I’m sure you will have heard of Skype, but for those who have not, here goes.

Skype is an internet telephony system, using proprietary software and protocols. You can make a voice call to anyone in the world provided they have a landline and you have bought skype out credit. If you call another skype user the call will be free. To make a call all you need is a microphone and speakers or alternatively get yourself a usb phones, bluetooth headsets or a wifi phones.
You can also make video calls if you have a webcam or appropriate digital camera. Quality will vary based on your broadband, camera resolution and background lighting.
With the skype desktop client you can chat to fellow skype users and also send them files such as photos, docs or mp3s. This could be useful for families wishing to share pictures of their loved ones.
Price plans are available and if you’re going to make a lot of calls to landlines I would recommend that you get an all inclusive bundle. Price for this will be £1.50 per month for skype pro or without a plan £0.012 per minute.

An alternative method for making skype calls is by using your mobile phone. I do this by using the client that came on my Nokia N95 from three. This allows me to make 3000 skype to skype calls per month for free. It’s a great system that works well over 3g.

There are two negatives to this client:

  • it does not as yet allow you to message another skype user; or
  • make use of the skype out facility.

However, disappointing as this is, there is another method to get around this.

fring, is an alternative client which allows mobile phone users to make skype out calls and chat with fellow users. The bonus of fring is that you can also use other voip plans, msn, and google talk.

You can currently buy a pay as you go Skype phone on three for £49.99 which is great value and something that parents and students alike could find very affordable.