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Can VoIP Tie In With My Instant Messaging Service?

Some services can, while others cannot. Skype, for example, has its own instant messenger service, which allows one to participate in IM chats and transfer files while conducting phone calls and video calls with other users (free, when client-to-client, as mentioned above). Other VoIP services, such as the one offered by Yahoo, tie into an existing VoIP client, which many may find more convenient.

Can I Keep My Old Telephone Number?

You usually can; alternatively, you could get a new telephone number, even in a place far from where you live. For example, you could obtain a New York number, even if you're living in New Delhi; this would allow people in New York to call you while paying only for the cost of a local call. Similarly, your number remains the same wherever you go, so you could head overseas with a "local" number back home, and family and friends could continue to call you at local telephone rates.

Can I Get Extra Services, Like Fax And Voicemail, With VoIP?

This depends on the service provider, but the short answer is yes. Everything from call forwarding to voicemail can be supported. Check what's included in the package you're buying, however, because fax service and "softphone" (using your computer as the phone) support are frequently extra-cost features.

Can I Use VoIP With My Mobile?

At the moment, combining VoIP and mobile telephones is an exploratory area. One can certainly call mobiles using VoIP services, but using VoIP through a mobile phone is another matter. Using services such as EQO, for example, one can send messages and initiate calls through Skype using a mobile phone. The service is patchy however, and still in beta. We would expect VoIP to make the jump to mobiles in the next couple of years - particularly as wireless Internet access infrastructures become more prevalent - but don't expect miracles at the moment.

What Is Call Quality Like?

Call quality depends on two main things: the VoIP service provider you use, and the quality (and bandwidth) of your Internet connection. This can vary depending on the service level chosen, where you're calling to and from, available bandwidth and so on. Generally speaking, computer-to-computer calls are of excellent quality as long as there is reasonable bandwidth available. VoIP to landline calls can be more tricky, however.

Most VoIP providers will offer a free trial, and there are an increasing number of service reviews - including plenty in our VoIP section - that you would be well advised to read before spending your money. In the majority of cases, we have found call quality with reputable companies to be, at the very least, as good as that of regular telephones in 90 percent of cases.

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