Did you know that you can use your computer to make long-distance telephone calls to virtually any fixed line or cellular telephone in world via Internet? Were you aware that by doing so, you can save upwards of 80% in long-distance telephone charges? Welcome to world of 'VoIP' or 'Voice over Internet Protocol'.
What is 'VoIP'?
Simply put, VoIP refers to carriage of voice 'data' via Internet. PC to Phone VoIP refers to using your Internet-connected computer to make calls to conventional telephones around world using Internet. Whereas traditional telephone calls take place over fixed line 'circuit switched' networks, VoIP calls are routed through Internet using a far more efficient method known as 'packet switching'. Whilst carrying voice data more efficiently via Internet is a benefit, main advantage That VoIP has over traditional telephone networks is one of cost. For example, a typical PC to Phone VoIP call to a telephone in United States from anywhere in world generally runs at just a few cents per minute. Keep in mind, clarity/quality of PC to Phone calls is usually as good and in many cases better than that of a comparable Phone to Phone call.
How can it be so cheap?
Herein lies beauty of PC to Phone calls. By using 'free' Internet to route your calls, long-distance charges imposed upon you by major telecommunications companies (Bell, Sprint, AT&T, etc) are all but eliminated. Furthermore, many of governmental levies and fees associated with using highly regulated 'traditional' telephone networks are also avoided. The result? Extremely cheap, long distance calling to conventional telephones around world with little or no loss of call quality.
So how does it work?
In a typical PC to Phone call, your computer receives your voice input via a microphone and then translates your voice into a 'data packet'. This packet of data is then transmitted via Internet to as close as possible to physical destination of conventional telephone you're calling. At this point, your voice 'data packet' is then switched to conventional telephone network and routed to telephone that you are calling. All of this data transmission, translation and switching takes place transparently and extremely quickly. The chances are excellent that person whom you're calling would have no idea that you're talking to them using your computer.
So what do you need?
In order to start making long-distance telephone calls using your computer, you'll need a computer that's connected to Internet, a microphone and computer speakers (a headset with a boom microphone is ideal). It's worth mentioning that although there are several companies that support both Linux and Macintosh platforms (e.g., www.skype.com), vast majority of PC to Phone software is designed for use on Windows' compatible PCs. As far as your Internet connection goes, faster better (e.g., high speed Cable or ADSL). However, PC to Phone does also work on dial-up Internet connections (the way I access Internet).
The next thing to do is choose a PC to Phone Service Provider. These are companies that provide software and infrastructure necessary for you to make calls to conventional telephones via Internet. There are many Service Providers and each have their own benefits and rates so it's a good idea to shop around. Almost all of them allow for pay-as-you-go usage (i.e., on a per minute basis) however some also offer unlimited calling plans to certain destinations for a low monthly fee. Some of better known Providers include