Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/1. Your PC can Make Telephone Calls to Anywhere in the World for Free!

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1 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/1 Your PC can Make Telephone Calls to Anywhere in the World for Free! With the information in this article you can: Try out a selection of the best free VoIP softphones Make international, national and local calls for nothing Choose the right VoIP service provider for you Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows you to make telephone calls over the Internet. Like many new computing technologies, it is possible to try out VoIP without a daunting financial commitment. At the professional end of the market, companies are committing thousands of pounds to the installation of VoIP networks. In many cases, these will completely replace their existing switchboards. However, anyone can get started with VoIP using a standard PC, a broadband Internet connection and the freeware introduced in this article. Dr Steve North: Over the next few years, it is likely that our all of our communications and entertainment will start to arrive through one service provider. In the meantime, we are witnessing an evolutionary contest to see which of these technologies emerge as the fittest. This article will help you to keep up to speed with the latest developments, with free calls thrown in as a bonus! The advantages of using VoIP... I 19/2.. Lots of exciting ways to make VoIP work for you... I 19/4 Choosing and signing up for the best VoIP provider for you... I 19/5 Skype: a popular softphone that works well inside a network... I 19/7 Get on the dog and bone with DingoTel PC... I 19/9 It s easy to make free phone calls with TiVi... I 19/10 Get busy with BuzzfonP2P... I 19/11 1

2 I 19/2!? VoIP uses packet switching traditional phone calls use circuit switching. With VoIP there are no call charges when you are phoning from PC-to-PC. Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P The Advantages of Using VoIP Your home telephone makes use of the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). This is also known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This technology uses circuit switching to establish a permanent link between you and another caller. The circuits are hardware based and very expensive. In addition, keeping a continuous, two-way link open during every call reduces the possible volume of traffic. The cost of installing and maintaining vast banks of automated switching equipment is passed on to the consumer in the cost of a standard phone call. Instead of circuit switching, the Internet uses packetswitching. Rather than a dedicated link, information packets are mixed together, with only a destination address to distinguish them. This results in massive cost savings because more information can be accommodated (greater bandwidth) and the hardware is replaced with relatively cheap software. Phone companies already make use of the Internet to link portions of the PSTN. You have probably already made VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls without even realising it. Now, you can make VoIP calls directly from your own PC. If you are calling another PC then there are no call charges, while the cost of calls to phones on the traditional network is usually cheaper than regular calls. Of course, the calls to other PCs are not completely free, as you are already paying your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for unmetered ADSL/broadband access. VoIP calls use either a hardware or software telephone (a softphone ). One of the big advantages with VoIP is its integration with other Internet tools. Potentially, you can exchange files, images, video, or even work collaboratively using the same software. 2

3 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/3 Different ways to use VoIP 3

4 I 19/4 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P The diagram on the previous page shows the various ways that a user with VoIP software on their PC can make calls to other people. The PC on the right-hand side of the diagram with VoIP software installed can potentially communicate with any of the six telephone VoIP hardware/software combinations shown on the left. Read on for more information on making VoIP calls.!?! VoIP connections may not work during a power failure. Yes No Test A headset can prevent problems with audio feedback. Lots of Exciting Ways to Make VoIP Work for You In order start trying out VoIP, you need to understand a bit about the different ways that this type of call can be placed. Before you leap into using VoIP as your main phone, you should also consider whether it is reliable enough to use exclusively. For example, most VoIP setups will stop working during a power failure. Would you need a mobile phone or another landline in an emergency? The diagram on the previous page illustrates the current options for placing a call from your PC and there now follows a basic explanation of these setups: PC microphone and speakers this is the simplest and cheapest option to get you started. A freeware softphone tool on your PC allows you to dial a call. Communication is via the standard speakers and microphone on your PC. Of course, your PC will need a soundcard to power your speakers. One of the major drawbacks with this approach is feedback (a horrible squealing noise) when the microphone is too close to the speakers. Headset adding a USB headset (either with a cable or even wireless) enhances the basic microphone and speakers setup. USB handset for approximately 30 you can add a USB handset that looks like a real telephone. However, 4

