This little box of tricks is a VOIP phone that I got from the generosity of my friend Keith in Spain a good while ago. I got it with a view to calling Laura in Finland at an affordable rate, but just as I got it Google launched their fabulous Google Talk service, which offers pretty much trouble free voice communications in superb quality. The down side is that both callers need to be sat at a computer with headsets on. For a pair of geeky net hounds like us that really isn't a problem, so the phone sat on the shelf for a while.
The 'rub' of course is that lots of people don't want to sit at a computer to make their phonecalls (or aren't tech savvy or tech confident enough to do it). This is where VOIP comes in.
I've signed up to the service that Keith recommended to me, and all seems well so far!
This means that for an eight quid a month subscription we can use what looks and feels like an ordinary phone to call Finland for about 2p a minute.
What's REALLY clever though, is that the service provides incoming European numbers. This means that Laura can give a Helsinki number to her family and friends, so for them it's just like making a local call, but it actually connects to a phone in Liverpool. That has to be the cheapest and easiest way to keep in touch. The only question mark now is over call quality and reliability, but I'll keep you posted on that.