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What is a Softphone?

A softphone is software that facilitates voice over IP telephony (VoIP) without using a physical IP phone. When the softphone is installed on a PC, laptop or smart device, it behaves like any other telephone in the network, while adding useful new features. In many cases the user interface is modelled after traditional phones, for example with a typical dial plate. Sometimes the keyboard serves the same purpose. However, instead of a traditional receiver, in- and output go through microphone, speaker or headset.

Standards for Softphones: SIP and RTP

There are different communication protocols in use for IP telephony which are needed to establish the basic rules for a session. While some proprietary standards are quite common, the most prevalent protocol is SIP. SIP is used to control a communication session as it provides the signaling, meaning it can be used for creating, modifying and terminating sessions. Consequently, the connection between a softphone and the target device is established via SIP protocol. Yet in addition, audio streams are managed with help of the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP).

Since the same protocols are used for IP phones, implementing a softphone into an IP PBX works the same way, as with a regular IP phone: After an account for the softphone is created, it is registered with the IP phone system. Most softphones support the regular VoIP features like forwarding, blind and attended transfer and much more.

Advantages of Softphones vs. Hardphones

A network treats a softphone as the same kind of User Agent as any other telephone. It can therefore take over the same tasks, but offers many interesting options for extending its features in addition to that. If providers develop an attractive and comprehensible graphic user interface (GUI), it will open up to a whole range of possibilities that would be far too cumbersome to use on a hardphone. For example, while the customary IP phone may allow a limited number of presence status displays, larger companies will soon find the limited dimensions of hardphones to be quite restrictive. Meaning: They run out of buttons. Softphones however, allow a comprehensive overview of all call statuses across the company. Naturally, the features that softphones offer depend on the product and its provider, but soft clients are certainly where telecommunication is headed.

Who Needs Softphones?

Softphones are especially convenient for big companies whose facilities are spread over a range of locations. For institutions like hospitals, where employees work in rotation, softphones could give a welcome overview over who is currently working the desk and ensuring a smooth shift changeover with a comprehensive caller history. For employees whose job involves frequent travel or other change in location, softphones can provide a welcome simplification, eliminating overhead of dealing with phone conditions specific to localities. All they need is their computer or smart device and an internet connection. They could be sitting at the beach of Bermuda, yet appearing to be calling from Birmingham.

The Askozia UC Client – Softphone of the Future

While some providers are content with only displaying a digital dial plate, we at Askozia decided to think bigger and provide our customers with many more features that become possible through the use of softphones. Our UC Client unshackles the softphone from the restrictions of its analog predecessors by combining intuitive usability with useful features. Since our UC Client is a native Askozia application, it works promptly without a complicated installation process and contrary to other soft-clients it has no trouble with essential functions like phone books or presence status.

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