5 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/5 at the time of writing, these units are often only designed to work with one particular VoIP service. For example, the Firebox VoIP Cyberphone has been specifically developed for Skype. Standard telephone this can be either via an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) box or directly into an ADSL modem/router with a built-in ATA. With a stand-alone ATA box, you may be able to make VoIP phone calls outside the home. In theory, you should be able to plug your ATA box into a broadband connection anywhere in the world. If this feature is important to you, make sure that you read a detailed specification for any ATA that you are considering. This ability to interface ordinary phones with broadband is sometimes used to VoIP-enable existing company switchboards. IP telephone directly into an ADSL router an IP telephone is not the same thing as a USB handset (as mentioned earlier). The former is a much more expensive device that does not need to be plugged into your PC. Instead, it usually plugs straight into a broadband router, or possibly an RJ45 network socket of the type fitted in most offices. Choosing and Signing Up for the Best VoIP Provider for You By now, you should have two of the three things required to get you started with VoIP. You have a broadband Internet connection (VoIP is too slow over dial-up). Using the information in the last section, you have decided whether any additional hardware is needed. Your third and final requirement is that you will need a VoIP service provider. This is a company that will provide you with your unique VoIP username or phone number. They will also handle the routing of VoIP calls to conventional phones on the PSTN. This can be thought of as an interface between the Internet An ATA allows you to use a standard telephone to make a VoIP call. An IP telephone is not the same thing as a VoIP USB handset.!? You need broadband, the right hardware for your PC and a VoIP service provider. 5

6 I 19/6 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P Softphones provide an on-screen telephone for placing VoIP calls. If you need to make calls to regular phones, make sure that your VoIP provider offers this service. and the phone system (see the PSTN label in the bottom right of the diagram on page I 19/3). There are two types of VoIP service provider: Softphone-based providers these will require you to use a provided tool, which is usually freeware. Skype is an example of this type of service. A softphone solution is based around your PC and will not usually work with either a standard telephone/ata combination, or an IP telephone. Your hardware options are likely to be: PC microphone/speakers, a USB headset or a USB handset. These services are generally aimed at the nonprofessional end of the market. They are an ideal introduction for the home user. Service-only providers although these will occasionally require (or recommend) the use of a specific hardware setup, you are generally just paying for an access account. This is the type of solution that you will need in order to use a standard telephone/ata combination, or an IP telephone. The cost, quality and dependability of these services are generally higher. They currently tend to be aimed at the professional user. As shown in the diagram on page I 19/3, there are two types of VoIP phone call: PC-to-PC calling with most providers these calls will be completely free. PC to regular phone calling providers will usually bill you for this. Prices vary from provider to provider. If you require the second of these options, make sure that it is available from your chosen provider. Another consideration is the VoIP protocol(s) supported by your provider. The protocol designed specifically for VoIP is called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). However, many of the most popular VoIP software tools do not support SIP. For example, Skype has developed its own non-standard protocol. Many companies use the popular H.323 protocol, 6

7 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/7 which was designed for more generic data transmission and specifically video conferencing. One important thing to know about SIP is that it often doesn t work from inside a Local Area Network (LAN). This is because IP addresses are automatically allocated to LAN PCs by the router or gateway. This effectively rules out its use for VoIP in a home LAN. The only exception to this is where a VoIP service, using SIP, is accessed directly from an ATA plugged into a router (or a router with built-in ATA). It is important that you ask any service provider (or hardware manufacturer, if buying VoIP equipment) which protocols they support. Other questions to ask providers: Is there a monthly subscription charge? (This can apply even where PC-to-PC calling is free.) Will I be allocated a phone number that can be dialled from a regular phone? Does this number have a local code (this may be important if you intend using the number for your business)? Or do you only have a username (PC-to-PC calling only). Is it possible to call PC users on other VoIP networks? This service is sometimes available when SIP is supported. In the remainder of this article we will consider some of the excellent free software (and free services) available from the leading softphone-based VoIP providers. All of the tools discussed are available on the CD accompanying this update. Most of these services require you to register personal information in order to make free calls. You are advised to read the terms and conditions to ensure that your data is adequately protected. Skype: A Popular Softphone that Works Well Inside a Network Works with Windows 2000/XP. There are two common VoIP protocols: SIP and H.323. Being able to make calls to users who are with a different VoIP service provider can be very useful. Skype uses its own VoIP protocol. 7

8 I 19/8 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P Skype is available on the CD that accompanies this update. Click here to see your call history. Skype is the most well known and successful of the softphones mentioned in this article. The same team that produces the popular file-swapping software, Kazaa, has developed it. Skype offers free, unlimited worldwide phone calls to other users. It also provides an option to make paid calls to standard phones. As Skype uses its own protocol (neither SIP nor H.323), it works from inside corporate firewalls, or home networks. All calls are encrypted to ensure your privacy. A basic registration procedure is required, but this is very straightforward. To get started making a VoIP call: 1. Click Tools > Add a Contact. 2. Type the Skype name or telephone number that you would like to call. 3. Click Next. 4. Click OK to send a request to the named user, asking them to confirm that you can monitor his or her online status. Click here to see your contacts. Your currently online contacts are displayed here. Type the number you want to call here. Click here to make a call. Making a call with Skype 8

