With the era of high speed internet access right upon us, the possiblities are now endless as to what you can with telephony. These services that provide access over the internet are called VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol, and will allow you to make calls over the internet (as long as you have a high speed connection) with low rates, and sometimes even for free. There are, of course, many advantages to using solutions such as these to call family and friends but you also have to consider the drawbacks of a calling solution such as this. In this article we will provide you with further information on how to access these services, their benefits and their problems.
The main providers that offer a VOIP Solution are:
There are obviously many other providers who offer a VOIP calling solution, but these are the two largest providers.
How do VOIP solutions work?
Without getting too technical, most VOIP solutions will make you download and install their software onto your computer. You will then register with them and create a username. Essentially that is the main part of the VOIP calling platform, and as long as you have a headset you can call other users on the same network for FREE.
Once you have done this, most services will allow you to purchase credit to make phone calls from your computer to other landlines and mobile phones and will charge you a low rate for doing this. You will also have the option to purchase a telephone number in a specific country so people can call you. So if you are studying in the USA and you are from the UK, you can purchase (for a low fee) a number in the UK that all your friends and family can dial and this will ring through to your computer in the USA.
Advantages of VOIP
- Free Calling - as long as your friends are on the same network, you will have free user to user calling.
- Low rates - if you do want to call landlines or mobile phones, VOIP offers a low cost solution.
- Extras - most platforms will allow you to send files, and even video conference which is great if you are homesick.
Disadvantages of VOIP
- Computer - you will need a computer and it will need to be switched on in order for you to use any VOIP service.
- Quality - because you are using the internet the quality of the call can vary from being excellent to very poor.
- Power - if you have a power outage, your will lose your VOIP service.
- Emergency Calls - VOIP services will not allow you to make emergency calls.
VOIP calling is a great solution for many students as it offers cheap, or even free, calling to friends and family abroad. As technology advances there are also phones out there that do not need a computer to be on in order to run their VOIP software so this removes the disadvantage of needing your computer on all the time - however these phones are still very expensive.
Overall VOIP calling is a great option and should be used as part of your overal calling solutions. From the two services that we mentioned above, Skype offers the best features and service of the two, so we would recommend that option.