Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Making free phone calls over the Internet

Since Arthur Somare, Patrick Tammur and the National Alliance-led government seem to be so keen on maintaining the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) monopoly, Papua New Guineans should be looking at other options to cheaply make telephone calls and use the Internet.

One of these options, which will be discussed in this week’s column, is using the Internet to make cheaper telephone calls, thereby, bypassing Telikom and the expensive charges it has inflicted on us over the last 30 years.

Many Internet-savvy Papua New Guineans already make free long-distance computer-to-computer calls over the Internet using free software such as Skype.

In theory, Papua New Guinea should by now be on par with the rest of the world in ICT, however, the reality is we are still living in the “Stone Age” in the age of the Flintstones.

All over this increasingly-globalised world, a massive Information Revolution is taking place as economies use ICT as a passport to what economists call the “New Economy”.

I have said before, and will say it again, that the ICT monopoly in PNG, exorbitant telephone and Internet costs, as well as lack of knowledge about ICT and e-business all contribute to this digital divide.

Papua New Guinea will continue to remain light years behind the rest of the world if we do not jump on the ICT bandwagon in this globalised world.

Access to Internet, adequate infrastructure, human capacity building and appropriate policies on ICT are central issues in addressing the digital divide.

Success in this globalised world is predicated on ICT knowledge and successful knowledge-based economies will be based on the efficient and widespread use of ICT by all sectors within any given country.

If you've never heard of VoIP, get ready to change the way you think about long-distance phone calls.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a method for taking analog audio signals, like the kind you hear when you talk on the phone, and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet.

How is this useful? VoIP can turn a standard Internet connection into a way to place free phone calls.

The practical upshot of this is that by using some of the free VoIP software that is available to make Internet phone calls, you are bypassing Telikom (and its exorbitant charges) entirely.

VoIP is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to completely rework the world's phone systems.

VoIP is already in widespread use in many developed countries of the world including Singapore, where I called my wife’s cell phone in Port Moresby and had a long chat with her over the Internet, in August.

Today, VoIP technology is allowing small businesses to secure the features and functionality of a sophisticated phone system for a fraction of the cost by using the Internet to carry voice traffic just as it does data traffic.

Above all else, VoIP is basically a clever "reinvention of the wheel."

The potential of this emerging technology - which will more than likely one day replace the traditional phone system entirely – is limitless.

The interesting thing about VoIP is that there is not just one way to place a call.

There are three different "flavors" of VoIP service in common use today:

ATA - The simplest and most common way is through the use of a device called an ATA (analog telephone adaptor).

The ATA allows you to connect a standard phone to your computer or your Internet connection for use with VoIP.

The ATA is an analog-to-digital converter.

It takes the analog signal from your traditional phone and converts it into digital data for transmission over the Internet.

You simply crack the ATA out of the box, plug the cable from your phone that would normally go in the wall socket into the ATA, and you're ready to make VoIP calls.

Some ATAs may ship with additional software that is loaded onto the host computer to configure it; but in any case, it is a very straightforward setup.

IP Phones - These specialised phones look just like normal phones with a handset, cradle and buttons.

But instead of having the standard RJ-11 phone connectors, IP phones have an RJ-45 Ethernet connector.

IP phones connect directly to your router and have all the hardware and software necessary right onboard to handle the IP call.

Wi-Fi phones allow subscribing callers to make VoIP calls from any Wi-Fi hot spot.

Computer-to-computer - This is certainly the easiest way to use VoIP.

You don't even have to pay for long-distance calls.

There are several companies offering free or very low-cost software that you can use for this type of VoIP.

All you need is the software, a microphone, speakers, a sound card and an Internet connection; preferably a fast one like you would get through a cable or DSL modem.

Except for your normal monthly ISP fee, there is usually no charge for computer-to-computer calls, no matter the distance.

If you're interested in trying VoIP, then you should check out some of the free VoIP software available on the Internet.

You should be able to download and set it up in about three to five minutes.

Get a friend to download the software, too, and you can start tinkering with VoIP to get a feel for how it works.

For comments and feedback, email the author at malumnalu@yahoo.com or SMS 6849763.

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