Tag Archives: telephone

Telephone Preference Service

Link: TPS Registration

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) helps you to make sure your telephone number is no longer available to organisations, including charities and voluntary organisations who may telephone you with offers and information you do not wish to receive

Not many people here in the UK seem to know about this service, but within one month of registration you can drastically reduce unwanted sales calls to your land-line number, whichever network provider you use.

Voice over IP Revisited

It’s been a while since I wrote about VoIP and while things haven’t changed very much there are a few things worth noting. Quality is always improving and for the most part you will not detect much difference between VoIP and land-line calls, though the delay is just slightly greater and you may need to repeat things once or twice in a call.


In my last article I stated that the cost of PC to Land-line calls using VoIP was still not as competitive as some cheap telecoms services which use only landlines, such as Call 18866 who allow unlimited duration landline calls within the UK for just a 2p connection charge, or international calls for as little as 2p per minute. Now VoIP is catching up a little, a service which is currently still in beta testing (not fully launched yet) offers free voice to land-line calls to many countries. VoIP Buster will allow anybody to make a 1 minute call through their network using their PC to any of several countries free of charge, or if you buy credit (from as little as 1 Euro) which can be used to call anywhere in the world for very low rates, then your calls to the free countries are of unlimited duration. Of course, PC to PC calls are still free between any two users in the world, but I had problems answering an incoming call using their software. Take note though, their rate card does not always match the special offers listed on their home page, and the rate card lists the tarrifs that they actually charge.

Number Portability

Call 18866 are also available via VoIP software now. Any compatiable phone software can be configured to dial through their network. Again you have to register to benefit from it but their call charges start from as little as a 2p connection fee for an unlimited duration UK call. Call18866 is more generally used, however, from a land-line phone rather than a PC, users therefore register to the service with their main UK Land-line phone number. When outgoing calls are made using the VoIP service that main land-line number is used as the Caller ID, so anybody receiving a call from you with Caller Display enabled, such as mobile phone users, or anybody using 1471 (on BT phones) to check where you called from, will get the impression you are calling from home. This is regardless of where you use the service from, so you could be connecting to the Internet at a friends house or from a hotel abroad and still appear to be calling from home.

The devious of mind may envisage heading off to Paris for a few days and calling in sick from the hotel using their own home phone number as the Caller ID, but this number portability carries a lot of potential for businesses with mobile workers. The portability actually works both ways, for a small fee, or with some services for no fee, you can get a telephone number assigned to your VoIP account which enables anybody to call your computer from a normal land-line, these numbers can be 0870 or 0845 numbers or even numbers that indicate you are in a major city, perhaps even in the centre of a city on the other side of the world if that is the image you wish to portray. That number can be presented on your outgoing calls, made using VoIP, from any location and whenever you hook up to to the Internet you can receive calls on that number and check the voicemail on it.

In the past if a worker was to revieve business calls when working from home a company had set up call forwarding between geographical locations at an extra cost to themselves, now that numbers can be assigned to Internet users who can simply log-in to use them, and the Internet takes care of Geography, it is easy to set people up to use the same phone number from home as they do in the office, and even when they are travelling and away from both.

Spread of WiFi

WiFi is the service that allows you to connect to the Internet without plugging in any cables. This is becoming increasingly popular in homes, businesses, pubs and cafes, meaning that in order to use the Internet, and therefore VoIP, you do not need to be near an appropiate socket and run a cable between that socket and your computer, instead you can just switch on from where you are seated and make and receive your calls. As WiFi coverage increases a computer can also be used as a very large mobile phone which can make and receive calls from every location that it is able to connect to the Internet. Of course, most (though not all) public WiFi hotspots require some kind of payment for access, so this does increase the cost of using VoIP in this manner.

More Hardware Options

Keeping your computer on and wearing a headset may be the perfect way of working for many companies, but for the average individual these are not ideal ways of using a phone. If you’re looking for something to hold to your head there are a now wider selection of USB phones that plug into your computer and either imitate a standard desk phone or mobile phone in their design and sometimes in their features. There are also an increasing number of phones which connect directly to a router, and some which connect to wireless routers using WiFi, which can be used to make and receive VoIP calls without leaving a PC switched on. These WiFi phones will also work in free to access “open” public WiFi hotspots but will not function in ones where a device has to register via a web interface before it can be used. Furthermore there is software that will turn a PDA, such as a pocket PC, into a SIP or Skype phone and, as many of these are WiFi compatiable these days and will also be able to register with commercial WiFi operators, these gadgets can already be used as portable phones both in and away from the home and office. WiFi VoIP phones start from about £100 at the time of writing, if you already have a wireless standard phone then a slightly cheaper alternative is to get a VoIP analogue telephone adaptor which will allow you to use any existing telephone to directly dial through your Internet router using VoIP, there are also cheaper versions that connect your home phone via USB to a PC for the same purpose.

