The world is on the brink of a phone revolution, with a growing number of people cutting their telecom bills by making free calls via the World Wide Web.
A recent sign of this is that EBay, the online auction website, is so sure the idea will catch on, that it has paid $4.1 billion for the Internet Phone firm Skype Technologies.
Shortly all the millions of people who buy and sell goods on eBay will be able to use Skype's software, to talk to each other free and also make cut price calls to other landlines and cell phones.
Internet Phone services such as Skype are specially valuable for people who make a great deal of international telephone calls, as even these are free as long as both caller and receiver use the Skype software. The service works best over a broadband World Wide Web link but it can be used over dial up. Also a microphone headset is required to improve sound quality, nonetheless you can also use the external speakers and microphone that are supplied with most personal computers these days.
Its terribly convenient to make an Internet Phone call, just determine which Skype user or phone number you want to call, press dial and a few seconds later you will hear the phone ring at the other end. Skype claims that the sound quality for an Internet Phone call is at least as good as a normal phone call, particularly if you use a headset. Nevertheless, some users complain about echoes and some delays between speaking and hearing the feedback.
There are also more drawbacks, most Internet phone services don't permit calls to emergency services, also you may not hear incoming telephone calls whilst you are away from your computer, and if you go offline or switch off your computer you will not be able to receive calls at all. On the plus side you can use the Internet Phone services to make conference calls and if you have a Web Cam you could also set up a videoconference.
Skype is not the only provider of free Internet Phone calls; they are also available with Vontage, BT Google Talk and several others.
Vontage is one of the most popular. The service uses a router and your normal telephone so you just make calls in the usual way, but they are carried over the Internet rather than you telephone company's landline. Telephone calls to other Vontage users are free, and you get extra services such as voice mail and call waiting included in the monthly charge cost.
With the on going take up of Broad Band services around the world one has to wonder what is the longer term future for traditional land line based telephone services?
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