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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
All about VoIP
Telephone
"Hello? Can you hear me mother?"
Making telephone calls over your internet connection is becoming increasingly easy.

The technology, known as Voice over Internet Protocol - VoIP - allows users to send their voice as a digital signal over the internet, instead of paying their telecoms provider in the traditional way.

Quality loss

Bryan Glick of Computing Magazine told Working Lunch that although packages were becoming slicker, customers may still notice a slight loss of quality - especially with the highest and lowest notes in the spectrum.

The first services to appear only allowed users to connect with others using the same computer software. Fine for groups of computer students, but not much use for calling Uncle Sidney.

Normal phones

A newer innovation meant that VoIP subscribers could call any telephone number in the world. However, as part of the call would be routed via the old-fashioned network, users still ended up paying (at least some of) the old-fashioned charges.

The most recent innovation in internet telephony has managed to remove the computer from the equation altogether. Users can now simply plug their telephone into their broadband internet connection using a special adapter - and use it as usual.

All these new tricks have made internet phone calls an easy option for anyone with a fast internet service. Sadly, though, all this wizardry has driven up call charges. According to some Working Lunch viewers who've contacted us, many of the services are now about the same price as normals calls where you dial a prefix code to access a cheaper network.

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