Below are a couple of links to the kind of equipment I am referring to here, if you’re interested in buying then ebay is also a great place to look, but be warned, prices are often higher than from the distributors below (once you add postage) and there are a lot of phones around which look like they have LCD displays but just have a piece of plastic on the front that does nothing… this is not a problem, but the picture may lead you think your phone will have more features than it really does.

Near Future

Communication technologies have been merging for a long time, I often check email from my mobile phone (using wapmx.com) and occasionally make phone calls from my computer. I expect that very soon there will be a wide selection of portable devices which are both mobile phones and wireless computers, for which software will be available that can detect wireless networks and calculate the most economic routing for a call, checking whether your recipient is currently available via their own VoIP device or will need to be called via land-line and choosing between VoIP and the mobile service provider to make the call. Increasingly people will be able to talk to others around the world for next to nothing not only from home or the office but also from the train station, the cinema lobby or the cafe.

When I last wrote about VoIP I was impressed to discover how good it had become, with this update I am impressed to discover how well it is developing. If you do not currently have a Skype account I suggest you get one, just to reserve a name of your liking on the system. I would not predict that Skype will be the main VoIP system in the future, but at this stage it is probably the easiest to use and configure and is well integrated into a lot of VoIP hardware, so reserving a name and seeing which of your friends you can find with Skype accounts may be prudent. I would also recommend looking at VoIP Buster if you want to cut your call costs and some of the providers I mentioned in my last article of you a interested in number protability with VoIP.

Links: Skype, Gossiptel, FreeWorldDialup, SIPPhone

There are some areas I have touched on here where a hands-on guide may be of more use to you, if you think you need more leave a comment.

My previous article on VoIP can be found here.

Pulver Communicator

The pendulum swings toward SIP

pulver.communicator – Download!:

From their site: “Using pulver.Communicator/XP, subscribers to the FWD Communications Network can enjoy Instant Messaging with their SIP contacts, as well as with their buddies on the four most popular IM networks as well (AOL, Yahoo!, ICQ, and MSN). And not only that, but pulver. Communicator supports multi-party chat across the different IM networks”

I couldn’t get this to work very well but it is only in beta. This new SIP client has some good new IM functionality which may help promote VoIP among the current IM community. Messaging functionality was a distinct feature of Skype but now they are only really ahead on free voice conferencing. See here for more on VoIP.


Free calls using Voice over Internet Protocol

I have recently been looking at voice over IP and thought I would share some information on the facilities that allow you to talk free of charge to other computer users over a broadband connection.

There are two popular technologies available at the moment, SIP and Skype. What they have in common is that they both offer reasonable quality phone calls between any two computers with an Internet connection, for free, so long as the computers have either a sound card with a microphone and headphones (or preferably a headset) or a phone is somehow attached (VoIP phone adapters and phones that plug into a USB port or the sound card can be purchased). Both technologies offer much higher quality than was previously available using software such as Microsoft NetMeeting, MSN Messenger, ICQ etc for voice communication. They also offer pre-pay services to call normal telephones around the world at “reduced cost” using the same technology – however I am not convinced that the price or quality of this service is quite as impressive as some of the cheap telephone to telephone services available such as OneTel or 18866 (from the UK). With any VoIP service you are able to use your number anywhere in the world that you can set up the software or connect your computer to the Internet.


Skype’s main advantages are that it allows for instant messaging, online status checking and most impressively voice conferencing for up to 4 additional contacts free of charge, you can also add non-computer participants to a conference so long as you use their pre-pay service to pay for the call. If you are familiar with messaging software such as MSN Messenger or ICQ then this software is very similar but for the addition of voice communication. The only real drawback of Skype is that it cannot be used to communicate with the growing number of SIP VoIP networks.

Links: Skype


There are many networks that use SIP, among the most popular in the UK are FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel. With these services not only can you call out to other VoIP users on their computers free of charge and other normal telephones for some small fee, but you can also have a standard 0870 telephone number that can be used to call you on your PC (some alternative SIP services can offer you a US number instead). Gossiptel, which is a fairly new player in the market, also has the very big advantage of offering free customisable voicemail, so if you are away from your computer, your computer is off, or you simply fail to answer a call, it will go through to a voice mailbox, voicemail is sent by email and can also be checked using the VoIP system or by calling the service through an 0870 (BT national rate) number . I am not aware of any free voice conference facilities using SIP. You can call between SIP networks (such as FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel) quite easily.

Links: Gossiptel, FreeWorldDialup, SIPPhone

So far I have only tested the services calling my wife and myself at home and by using features provided by the service providers. My views on PC to PC VoIP are widely supported by others who have reviewed the technology but I do not know if my hesitance over computer to land line calls is so widely shared.

In a nutshell then, if you want to call between friends or colleagues free of charge by making the most of an Internet connection then VoIP is coming of age, quality is greatly improved and delay, between computers at least, is down to a minimum. Skype has the advantage of offering Instant Messaging features and conference calls free of charge, Gossiptel has the advantage of offering voicemail free of charge. Skype and SIP technologies can exist alongside each other on the same computer.

I have a number on both services. Email me if you want to know the details.

USB phones can be found on ebay by searching for the keywords voip usb and phone.