How to make free or low-cost calls over the internet using your PC, laptop or mobile phone. We show you how.

The £6 ‘broadband tax’ proposed by the previous government may have been scrapped, but most of us will still be forking out a little extra on our phone bills from now on. BT and TalkTalk have increased their line rental by 50p per month, and other service providers are expected to follow suit.

But while it isn’t quite so cheap to talk as it once was, if you’ve got a broadband connection then you can claw back some savings. Voice over IP (VoIP) lets you make free and low-cost phone calls that are routed over the web.

VoIP, which is sometimes referred to as internet telephony, converts speech into a digital signal and sends it as packet data across the internet, reconverting it at the other end.

If you’ve got an ADSL connection rather than cable, you’ll still have to fork out for the line rental. But rather than adding on unlimited call bundles that can cost between £5 and £10 per month, you can make free calls to other VoIP users. Having installed the necessary software you can use your PC speakers and microphone to communicate.

Providers such as Skype also let you make low-cost calls to landlines, mobiles and international numbers – usually for less than it would cost to use a landline.

And investing in a webcam will let you see the person you’re chatting to onscreen. Your laptop may even have one already installed.

The quality of your web connection is important for VoIP; it’ll need to be steady to ensure smooth communication.

Usefully, a number of VoIP providers offer smartphone apps, including Skype and Truphone. Using your handset’s 3G or Wi-Fi connection, VoIP can also help you score some savings on your mobile phone bill.

Over the following pages, we show you how to make free or low-cost VoIP calls on your PC or laptop using Skype and on your mobile phone using Truphone.

Using Skype on a PC

Step 1. Head to and click ‘Get Skype for Windows’. Install the downloaded file and launch the program. Create a Skype account by entering your email, a carefully chosen username and a password. Read and agree to the terms and conditions, then click ‘Create account’.

Skype step 1

Step 2. You’ll need to enter your location to help friends and family find you. You can also enter your mobile number, enabling contacts to get hold of you offline. This and your date of birth are optional. Click Ok. You’ll be offered the chance to find out more about how Skype works, or skip this and start using Skype at once.

Skype step 2

NEXT: using Skype, continued...

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