Since formally moving to France back in March 2003 I wanted to find a way of getting an UK phone number somehow directed to my french number (e.g. 0845, 0870, 020, etc.). I came across what seemed to be very expensive services, so I gave up looking.
I was (and still am) a regular user of messenger services and Netmeeting but really wanted to find a cheap way of receiving phone calls from the UK. Whilst doing a bit of contract work for some people in the UK, they told me about a VoIP Service Provider that they were using (Noodle - http://www.noodle.co.uk
), which were pretty good and allowed you to have an 0870 number assigned to your VoIP account. Unfortunately, Noodle went bust and I though that was it.
Now I have come across another VoIP Service Provider (http://www.voiptalk.org
). These guys are pretty good and I hope they will stick around longer than Noodle did.
Basically, with these guys you can sign up for a free acount. With this account you are assigned a unique Session Initiation Protocol number (SIP) number, and you can have as many SIP numbers as you want for free. This provider (and I am sure there are many others) use what's called Open SIP, which means that you can use any SIP hardware or SIP software on the market place. Calls between VoIP numbers are free -- for example you can call other people on who are on other VoIP networks and it should not cost you a penny. The only time you pay is if you call a regular PSTN line (although I have yet to do this). I did however, spend £9.99 to get an 0845 number, which is assigned to my SIP account. This means that my clients from the UK can call me on my local rate number.
I actually have a hardware VoIP phone as well as a software VoIP phone on my laptop. The hardware VoIP phone has the obvious advantage that it's always "switched on", but this does come at a price of £55 (for the cheapest). Many of you might not want to shell out that level of money, but for me it's great as I regularly receive calls from the UK.
There is free VoIP Phone software for both the PC and Mac, which you can download from http://www.xten.com/
. This will allow you to connect to the VoIP Service Provider I mentioned above (or any others that support Open SIP). The one advantage of the VoIP Phone software is that it allows you to make or receive phone calls when you're on the move. You have to have an Internet connection to use the service, but most people do these days.
I don't normally "go on" in posts like I have with this one. It's simply that I am chuffed that I only needed to spend £9.99 plus VAT to get the 0845 number. These guys obviously make their money by the cost of the UK local rate number, but that's fine for both me and my clients. I also did buy the cheapest harware VoIP phone (for the "always on" advantage), but the free software works equally as good.
In fact, the one advantage that the free software has is that you can store VoIP Numbers in and address book of the format: <your sip number>@<your sip provider>
. This is handy if you want to call someone on another VoIP network. With calls within the same VoIP network you only need to dial the SIP number and not include the @<sip provider>
part of the number.
If anyone elses knows of other cheap VoIP service providers, please feel free to let me know.