You have probably used Facetime™ or Skype™ to communicate with someone. Did you know that the same technology used for the voice part of your call can be used to reduce the cost of normal telephone calls?

Most telephony providers charge a significant fee each month for providing a 'phone line - the "line rental". This used to be an unavoidable fact of having a telephone number that you can be called on but is no longer the case.

Provided that you have an Internet connection to your property for which the provider does not insist that you also take a 'phone line, you can use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to provide you with a 'phone number at a fraction of the cost. There are a number of companies which will offer a UK 056 prefix number free-of-charge - you only pay for the cost of the calls. A UK geographical number (even the same number you used to have - it can be "ported" across) is available from as little as £2 per month + VAT (a lot less than line rental).

All you then need is a VoIP interface, such as the Cisco™ SPA 112, which connects to Ethernet and into which you plug an existing 'phone, or alternatively a VoIP 'phone that connects directly to Ethernet, and you're ready to go. You can just use use a soft 'phone on your computer, such as Zoiper, instead if you wish but this isn't so convenient for incoming calls.

So, you've saved all or most of your line rental. What about call costs? Your line rental may have had some inclusive minutes but the VoIP call costs are very cheap compared with a conventional line for both local and international calls. Do you like the idea of 1p/minute local and 2p/minute to Canada? What ever your calling profile, VoIP will end up costing you less in the long run.

Now, let's say though that you can't get an Internet connection without also paying line rental for a 'phone line. This is the case for many private properties in the UK at the moment. Is VoIP no use for them? Not necessarily. For the cost of that one 'phone line, you can have multiple numbers and all sorts of sophisticated conferencing and extension capabilities that are just not possible using the 'phone line itself.

There are many VoIP providers and we suggest that you have a look around and see which looks like the best for you. We use and recommend www.voipfone.co.uk.