29 October 2006
VOIP - which stands for "voice over internet protocol" and has become the generic term for internet telephony - is the technology of the moment. If it has baffled you, don't feel bad - it's a bit of a minefield. In essence, though, it's just another way of making phone calls. You need a computer with a broadband internet connection but the advantage is that calls, even to other countries, can be cheap or even free.
If you think there's no such thing as a free lunch, you're right. Some telecom suppliers promise to give you broadband internet for free, but you'll have to pay for something (such as an inclusive calls package) to qualify. Also, free calls are often only available within a particular network. For example, Tesco Internet offers free calls from one Tesco user to another, and Skype (probably the best-known VOIP service) also has free calls within its own network, but calls to regular phone numbers require SkypeOut, which has cheap, but not free, calls.