Use your Computer to make Cheap Long-Distance Telephone Calls

What is 'VoIP'?

Simply put, VoIP refers to the carriage of voice signals over the Internet. PC to Phone VoIP refers to using your 'Internet-connected' computer to make calls to conventional telephones around the world. Whereas traditional telephone calls take place over fixed line 'circuit switched' networks, VoIP calls are routed through the Internet using a far more efficient method known as 'packet switching'. Whilst carrying voice data more efficiently via the Internet is a benefit, the main advantage that VoIP has is one of cost. For example, a typical PC to Phone VoIP call to a telephone in the United States from anywhere in the world generally runs at just a few cents per minute. Keep in mind, the clarity/quality of PC to Phone calls is usually as good and in many cases better than that of a comparable Phone to Phone call.

How can it be so cheap?

Herein lies the beauty of PC to Phone calls. By using the Internet to route your calls, long-distance charges imposed upon you by the major telecommunications companies (Bell, Sprint, AT&T, etc) are all but eliminated. Furthermore, many of the governmental levies and fees associated with using the highly regulated 'traditional' telephone networks are also avoided. The result? Extremely cheap, long distance calling to conventional telephones around the world with little or no loss of call quality.

So how does it work?

In a typical PC to Phone call, your computer receives your voice input via a microphone and then translates your voice into a 'data packet'. This packet of data is then transmitted via the Internet to as close as possible to the physical destination of the telephone you're calling. Your voice 'data packet' is then switched to the conventional telephone network and routed to the phone that you are calling. All of this data transmission, translation and switching takes place transparently and extremely quickly. Chances are that the person whom you're calling would have no idea that you're talking to them using your computer.

So what do you need?

In order to start making long-distance telephone calls using your computer, you'll need a computer that's connected to the Internet, a microphone and speakers (a headset with a boom microphone is ideal). It's worth mentioning that although there are several companies that support both the Linux and Macintosh platforms (e.g., www.skype.com), the vast majority of PC to Phone software is designed for use on Windows' compatible PCs. As far as your Internet connection goes, the faster the better (e.g., high speed Cable or ADSL). However, PC to Phone does also work on dial-up Internet connections (the way I access the Internet).

The next thing to do is choose a PC to Phone Service Provider. These are the companies that provide the software and infrastructure necessary for you to make calls to conventional telephones via the Internet. There are many Service Providers and each have their own benefits and rates so it's a good idea to shop around. Almost all of them allow for pay-as-you-go usage (i.e., on a per minute basis) however some also offer unlimited calling plans to certain destinations for a low monthly fee. Some of the better known Providers include

net2phone.com

iconnecthere.com

skype.com

Once you've chosen a Service Provider, you'll need to open an account and deposit funds into that account. If you're reluctant to use your credit card online, many of the PC to Phone companies offer alternative forms of payment (e.g., PayPal, direct deposit, wire transfer, etc.). Next, you'll need to download the 'softphone' application from your service provider. A softphone is merely the interface program through which you dial the number of the person you're calling and usually only takes a few minutes to download on even the slowest 'dial-up' Internet connections. Softphones generally resemble the keypad on conventional telephones and work in much the same way. Depending on your service provider, the manner in which you 'dial out' will vary. Typically, the softphone will take into account where you are in the world and adjust the dialing settings accordingly. In other words, you'd dial the exact same series of numbers into the softphone that you would if you were using a conventional telephone.

Once you've made a few calls to friends and family around the world using your computer, you'll quickly realize the fantastic cost advantages of making 'PC to Phone' calls versus 'Phone to Phone' calls.

So what's the catch?

Whilst PC to Phone is terrific, it isn't perfect. There are some disadvantages that you should be aware of and these include:

a) Quality: If you access the Internet via a 'dial-up' connection (i.e., through a normal telephone line), you may experience call quality degradation if you are surfing the web and talking to someone via PC to Phone at the same time. In other words, the 'bandwidth' or 'capacity of your Internet connection' may be limited and this could affect your calling ability.

b) Echo: If you're using computer speakers to hear the person you're talking to, that person may hear an 'echo' of their own voice. This happens for reasons similar to that encountered with the 'speakerphone' function on conventional telephones. At the same time as you hear that person's voice coming through your computer speakers, your microphone will also detect the voice and re-transmit the signal back to the person you're talking to. This 'echo' can easily be avoided by using either a computer headset or by turning your speaker volume down so as to minimize the chance of your microphone picking up and retransmitting the incoming voice signals.

