Try making a phone calls via the internet

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Mobile phones have revolutionised the world. Communication between two people is now so simple, that where ever you are, you can call someone. You could be visiting the super market, while they are sitting in a restaurant in New Zealand, for example.

Well, not quite. We have all been there, we reach for our phones to make a call, but there is lousy reception or none at all. So much for revolutionising communication eh?

So what can we do about it?

There are devices you can buy which boost the mobile signal, but they are costly and illegal unless authorised by your service provider. Someone asked me if there was a more cost effective way to use their home WiFi to make mobile calls. The answer is a definite yes.

The first thing that springs to mind are services such as Google+ Hangouts and Skype. There are apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android, which all allow you to speak ‘face to face’ with other users of those services for free! Additionally, you can call standard phone lines at a small cost. Google+ Hangout users in the US and Canada are the lucky ones, as they can call standard phone lines for free!

That is all good. In fact, if you use Hangouts and need to communicate with nine other people at the same time, it is very good!

What about that mobile phone though. What if someone is trying to ring you and there is no network reception. What then?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the answer. Similar to Skype and Hangouts, it uses your regular broadband connection to make and receive phone calls. The important point is that it is tied to one or more phone numbers. Now, you can buy VoIP services for landlines, which include VoIP enabled phones plugged into your network. However, you can also download and install apps that do the same thing for your mobile phone, or PC.

Major operators have started providing apps which allow you make and receive calls and SMS text messages using your existing mobile phone number. This means you are not limited to using it on your iPhone or Android smart phone! You can just as easily install an app on a tablet or PC/laptop with speakers and a microphone, or a head set if you don’t want the whole room hearing your conversations.

The same is true for traditional land lines. BT and Virgin both have apps for their domestic clients which allow you to use your land line calling package on your mobile. So, you might be staying in a hotel with only your smartphone for company, but by connecting to the hotel’s WiFi, you can use your app to get cheaper calls using your landline’s calling plan.

You will need to check availability of VoIP apps from your mobile service provider and also any conditions that may apply. For instance, TU Go by O2 is only available to Pay Monthly customers and not Pay & Go customers.

Alan Stainer