We constantly hear about people talking to each other over the internet. We often see an advertisement offering free calls, saying that all you need is an internet connection.
Is it a myth that we can make free calls to a telephone number from a computer? Do we need an internet phone line to place a call? Is it possible to call to destinations anywhere in the world, for free? Or, do you need a special internet phone? Are the calls really free? What if the person I want to phone does not have the internet? How can there be free calls for mobile phones when mobile telephony is known to be expensive?
If you have that kind of question in your mind, this article is for you since it throws some light on basic ideas that you can use to dig on and make free calls, thanks to the internet.
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Free calls? How free is “free”?
Yes, you can make free calls over the internet. Free, as in not paying a cent. There are some costs, though: the connection to the internet (you need access to the internet at least at one end of the call) and in some cases, you will have to see advertisements.
Chat programs that allow you to make free calls
Most of the programs that people use to chat for free will allow you to talk, too. You will not be charged for talking in the same way that you are not charged for chatting. If that is your case, all you need to do is to find how (and if) the program you are using to chat with your buddies will let you engage in voice chat as well.
Free internet calls to and from mobile phones
The newest mobile phones (called smartphones) also work like small computers and can be connected to the internet. To make free calls from such a mobile phone, all you need is to find the right program that will suit your mobile phone and the provider you want to use. Specialized companies offer fee calls.
A small group of companies out there have become famous for offering free calls to other subscribers. You can take advantage of that promotion by subscribing yourself, especially if you want to talk to are using the same company.
Internet telephony for consumers
There is a standard technology that is more available than you think. That technology is called SIP, and all you need to do is subscribe to a free service and download a free program. You can talk for free with anyone who has subscribed to the same company and, after some learning, you can also talk for free with people who use networks of other providers. Some of these providers offer free calls to telephone lines in many parts of the world because they promote their service. Others offer a free internet telephone service if you see or listen to advertisements. In many cases, the free calls are short (for instance, you can be allowed to talk for only four minutes, but you can make as many four-minute-long calls as you want, for free). Other companies are offering free telephone numbers so that they can call you on your computer from a telephone. Still, they will only offer a telephone line for incoming calls in remote areas.
Back to the basics: how to make your free calls when everything fails
My grandfather used to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get tougher.” Sometimes you can’t find a service that works for a particular (for example, because you can hear well or get constantly disconnected). In such a scenario, you can resort to your craftsmanship and do it yourself, providing internet access on both ends of the call. Several programs will allow you to make calls over the internet from one computer to another, without using the services of any company at all. I will give names here because they are free, non-commercial applications: Tinytalk, Loudtalks Lite, Speak Freely, and Freewebfone are good examples. To make those programs connect between two computers, you will need to know how to find out the IP address of the computer you want to talk to, and you might have a little fight with the firewall of both computers. Also, the authors of those programs will usually publish instructions on how to do so. With some effort, you will then talk to places that the specialized companies do not cover.
When things get too difficult or simply impossible
Certain countries in the Middle East will not let you use the internet to make calls or, at the very least, will make it very hard for you. In such cases, you might try special services like a proxy or VPN, which some companies offer precisely to overcome such difficulties. Then again, if the country you are trying to reach has totally and absolutely banned internet calls, you are out of luck: nothing will work.
This has given you a glance at the different possibilities for making free calls around the world. It must be kept in mind that free is a catchy word that must be taken with a pinch of salt. Last but not least, whether you can make those free calls depends, in great part, on YOU. It all depends on your particular needs, what (if any) access to the internet is available, and what programs are being used by the people you want to talk to.