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Are You Ready For VoIP?

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By Willie Reynolds

So does the abbreviation VoIP leave you dumb struck? Don't worry; even I was when I heard about it for the first time. The clouds parted when I discovered what it stands for: Voice over Internet Protocol.

Have you ever been left hapless at the sight of immensely long queues outside phonebooks? And that too when you need to make a call to your aunt in LA and wish her on her 65 th birthday. And, though you brave the queue for seemingly endless minutes or hours, the constantly rising bill makes you our or conversation too short to even cal it conversation. International calls are still not dirt cheap and now that the world and its brother have PC's and Internet connection, even technophobes should have enough sense to download software that enables you to make phone calls using the Internet! Yes, you read it right. Make phone calls using Internet. Just need to catch hold of an IP phone and a software like Skype and you are ready for a futuristic roller coaster experience!

Calling anywhere on Earth for three or four rupees a minute – at most, is a pretty darn good idea, and one that's catching on big time. VoIP, in layman's terms is the use of certain hardware and software that makes you call up any other person on this planet. Thereafter, you only need a good headset to have a chat and assuming of course, that you have a multimedia PC and not a BBC micro.

In a poll conducted worldwide, as many as a billion people have abandoned telephone for IP telephony. In fact, you can make a phone call to the US on dialpad coin for as little as 75 paise a minute. The internet does not know or care whether the data that's rushing through its 'routers' began as a phone conversation or a movie or a search for Pamela Anderson. As long as it is in digital packets, it can find its' way to the Internet Protocol (IP) address it's meant for. And so what is happening is more and more phone calls are getting made through Internet.

You can do it in either of the following of two ways: by going to a site like dialpad.com or perhaps your own Internet service provider's site (if they offer the service), or by just picking up an IP phone at a broadband Internet café like sify. If you make the call using your computer all you have to do is to go to the website, buy a prepaid package that suits you using your credit card, and enter the destination number.

Another way is Skype. Skype is a free software for Internet phoning. It's so simple that even technophobia can't be an excuse. Check out whether your computer has Windows 2000 or XP, 400 MHz or a more powerful processor, 126 MB or more RAM, a sound card, speakers and microphones and atleast 33.6 kbps dial-up-modem connection. A broadband connection is best. Make sure your hard drive has atleast 15MB space to download Skype. If the above is Greek to you, just ask any geek to check out your system parameters.

Now, go to www.skype.com, click on the download link, save the programme on your desktop, open it and double click on the installation file. Once Skype is installed, take out your last month's phone bill and have a good laugh.

With Skype, you can call another Skype-user anywhere in the world for free (you only pay for the net usage, not calls). Skype has an option for landline calls that requires payment charges depend on where you are calling. But rates are still cheaper than landline costs.

The voice may break or come in snatches if the connection is slow. But things are likely to get vapidly better in that matter. My experience has been that if your soundcard, microphone and headsets are of good quality, Skype gives you fairly good service.

Also, IP telephony scores over messenger services offered by MSN or AOL. In the letter, if your net connection speed is different from your interlocutor's, its' hard to talk simultaneously. With Skype, this makes no difference.

The broadband wagon has started to role, so its' success seems assured. In fact, it could even affect mobile telephony. New Scientist reported earlier this year that cellphones with built in Wi-fi capability that link to low-cost internet connection are nearly for launch long-distance call costs can take another big fall.

The flip side is, if you are calling Skype-to-Skype, the called party will have to be online and pretty near the computer. Similarly, if a Skype-contact calls you and you are offline or online but missing about in the other room, you'll miss the call.

That's a disadvantage so do as the experts suggest. Just spread the word on your online habits among your Skype – contacts or pre – arrange a chat by email or via a short, normal phone conversation. But the whole purpose of the technology is defeated by the cost of Skype – enabled phones still, with IP telephony, I sometimes wish to give all the phone booth things a piece of my mind – at little cost and from a safe distance.

About The Author: Willie Reynolds maintains a website dedicated to helping people make decisions about VoIP. Visit his site at: voipactivity.com