c) Cost: If you're calling relatively small and/or remote countries, you should check the rates of the PC to Phone Service Providers' to those countries before signing up for their PC to Phone service. For example, calling a country like Fiji in the Pacific Ocean is almost as expensive using PC to Phone as it is using a conventional telephone. The reason for these high rates to certain countries is usually due to the PC to Phone Service Provider not having the necessary switching equipment (required for switching your call back to the traditional telephone network from the Internet) physically located in that country. In these scenarios, your calls are routed through the traditional telephone network for a good proportion of the distance they travel and as such they attract many of the long-distance charges that the traditional networks impose. If you'd like to call one country in particular, it's definitely worth shopping around to find out whether prospective PC to Phone companies have the necessary switching equipment located in that country (and hence, can pass on the savings to you in the form of cheaper rates).

So give PC to Phone a try. You've really nothing to lose and have the potential to save yourself a lot of money.

Nathan Smith

Nathan is the operator of http://www.netphonedirectory.com - a directory of PC to Phone and free PC to PC VoIP Service Providers. Nathan currently resides in New Brunswick, Canada

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Voip - Voice Over IP and Business: Is It For You?

VoIP allows users to make phone calls using their high-speed... Read More

Take Your Home or Business Phone With You When You Travel

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service uses a broadband... Read More

Finally Voip Worth a Look!

Everyone can Benefit from this Technology! Voip will be next... Read More

6 Important Things You Should Consider When You Are Selecting A VoIP Provider

The following are 6 very important factors to consider when... Read More

Is VoIP Good For The Home?

There is no doubt that you have heard about VoIP... Read More

Do You Text Chat (IM) Online?

IM (Instant Messaging) - man, we thought we had it... Read More

Why Over 90% of VoIP Services Are Vulnerable to Attack

John Ashcroft, Attorney General, in remarks at the High Technology... Read More

Should You ,VoIP?

My friend in Florida, Samuel, called me last week and... Read More

VoIP - What is the Problem?

In the beginning, when the Internet Protocol was first designed,... Read More

What can a VoIP Phone System Do for a Small Business?

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a term used... Read More

Bluetooth Computer Headsets - Enjoy Wireless Freedom

Wireless Computer HeadsetsTill recently, few options were available to people... Read More

A Look at Internet Voice Technology (VoIP) for Residential

Today's TechnologyOver the years, the technology has made remarkable progress.... Read More

VoIP 101: Voice over IP for Beginners

For those who have never heard about the potential of... Read More

The Dangers of Peer-to-Peer Systems

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) systems do not operate on secure lines, thus... Read More

The Calling Card Alternative

For a few years now, the calling cards business is... Read More

How Voip Can Mask The Size Of Your Business And Save You A Bundle

Have you heard the buzz about VOIP (Voice Over Internt... Read More

Will the Bell System Survive? A Massive Transfer of Wealth from Bell to VoIP is Underway

Will the Bell System Survive? A Massive Transfer of Wealth... Read More

VoIP (Computer Phone) Warning

Warning! Warning! Warning!Beware of VoIP internet service providers that operate... Read More

VoIP: Finally Worth a Look

Dear Internet Friends, Hundreds of thousands of consumers collectively save... Read More

Things You Should Consider When Selecting a VoIP Provider

The following are very important factors to consider when you... Read More

What Do You Know About VoIP?

What is VoIPVoIP is an acronym for voice over internet... Read More

The Lowdown on VoIP

It seems like technology is headed for a massive telephone... Read More

Text To Speech - Its Simple

Looking for a natural voice speech engine? Curious about what... Read More

VoIP - A Laymans Look - Should You Or Shouldnt You?

"As business people we manufacture shin pads, or we distribute... Read More

How to Never Pay a Hotel Phone Bill Again

The protocol is increasingly being adopted as the standard means... Read More

Outstanding VoIP Voicemail Features Makes Getting VoIP Voicemail Extremely Convenient

There are many types of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)... Read More

Making PC to Phone VoIP Calls over Dial-Up Internet Connections

There's a lot of hype these days surrounding Internet-based voice... Read More

VOIP Questions and Answers

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, has grown in popularity... Read More

How VoIP Works -- Busting Out of Long Distance Rates

VoIP is the newest advancement in audio communications technology, and... Read More

Voice over IP (VoIP) Features

Because with VOIP you can make calls from anywhere you... Read More

Is VoIP the ?Next Big Thing? in Telecommunications?

VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol has been simmering for... Read More

VoIP and 911 Warning

Be leery of your VoIP phone system in case of... Read More

How Much Bandwidth is Required for VoIP Phones?

A long-standing question for potential VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)... Read More