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Which? Tests Free VoIP Providers

Posted: 13th Jul, 2006 By: MarkJ
Consumer group 'Which?' has tested six "free" voice over IP (VoIP) providers to see how they performed and whether or not the technology is ready. Overall things went well, yet some services suffered from difficulty of use, missing features and low voice quality:

As the use of broadband rises, making phone calls over the internet is becoming increasingly popular as a way to keep in touch for less, says Computing Which?

With basic equipment: PC; microphone and headset; VoIP software; and broadband internet for optimum voice quality, consumers can save a fortune chatting with like-minded PC users across the world.

Computing Which? examines how customers can benefit from using their PC as a telephone with the services VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) provides. Services are free to other PC users with the same software, and some providers give the option to upgrade with a paid service to make cheap calls to standard landline numbers.

In an assessment of six free VoIP services, Computing Which? evaluated how easy they were to set up, how effective they were and the range of their features:

* Skype, www.skype.com, came top for its fuss-free approach, easy set-up and exceptional voice clarity.

* Sipgate, www.sipgate.co.uk, MSN, http://uk.messenger.msn.co.uk, and Yahoo! provide an audio ‘wizard’ that optimises sound levels but Google Talk, www.google.com/talk, was less helpful with audio level indicators only kicking in once the call had been initiated.

* Yahoo! Messenger, http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com provided some of the best ranges of features, including the option of landline calls, webcam chats, instant messaging, voicemail and conference calls.

* Babble.net, www.babble.net, was let down by its poor help files and software bugs.

Jessica Ross, editor, Computing Which?, said: “Using your PC as a phone can be so cheap – often even free – that pricy landline and mobile bills could be in danger of becoming extinct. With mobile phone services entering the broadband market, VoIP looks set to be the choice of the future.”
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