Free phone calls

Free phone calls

By Richard Heller

Free phone calls

One of the latest things that you can get free over the Internet is long-distance telephone service. At least, that is what the ads say for the many devices and the software that makes this possible. Let’s take a look at what you can expect.

The software that you use to talk over the Internet is called Voice Over I.P. or VoIP. After you install the software and run the program, you can use your computer to call all over the world without paying for long distance. All you do is log on to your Internet provider, run the VoIP software and dial the phone number you want while online. The call goes down the Internet to a VoIP server near the number you are trying to reach, and then the server connects to the local phone system, dials the number and makes the connection. If the person you are calling uses the same VoIP software as you, he will receive your phone call on his PC; otherwise, his phone will ring. Voila, you can now speak telephonically, at least in theory.

As anyone who has used the Internet knows, you spend a lot of time waiting as a web site loads. Even with a high speed connect, such as with a cable modem, there can be times when the connection is slow. The trouble is, this same slowness takes place with your telephone conversation. Your conversation is about like when you were a kid using a Walkie-Talkie, you talk, then listen while the other person talks. You can’t both talk at the same time; you have to take turns. You can expect several seconds delay even on a good connection, and dropouts and clipping on bad connects. You are going to be asking, “Would you repeat that?” many times during your conversation.

Also, the software places such a heavy demand on your system that you should forget about doing anything else on the computer while you are on the phone.

If this sounds appealing to you, you can either purchase software that allows you to use your existing modem and sound card to place your calls, or you can buy an Internet Call Modem for about $100. There are also devices available for $20-$160 that allow you to connect an ordinary telephone handset to them to improve sound quality. You are still connecting over the Internet and have the same problems with delay and clipping; you just have a more familiar “interface” to work with.

If you are looking to save money on long-distance phone calls and are willing to sacrifice sound quality, can put up with dropouts and constantly repeating yourself, then VoIP may be just what you are looking for. With most cell phone vendors offering free long-distance or low-cost calling plans, it just appears as though this would be a better alternative to free Internet phone calls.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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