Free Calls! Anytime... Anywhere!
By Will from Holland
Calling anywhere in the world for as cheap as 1.7 cents a minute?
In my dreams?
In my dreams indeed. But apparently dreams do come true.
Did you know you could actually make a call to Liechtenstein for under $0.06 per minute? Where is Liechtenstein? Far away, but that's not the point.
What you are about to read might change your life forever. It did to mine, that's for sure.
Having all my family and friends back in Europe caused my phone bill to hit the roof every month. Phone bills of $250 per month were no exception. What do you expect with a rate of 35 cents a minute and up?
That was all over when I found out about Internet telephony, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as they call it. Now I call all my friends and family for free, and my average phone bill is around $30 each month. An extra $200 to spend each month, now that's what I call a raise!
So how did I do that and what is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol is literally like making a regular phone call, but over the Internet. VoIP converts your voice signal into data and sends this over the Internet to the receiver, where it's converted back to voice signal. It's like sending e-mails back and forward, but very quickly.
There are a couple of different ways to do this and a bunch of different VoIP providers.
The service I use is called Skype. To get Skype, you download and install software on your computer from their website, get yourself a headset with microphone; connect to the Internet, and voilá: you are ready to call the world from your pc.
If you get your friends to download this program too, you call them on their computer, anywhere in the world for free. Kind of like Instant Messenger or MSN Messenger, but using speech, instead of writing.
It's also possible to make phone calls from your computer to any phone number, almost anywhere in the world. And the best thing about this is, it's dirt-cheap. You call anywhere in Northern America, Europe or Australia between 1.7 and 3 cents a minute. See how I save $200 per month using this?
Skype works best for me, since I'm making a lot of international calls and Skype is the cheapest on this. The only little disadvantage about Skype, is the fact you have to use your computer (or USB-phone connected to your computer) to make calls. This means you are a little bit limited in where and how you use it and you have to have your computer with you to be able to make calls.
Not to worry though, there are more options. There are a lot of different VoIP providers out there. Search the Web to figure out which is best for you. Make sure that besides Skype, you also have a look at Lingo, Net2Phone and Vonage. When evaluating any service, remember to check out their licensing agreement and privacy policies. Yep, read the fine print.
I happen to know about this company called Vonage. They use a different type of VoIP system.
When you subscribe to Vonage, you receive a special adapter, which plugs into your Internet connection. Plug in a regular phone or your computer and you're ready to go.
If you sign up for Vonage, you receive a virtual phone number, but it's even possible to keep your own number, or choose the area code of your liking. And it pretty much provides you with the same services your regular phone company does (voicemail, call waiting, etc.).