The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home, Home Office, and Small Business
Taking a Look at Free VOIP Software
So what does "free" really mean when we're talking about a VOIP service?
Does it mean free phone calls from your PC to another PC, from your PC to phone, or from one phone to another?
VOIP providers also toss around the word "free" when it comes to what's included their subscriber plans. For example, Vonage UK offers its customers "free" calls to the US anytime...In this case, free just means the cost of the call is include in your monthly rate (which is still very reasonable). More about VOIP service plans...
However, for the purposes of this article, free VOIP refers to the free VOIP software offered by companies like Skype that allows you to make free PC-to-PC, PC-to-phone, or phone-to-phone calls.
Is there a hitch? Sometimes, and really not so much a big deal. For example, in return for allowing you to make free phone calls, the VOIP service provider may ask you to view advertisements or to log on to a website and provide personal details.
There are three types of VOIP services:
Free PC-to-PC VOIP Services
To make free PC to PC VOIP phone calls you need two computers with Internet connections, a sound card, microphone and speakers or headphones. You donât need any special service, though you will have to install the free VOIP software on both the PCs. A few of the companies offering this type of free download are: Skype, Gizmo Project, Free World Dialup, BuddyTalk, and now Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.
You will not be able to make a call if both the computers are not running, or are not loaded with the right software. This limits the utility of this service but it is still a good option because many service providers have stopped offering free PC to phone services.
Free PC-to-Phone VOIP Services
To make free calls from a PC to phone, you need a computer with a sound card, a microphone and speakers or headphones.
The voice quality is quite good, though it does not match a conventional phone. A poor Internet connection can cause a drop in the sound quality and an increase in the lag. Bugs in the software can also create problems. It helps if you download the latest operating system and update your browser. Most of the service providers in this category have gone out of business and some have begun charging for their services.
At the time of writing, one company offering free computer-to-phone calls is Voipbuster.com. You have to download their VOIP software which you use to make calls from your computer. Calls to other Voipbuster customers are free, as well as calls to landline phones in the following free destinations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan.
Free Phone to Phone VOIP Services
This service allows you to make free calls from one phone to another. In return you may have to visit websites, view advertisements or subscribe to partner services.
Unfortunately, this type of free service may have already gone the way of the dinosaur. At the time of writing, companies such as extremevoice.com and speak4free.com are no longer offering this service.
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