Traditionally, a fax transmission resembles a phone call, in that a number is dialed. The difference between a fax and a phone call, though, is that a fax transmits data electronically, whereas a phone call transmits only talk. Nevertheless, when you send a fax, you are still dialing a number. And if you are dialing long distance, then you pay a long-distance charge.
FoIP changes that by eliminating the long-distance charge. Specifically, you send the fax data using an Internet connection as your phone. Since all you need is that Internet connection, you pay only what you would normally pay to access the Internet. Even if you have a dial-up Internet connection, you still only need to call a local phone number in order to connect. No matter how many pages you send in your fax transmission or how many megabytes your fax is, you still pay nothing.
Technically, FoIP differs from traditional fax transmissions in another way. Traditional fax machines convert the data on a sheet of paper to analog voice data for transmission via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Keeping in the acronym vein, PSTN service is often called POTS, which stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. FoIP breaks the data in a fax transmission into separate data packets that are sent digitally. This is yet another example of digital technology taking the place of older analog protocols.
Another benefit of using FoIP technology is that it requires less bandwidth than traditional analog transmissions. The transmission takes less time as a result. A large handful of websites, such as eFax and RapidFax, offer FoIP services. Some of these sites offer the service as part of a suite of office-related applications; others make FoIP their stock and trade.
Fax over Internet Protocol is a cousin of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This kind of talking is all the rage these days. Such companies as Skype attribute their entire existence to VoIP technology. You can even buy a cell phone now that comes with Skype preinstalled. And with cell phones becoming more and more able to surf the Web, you can use your mobile phone to send a fax using, you guessed it, Fax over Internet Protocol.