If you have a computer, a headset, and an internet connection, you can make free PC to PC phone calls to anyone in the world! The only catch is that the person you are calling must also have an active account with the same VoIP service provider, and must be online to get the call. With any VoIP service, "in-network" calling (all callers subscribing to the same carrier) is always free, but most providers require that you pay a small monthly fee which allows you to make "out-of-network" calls as well.
There are several internet phone service providers that offer PC based phone calling, but only a few do not require a monthly service fee when you register. Because the PC to PC calling service is free, you may have to put up with ads on your dial pad or be limited to a certain call length, but for a free long distance call this is probably acceptable to most people. If you want to make calls to a landline phone, you can do so by paying a low cost per minute (much less than traditional long distance).
So here's how to make free PC to PC phone calls:
Choose a provider, then download and install their free software (the software is a "dial pad" that you use to make calls).
Register and get an account (you need to have a valid email address).
Make sure the people you want to call install the software and register with the same VoIP provider.
Enter your friends usernames into your contact list, and ask that they do the same (this allows you to see that they are online and able to accept calls).
Plug your headset (with microphone) into the appropriate in/out audio jacks on your computer (or USB port if applicable).
Click on your contact and make a call - that's all there is to it!
Since PC to PC calling uses a technology similar to instant messaging, most VoIP provider's software allows you to text message the person you are talking to. Conference calling is also possible - just click on another active user and they can join in the call!
As of this writing, here are some VoIP providers I found that offer free PC to PC internet phone calls with no monthly fees. Because services can change from time to time, make sure you agree with the terms and conditions before creating an account. Skype is the largest and most well known provider with over 190 million downloads to date.
As with any software, your computer must meet certain requirements in order for the installation to succeed. As a general rule, your computer should have at minimum a 400 MHz processor, 10 MB of free disk space and 128 MB of RAM. You also need a sound card, and either a headset with microphone or speakers and a microphone. Of course, you need an internet connection as well. Software is available for PC, Mac and Linux platforms. Skype has software for Pocket PC as well.
PC based VoIP will work fine over a dial up connection of at least 33.6 Kbps, but be sure to close all email applications and don't do any web surfing while talking because these processes will degrade performance. For the absolute best internet phone calling experience, broadband is the way to go.
Free software-based PC to PC internet phone service is a great way to "test the waters" if you are interested in trying VoIP before jumping into a paid service. It's also perfect if you're on a tight budget and want to make some free long distance calls. Anyone in the world can use VoIP as long as they have an internet connection; just make sure all your friends and relatives use the same carrier if you want to keep the calls free.
This type of VoIP service is not compatible with 911, so it should not be used as your one and only phone. If you want save a lot of money on your phone bill and use VoIP as your primary phone, consider subscribing to a hardware-based VoIP carrier like Packet8, Vonage, Lingo.
posted by daku @ 12:57 AM,