With the increasing availability of broadband worldwide, more and more of us are turning to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as a cheap or even free way of talking to friends, family and other contacts over a distance – whether they're just down the road or on the other side of the world. Skype offer an excellent VoIP service with a truly global reach.
What is Skype?
Skype is an application which allows you to use your computer to speak to people remotely. It doesn't matter whether they have a computer or not; you can use Skype to speak to people with landline or mobile phones too. All you have to do is:
1) Download Skype
The first thing you'll have to do, of course, is download Skype and install it on your machine. Skype's available for Windows (XP and 2000), Mac (OS X), Linux (several different flavours), PocketPC and Smartphone. It's extremely easy to install, but if you do run into trouble there's plenty of guidance available on how to install and use it.
2) Get the right equipment
You don't need expensive equipment – just a microphone and a set of speakers is enough, though Skype recommend use of a headset. And if you're a Windows or Mac user and have a webcam, you can send live video pictures (about two frames per second) at the same time.
Who can I call with Skype? How much will it cost?
If you and the person you want to speak to both have Skype installed, you can talk to each other for absolutely nothing. The sound quality is much better than telephone; it's more like FM radio. You can even set up conference calls with up to nine other people! And if it's not convenient to talk, you can also use Skype's chat facility.
If the other person doesn't have Skype, you can buy credit for the SkypeOut service. This allows you to phone people on standard telephone numbers worldwide, landline or mobile – for as little as 1.2p a minute if the call's to one of their most popular destinations (including the UK and most other major economies), plus a fixed connection fee of about 3p per call. Credit lasts for up to 180 days after the most recent SkypeOut call.
You can also subscribe to the SkypeIn service, which allows others to phone you on your computer even if they don't have a computer themselves. When you subscribe you're given a personal phone number which anyone can dial from a normal phone. Free voicemail is included, and you can also have your calls forwarded to a landline or mobile phone anywhere in the world, so there's no need for you to miss a call ever again! Subscriptions to SkypeIn cost €15 for three months or €50 for a year. Numbers are currently available in 18 different countries and territories around the world, including the UK, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and the US. (At the moment SkypeIn is still at the beta (testing) stage, so it's not guaranteed 100% error-free.)
What else does Skype offer?
There are a whole range of other services available from Skype – these are just some of them :
Skype VoiceMail – allows callers to leave messages for you even if you're offline; you can pick them up from anywhere in the world. Just €5 for three months or €15 for a year (or free with SkypeIn).
How do I register with Skype?
Skype SMS – send text messages to mobiles from your computer for pennies.
Skype Pro – for just £1.50 per month (+ VAT) you get free calls to landlines within your country, £21 discount on SkypeIn, local rate international calls on your mobile phone (certain countries only), call transferring, and discounts on Skype's range of hardware.
If you'd like to sign up with Skype, please use our link (the banner at the top of the page), even if you're simply planning to use Skype's free services at this stage – we get commission on any paid Skype services you choose to sign up for at a later stage, at no extra cost to you!