Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the technology that turns analogue audio signals into digital data that can be sent over the Internet.
There are a number of VoIP services that can provide free or low cost voice calling. These services are provided by a number of key players - Skype, VoIPBuster, VoIPFone (UK) and Vonage.Just do a Google search for 'VoIP services' and you'll see plenty of VoIP providers to choose from.
Consumer VoIP services are ideal for making low cost calls to the public telephone network and many of them offer consumers excellent deals on calls, including unlimited UK calls and low cost international calling. They will also offer the ability to call other users within the "VoIP service" for free. For example, one Skype customer can call another Skype customer at no cost.
To get this completely free service both you and your friend must have a broadband enabled PC and have Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software installed.
For example, the Skype Internet Calling service enables you to conduct telephone calls not only between suitably set up PC's but also between land-lines and even mobile phones for a fraction of the cost of the conventional telephone networks.
Skype for Windows also includes a video component so that you can see your friends and family on the full PC screen or in the Skype Calling Window.
There are three main options when choosing a ' phone' to use with a VoIP service:
A piece of software that you run on your computer that allows you to make and receive phone calls. You then use this with a suitable headset which provides the combined microphone and speakers you need to make calls.
A physical adaptor which allows you to plug a traditional analogue or cordless phone into a VoIP system.
This is a full telephone which is 100% VoIP. Instead of having a standard telephone adaptor (RJ-11) the VoIP Hardware Phone uses an Ethernet connector (RJ-45), which plugs in to an Internet Router. These IP phones have all the necessary software to let you make VoIP calls.
Typically, a traditional VoIP Hardware Phone (or VoIP adaptor) will give you better sound quality and ease of use.
VoIP Phones provide better sound quality than software phones because the telephone has signal processing chips which are dedicated to handling a voice call.
VoIP phones also provide greater ease of use for most people as the familiar interface of a telephone means that they are able to make and receive phone calls easily without having to understand a new computer program.
Software phones are useful for customers who travel using laptops regularly, and also desk bound operators who are handling a high volume of calls. They are also ideal for two friends who wish to chat using their computers and the free software download.
If you decide to use an Internet telephone adapter or VoIP Hardware Phone you will need to ensure that you have a spare Ethernet socket on your ADSL Modem.
If you have a broadband ADSL connection, such as BT Broadband, Tiscali or Sky and you are using a basic USB modem to connect your PC to the ADSL line, you may need to replace it with an ADSL Modem which has Ethernet ports. Also make sure your PC has an Ethernet connection.
The service plan and fees involved with the VoIP service you choose can often be the most important factor in your decision making process. You want a plan that's going to allow you to make calls to where you want without sticking you with all sorts of unnecessary fees. Too often people get saddled with expensive plans that provide them with very little benefit.
The plan from the VoIP service you choose needs to have several additional features to make it even more worth your while.
The VOIP service you choose need to be easy to install and setup. The last thing you want when you sign on with a new service is to be greeted with complex procedures to get everything up and running successfully.
The task of navigating the world of VoIP services can often be a difficult one. It's comforting to go with a company that has solid help and support options to back you up. There's no reason to go with a company that doesn't look out for their customers through quality customer service.
Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft, is undoubtedly the best-known VoIP service for home users. It is a free download and really easy to use. It lets you call computer to computer across the world and it costs you nothing more than the cost of your normal Internet subscription.
People use the free version of Skype to stay in touch in ways that they haven’t been able to before. They can talk to each other for hours free of charge - even though they may be thousands of miles apart!
Skype allows you to use your computer to call land-lines and mobile phones for a very low cost, and also allows land-line users to call your Skype account using a local telephone number. There is also a voice mail service that can take messages if someone calls and you are not available.
To make the service even more useful there are various ad on services you can pay for.
The only thing Skype cannot do is make emergency calls.
Find out more about Skype and what it can offer you - http://www.skype.com
Tip: For High Quality Video calls you will need to own a good video webcam and the right software, a dual-core processor computer and a fast and stable broadband connection.
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