The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home, Home Office, and Small Business

What are the Limitations of Free Internet Phone Service?

A free Internet phone service lets you to make free long distance calls over the Internet. These calls are available in three different categories. The first enables you to make calls from one phone to another as long as both are connected to broadband lines. The second allows you to make calls from one computer to another and the third makes calls possible from a computer to a traditional phone.

But, there are limitations to free services. Let's take a look.

The phone-to-phone service providers require that you purchase their telephone adaptor (or ATA). As long as you are calling other people who have purchased the same equipment, the call is free. PhoneGnome is one such service. The PhoneGnome adaptor costs only $119. You literally plug it in to your broadband connection and to your regular phone, it configures itself, and you are good to go. You can start calling other PhoneGnome users anywhere for free. You don't have to switch phone numbers or change telephone companies.

The PC-to-PC service providers allow users to make free calls from one PC to another. The calling and the called party need a PC with an Internet connection and telephony software easily downloaded from the Net. However, for the service to work, the calling and the called party have to be online at the same time and you can't call users who do not have the same, or compatible telephony software. Skype, Gizmo Project, and FWD (Free World Dialup) are great PC-to-PC VOIP services.

The PC-to-phone VOIP services let you to call a regular phone numbers for free. However, you may be restricted to the locations that you can call or the length of the call. VoipBuster, for example, provides free calls from your PC to landline phones in about 30 countries. If you sign on to take the trial service, your free calls are limited to 1 minute. To enjoy unlimited free calls to these destinations, you have to become a registered user and make a credit deposit that remains untouched as long as you are calling the free destinations.

In all of these cases, free Internet telephone services make money by selling credits for calling minutes to landline phones or mobiles, long distance destinations, or phone numbers not on the same VOIP service. Skype, for example, has SkypeOut. Rates are low, however, and you can expect to save significantly over traditional long distance companies.

For regular phone users to call you on your free Internet phone account, you must "buy" a phone number. SkypeIn is one such service. Most services allow you to buy a phone number in different locations, so if your family is in the UK wants to phone you regularly, you buy a local UK number that they can call for free or cheaply.

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