VoIP (voice over IP) is a neat way of making free or low-cost calls via your PC. It has finally come into its own, having been floating around for a handful of years waiting for both decent-speed broadband and us punters to catch on to its charms.
There are a number of implementations: plug a suitable handset directly into your PC and chat via an instant messaging client; call up other users of a VoIP service; or use VoIP on the go via a smartphone or PDA running Microsoft's Pocket PC 2003 or later.
As well as obviating landline telco charges, VoIP has the advantage that you can take your number with you, so you don't have to pay international mobile charges and can appear to be in your office while loafing at home.
We're particularly enamoured of the Linksys handset. It's neat and compact – perfect to take with you and plug into a laptop if you're in a wi-fi hotspot or have mobile broadband.
Setup is simple – you just have to stick the installation disc in your CD-ROM tray and accept the licence terms, before plugging in the CIT200's base station. This enables you to walk around using the handset rather than being tethered within five feet of your PC by the cable. Before use you need to charge up the Linksys' two AAA batteries for 14 hours, but after that you're pretty much ready to go.
Calls between you and other Skype users – of which there are some 16 million worldwide - are free, while calls to and from mobiles and international landlines are significantly cheaper than with a fixed line. Think costs akin to those of international calling cards, or visit Skype for a detailed price breakdown.