Skype is famous for its free PC–to–PC calling, which is the original way of talking through VOIP. The free PC–to–PC calling works only for Skype–to–Skype calling, and by users downloading free software from its website. The software then uses peer–to–peer networking to rout calls from one user to another. Skype also allows calls to and from traditional phone lines using a fee based service called SkypeIn and SkypeOut.
SkypeIn is a fee based service that allows customers to have a regular phone number from most area codes and countries. This gives traditional phones access to Skype customers. Voicemail service is also included with SkypeIn. SkypeOut is an additional fee based service that gives Skype users the ability to call non-Skype phone lines.
As far as hardware goes, USB headsets are the most common way of “talking on the phone” with Skype. Bluetooth enabled wireless headsets are also available. If using a PC as a phone scares you, Skype does have IP (or internet) based phones. They even offer dual-phones where you can connect the phone to your PC’s USB or the regular phone line. Lastly, Skype is working with Netgear in releasing a Wi–Fi based phone. All of these phones except for the Wi–Fi phone require a PC to be on to make calls. Below are some examples on how to connect Skype VOIP hardware.
- Free Skype VOIP software with no adware.
- Free Skype–to–Skype calling, including international.
- SkypeIn and SkypeOut service offers access to traditional phone lines.
- Works well with firewalls since port 80 (web port).
- Additional feature lets you transfer large files.
- Video call feature available.
- PocketPC version allows you to use your PDA and Wi-Fi and talk for free. This is a great way to make cheap international calls.
- PC has to be on to receive or make calls.
- Voicemail feature costs extra.
- Quality of calls is dependent on users Internet connection. It is not uncommon to have drop calls.
- Peer–to–peer networking can make you a supernode and eat up your bandwidth.
- No E911 availability.
Other PC Based VOIP Providers
All the providers above offer VOIP functionality that is similar to Skype. Installation is done by a free software download from their respective websites. The software allows free PC–to–PC calling with other users of the same software. Each provider in the list above offers different features, and incorporates service specific hardware. Look for the ability to make/receive calls from traditional phone lines as well as what type of hardware is required.