9 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/9 Get on the Dog and Bone with DingoTel PC Works with Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP DingoTel provide three different versions of their software: D i n g o Tel PC, DingoTel Anywhere and DingoTel 2Wa y. DingoTel PC is the free tool for free PC-to-PC calling and paid calls to landlines. For paid calls to landlines, you can purchase +Dial credits to make calls. The second version of DingoTel software is DingoTe l Anywhere, which is currently awaiting launch. This software promises an interface for your standard home telephone, but the technical details have not yet been released. DingoTel 2Way provides a method for placing VoIP calls from a walkie-talkie radio, while several miles away from your PC. This product is obviously aimed at farmers or possibly for industries that wish to link multiple sites using a 2-way radio network. DingoTel PC offers instant messaging but there is no facility for file sharing or video. This software automatically chooses an appropriate protocol (SIP or DingoTel s own), so that calling from inside a network or firewall should not be a problem. It is not currently possible to call users of other SIP compatible VoIP providers, but this feature should be available in the future. DingoTel promise that any calls to another user will always be free. To place a call with DingoTel PC: 1. Click on Register Now to create a user account. The address that you provide will be used to find you on the network. 2. Click on Sign In and type your address and password. 3. Click OK. 4. Click Contacts > Add Contact. 5. Enter the address of the intended contact and click Next.!? DingoTel is about to launch a service with an interface for a standard telephone. DingoTel 2Way provides a VoIP interface for walkie-talkie radios! DingoTel PC is available on the CD that accompanies this update. 9

10 I 19/10 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P 6. When DingoTel finds your contact, click OK to add them to your list. If the contact is not found, DingoTel will them with an invitation to register. You can only phone a contact if your add request is accepted. It s Easy to Make Free Phone Calls With TiVi!? TiVi is simple to set up and use. TiVi is available on the CD that accompanies this update. Works with Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP This is the simplest of the softphones presented in this article. It consists of a very small file that does not even require installation to get started making calls. There is a very basic registration process and then you are ready to go. A more detailed registration (to get an actual phone number) is required if you wish to call other landline numbers. Calls of this type can be made by purchasing prepaid credits. TiVi also offers file sharing and instant messaging. You need to know someone s username or IP address in order to make a PC-to-PC call. The centre icon activates the user options, including login. The TiVi softphone You can call users of other VoIP services, if they are SIP-compatible. TiVi does not currently offer a method to search for other users, but this is promised in the future. As TiVi uses SIP, it is possible to contact users of other VoIP tools that are compatible with this protocol. 10

11 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P I 19/11 To make a PC-to-PC call: 1. Click on the centre icon (see screenshot on the previous page) to display user options. 2. Click in the white panel area, below the centre icon you just selected. 3. Type (using your PC s keyboard, not the on-screen pad) the username or IP address of the person that you wish to call. You ll need to know this is advance of making the call. 4. Click the green phone icon to connect. Get Busy with BuzzfonP2P Works with Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP BuzzfonP2P is only for making PC-to-PC calls. A separate program, BuzzfonPC-to-Fon, is about to be launched. Registration is required to use the BuzzfonP2P service. You are even required to purchase the free software from the company s online store for the price of $0! Don t be alarmed by this procedure, as no payment details are required and it is just a formality to obtain your UserID and password. BuzzfonP2P does not provide any additional features (for example, file sharing, messaging) but the technology does offer one of the clearest sound qualities currently available from a free softphone. To make a call with BuzzfonP2P: 1. Click Apply for a new account and follow the instructions to receive your UserID and password by Type your UserID and password. 3. Click on Login.!? BuzzfonP2P seems to offer excellent sound quality. A link to BuzzfonP2P is available on the CD that accompanies this update. 11

12 I 19/12 Internet: Telephone Calls for Free with Vo I P 4. If the telephone keypad is not visible, click on the telephone icon. 5. Type in the UserID of the person that you want to phone (using either the numbers on your keyboard, or by clicking the on-screen keypad). 6. Click on the green telephone icon to place the call Calling Out Around the World and What s Coming Next So, that s it! You need no longer worry about those lengthy transatlantic calls. It doesn t matter if you stay on the phone all day, because, with VoIP, it s completely free. BT has recently announced that they intend changing their entire network over to VoIP by Effectively, this will mean that every house will need a broadband line. The same cabling will still be used, but much of the actual hardware at the exchanges will be replaced by Internet technology. There are also indications that the next few years will see a plethora of VoIP-enabled devices. For example, several manufacturers are believed to be working on small Wi-Fi handsets that allow VoIP calls to be made from public wireless access points. Such a device could also be combined with a mobile phone. Calls could then be switched automatically between networks, providing the lowest possible charges for any given location. Obviously, the world of telecommunications is in for some big changes. 12

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