Internet calling, (also known as VoIP), allows users to call other people using their computer (PC to PC calls) or phone (PC to phone calls). You can use Internet calling to reach anyone anywhere in the world. With your phone service on the Internet, long distance is free and international rates are cheaper than a calling card. Internet calling alllows families (even businesses) to cut the cost of their monthly telephone bills by as much as 80%.
There are several different ways to make Internet phone calls and your Internet calling capabilities are largely determined by what provider you choose. For instance, there are many free Internet telephone services out there and many paid Internet telephone services out there: what’s the difference? Which ones can replace your home phone service and which are better for incidental use?
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Free Internet calling
Most free Internet calling services can only call other computers (PC to PC calls); some free Internet calling services can call landline phones (PC to phone calls).
Some free VoIP providers, such as Evaphone, are available through applications on websites and some, like TutiTalk, require that you download software. A downloadable Internet phone service is probably a better option, since you don’t have to visit the website.
No matter which type of Internet calling service you use, all free Internet calling services need a computer and Internet connection. If you don’t have a computer or you’re calling someone without a computer, calling on the Internet, from a computer, is not a good idea.
The Dirty Little Secret of Free Internet Calling
While many free Internet calling providers offer free calls, their fine print limits users to a certain amount of talk time to the public network (usually, calls between users on the same network are free and okay). After that, the call is cut off. For example:
- Freebuzzer offers 2 minutes of free Internet calls
- Tutitalk offers a limited number of calls daily, depending on the country.
- iCall offers 5 minutes per day.
- Evaphone offers 10 sec to 1 minute of free Internet calls, and limits you to just 2 calls per day.
Some free Internet calls also may make you listen to advertiserments that you hear or see before your call is connected. Other free international Internet calling providers may charge for international calls after that specific amount of time. They’ll let you know when they’re going to do this, but international calls aren’t free forever.
How to use Free Internet Calling
These free VoIP providers may be great if you just need to deliver a short message, but if you regularly have conversations that last longer than 5 minutes, a paid provider is a better choice - at least you can finish the conversation.
911 and Internet Calling
Most free Internet calling providers cannot support 911 calls. If you select a paid Internet calling service to replace your home phone, 911 should be included - you may have to check, though.
Paid Internet calling providers
Paid Internet calling providers require stable Internet access and sometimes hardware purchase or software download -- or both.
Subscription-based Internet calling
Paid Internet calling providers usually offer flat rate monthly fees for their service which is much lower than the prices with the telephone company. In return, you get unlimited calling throughout the US and Canada. Not bad for Internet phone calls.
For example, Via Talk offers a monthly plan for $8.95 a month, which has all the features of a traditional phone line, including the features the phone company will charge you extra for (like voicemail or call waiting). With ViaTalk, you get unlimited local and long distance minutes and, on some plans, some international calls are covered, too.
Per-call based Internet calling
Some Internet calling providers, such as Skype, charge a credit in order to allow international phone calls. Rather than signing up for a monthly subscription, users can choose to add Skype Credit. The amount of credit you add determines how much talk time you have.
The drawback with Skype Credit and similar credit-only providers is they operates similar to a free provider: all their Internet phone calls are PC to Phone-based calling. You must use Skype on your PC with the credit plan; with the subscription package through Skype, you a phone number and call forwarding to your traditional phone - it’s a subscription-based VoIP service.
Long distance and international Internet calling
Many residential and business VoIP providers permit unlimited long distance calling. International calling is usually heavily discounted as well: most European countries cost less than one cent a minute.
The bottom line on Internet calling
If you want to replace your local home phone service with a cheaper service and maintain the same level of service, an Internet home phone provider may be for you.