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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 12:11 GMT
Net phone calls explained
Free calls all over the world

Anyone with kids - and especially kids with mobiles - knows all about rocketing phone bills.

The big telecoms companies make a large amount of their profits through landline to mobile calls.

But if you have broadband you have more options than you might think to fight back.

By installing a simple piece of software you can make free calls all over the world.

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enables calls to be made across computer networks, providing a low cost and efficient way to complement traditional phone systems.

Voice data is compressed and transmitted over a computer network, using up to 90% bandwidth than a traditional phone call.

Sandwich retailer, Pret a Manger, has recently installed the technology in order to communicate between shops, estimating it will save them 10,000 a month.

Old timer

Some of these programmes have been around for a few years.

The most common one is called Skype.

Users just plug a microphone and headset into their computer.

But the person at the other end also needs to have broadband.

Calls from computer to computer are free, however there is an extra charge to talk to someone without broadband.

Competition

A new product has recently been released called ichatter.

With this system you don't need a microphone or headset.

Users plug the ichatter box into their broadband connection and then plug their phone into the ichatter box.

The person at the other end doesn't need broadband and users pay a set monthly charge.

The main difference with ichatter is that you are making phone to phone calls rather than computer to computer calls.

The main benefit of this system is that you can walk around the house using your normal phone, rather than being tied to your computer terminal.

Plus, you can talk to anyone, not just people connected to broadband and using the same software as you.

With spiralling phone bills, industry experts estimate that almost 75% of international calls will be made using VoIP by 2006.

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A 14-year-old girl has started an apprenticeship to become the first female to commercially fish on the River Medway, in Kent. Rob went along to see how she's getting on at the start of her seven years of training.



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