Thursday, March 5, 2009

Skype and calls over the internet

Have you jumped on board the Skype train yet? Not sure what Skype is? Well I'll describe what Skype is and how a huge world of internet calls has opened up, making the standard wall phone a thing of the past. Not to mention I give an idea on how to save a bundle on international calls.

Skype is a software application that allows you to make PC to PC phone calls...for free. What is even cooler is if you have a webcam, you can video chat for free too. Skype has a new interface that may or may not be user-friendly depending on your tastes. For an overview of that go to CNET's video on Skype.

The gear is realatively unexciting. All you need is a mic and a set of head phones. Set up a free Skype account and off you go. You can talk completely free of charges, PC to PC, with anyone that has a Skype account. You can also makes calls to traditional phone numbers, but that costs extra.

Now, on to why I included a router in my 5 best electronics post... VoIP or Voice over IP, essentially making phone calls over a broadband internet connection started in the early 90's. With the g and now n types of wireless networks (getting back to the router), you can make phone calls without interuption over those networks. That's why the router is cool. Let me explain more, cause I can tell I haven't hooked you yet.

There are a number of wireless VoIP phones out on the market today. Here is a sampling of them:
  1. Belkin Wi-Fi for Skype
  2. Netgear SPH200W
With these, or any WiFi phone you have, all you need is a wireless signal and you're making calls for pennies on the dollar compared to a mobile phone. Not to mention, you have friends in Germany or Spain? No problem. There really isn't anything like a domestic or international call anymore. Just get online...done.

Skype has its own line up of phones as well and offers goodies on thier website like headphones and a host of wireless access points for your home.

What's the deal with VoIP? Well I'll de-mystify it for you. There are a ton of VoIP companies out there, the biggest being Vonage, Verizon and Skype (not necessarily in that order). They have a mishmash of goodies including their own routers that will turn your existing POTS (plain old telephone service) and turn them into a VoIP, to straight up VoIP phones that can hold 500 or more contacts. Some of these phones have remarkable features and fantastic user interfaces. No more "how do I transfer this call?" at work.

What if you want to use your WiFi enabled mobile phone to hop on a network? Well that's available too. Its called FMC or fixed mobile convergence. A good example of this is T-Mobile's hot spot. This service essentially lets you pick and choose between mobile minutes and WiFi freedom.

It all comes back to the router. Cut those wires, that's what I say. With the high price of copper these days, why not go wireless? Its getting faster and more powerful all the time.

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