Cheap Talk and Free Speech
While Skype has its merits of being user-friendly and accessible to the less tech-savvy crowd, it has a few drawbacks. It is a peer-to-peer system, which means that a user might end up contributing a lot of traffic to the network—not an option for those who pay for internet by traffic (which is common in Russia). Other solutions are available which require combined software and services packages (microphone and headphones/speakers.
Here we will take a look at one of the protocols available to users — the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which transmits voice, and optionally, text and video—and how to make the most out of it.
First, download a software phone which supports SIP.
FireFly, free, user-friendly, supports various protocols www.tucows.com/preview/344929
X-Pro/X-Lite, paid and free versions, paid version has extended functionality including conference calling. Supports different platforms. Pocket PC version available. www.counterpath.com/index.php
Choose services to use with your phone. You need a service that provides incoming terminations (Calls from the Public Service Telephone Network/PSTN ) and outgoing terminations (Calls to PSTN). Some services provide free PC-to-PC calls.
VOIP User www.viopuser.org
Free UK phone numbers, as well as fax-to-email service. Free PSTN calls to selected destinations. Helpful forum.
Free World Dialup www.freeworlddialup.com
Free PC-to-PC calls, text messaging and video calls. Free calls to toll-free numbers and similar systems.
IP Kall www.ipkall.com
Provides free USA (Washington state) numbers for your phone. (You will need to register with Free World Dialup first. See instructions on the IP Kall website.)
An all-rounded provider with free trial. Moscow and St. Petersburg numbers available at a price. FWD members call to Telphin numbers and vice-versa for free. Discounted hardware IP phones for new customers.
When you sign up for a service, you are provided with a SIP proxy (domain), which you need to enter in your software phone settings, together with your username and password. Your software phone may support several codecs, which gives you an option to choose between the level of sound quality and/or bandwidth. Choose GSM if you are not sure of which one to use.
If you would not like to keep your computer on all the time, you might find it useful to purchase a hardware IP phone or internet router with VOIP support. Calls will be directed to your IP phone instead. These are available at D-Link (www.dlink.com).
Log on to the VOIP User forum at www.voipuser.org/forum_index.html and ask any question, but read the FAQ first!
If all else fails, there is still Skype. www.skype.com.