How Can I Get Free or Low Cost VoIP?

February 16, 2009

in communication

by Tina Gasperson

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It’s a relatively new protocol for telephone communications that uses the Internet and your broadband connection to facilitate phone calls. VOIP has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and the reliability and quality of connections has improved proportionately. To use it, all you need is a reliable and fast internet connection, a VOIP phone or a microphone-equipped headset, and an account with a VOIP provider. You can even get free VOIP phone calls, depending on which service provider you choose to use. Most VOIP service providers allow you to call others in the same network for free, but change for calls outside the network.

One of the easiest-to-use providers is Skype. Register with this service, plug in a USB-enabled headset, and you can make free VOIP phone calls to anyone else with a Skype account. For a small per-minute charge, call anyone else you like. There is no setup or monthly fee.

Evaphone provides limited-time free calls depending on what country you want to call. For example, calls to the United States are free for two minutes or less, while calls to the United Kingdom must remain under 51 seconds to be free of charge. If the call goes over the limit, Evaphone starts charging a per-minute fee

For something a little different, check out Magic Jack. This is an adapter that turns your USB connection into a regular telephone jack. Plug in your regular phone, and start using the service. Magic Jack is not free, but only costs $15 for an annual subscription.

One of the biggest drawbacks to using free or low-cost services is that they don’t allow you to transfer your existing phone number. Instead, they assign you a new number. Still, these services are a good way to test the concept of VOIP and see if it works well for you. If you’re looking for full-blown service that provides telephone number portability, look into VOIP service from major telephone and cable services providers such as AT&T, Verizon, GTE, and Brighthouse. These services are more costly, but still somewhat less expensive than traditional telephone service.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.