Every now and then something comes along that revolutionises the way we communicate. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is one such technology and is fast replacing traditional telephony as a means of communication. Here we look at some of the VoIP options available in Britain today.
VoIP, also known as internet calling, has been around for a while. However, the widespread availability of broadband and improved connection speeds mean that it is now becoming a practical option for more and more people.
The real advantage of internet calling is the low costs. In truth, if you can get a good broadband connection there shouldn't be any reason to fork out for your internet connection and your call separately.
We also advise that you try to avoid joint broadband and phone packages. Instead, spend your money on getting in a good broadband connection and make and receive calls directly through your computer.
In truth, you can do this for free by using your computer's built in microphone and speakers. Alternatively you could invest in an headphone or a VoIP telephone. If you are using internet calling for all you voice telephony you may want to splash out on a good VoIP telephone. You should be able to get a quality phone for about £50.
Once you have your broadband connection and the equipment you need, it is time to look at the
VoIP providers and products available. Because VoIP is available through the internet there are few restrictions when it comes to finding a provider. There are scores to choose from each with its own benefits. You can arrange and pay for everything online and, in general, call costs are very cheap and there is no reason to limit yourself to just one provider.
The majority of people rely on Skype for their internet calling needs and it is a good place to start. Skype membership is free, the software is free and you can call other Skype members for free, no matter where they are. In fact, you can even video call for free.
You can also call landlines and mobile phones using Skype but this will cost you. Call costs are still very cheap but you will need to buy credit beforehand. While there are not great savings for local calls, Skype can be very cheap for international calls and calls to certain mobiles. For example, calling a landline in Britain costs the same as calling a landline in the US or Australia – under 1p per minute.
In addition, Skype allows you to rent a standard English telephone number for a monthly fee which will allow people to ring you as they would ring a normal phone. It also offers extra features such as a messaging service, call recording and more.
Skype is great for calling other Skype members for free and for international calls. However, if you are using internet calling for all your telephone needs you may want to consider a pay-per-month service.
One of the biggest companies offering this kind of service in Britain is Vonage, though there are others. With Vonage you pay a flat monthly fee and you get unlimited calls to certain phones, depending on the plan you choose.
For example, for £7.99 per month you get unlimited calls to landlines in Britain, Ireland and 13 other countries. For £14.99 per month you get free calls to landlines in 35 countries mobiles in Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore. All of Vonage's plans include your own telephone number, but you can expect to pay a line activation fee and an equipment fee.
There is a lot of competition out there so be sure to shop around for a good deal that suits your calling habits. If you think you will be making calls regularly using VoIP we recommend that you combine Skype with another service. This will give you the option to call other Skype users for free and will give you some choice when calling landlines and mobile phones.
Even if you use your phone a lot, we estimate that you should be able to cover the costs of your broadband line and all your calls for about £30 per month, or even less. So if you are paying more than this for internet and calls each month you should definitely check out internet calling.