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Skype
Living in the West, it is not uncommon to have family members living 6000 miles away. From a village in India to the crowded streets of Hong Kong, the importance of a phone is uniform. Whether it is on Eid or just a weekly ritual, we often find ourselves topping our phone bills and speaking for hours on the phone with family we rarely get to meet. A call that was supposed to be short can add tens of dollars to the phone bill.

Calling long distance while saving money can be quite an oxymoron and, to most, an impossible occurrence. With the increased availability of technology, however, and the widespread use of Internet, long distance is now available at the fraction of the cost. Although there are a number of atlernatives, Skype is leading the way through Internet-communications connecting people across seas through a service that has now become almost comparable to a landline phone.

Upon creation, Skype was a computer-based service which had to be connected through a routine (and annoying) microphone and headset device – a large turnoff for many customers. To help make it as "normal" as possible, Skype has introduced WiFi-enabled cordless phones – that look like any other cordless phone and connect to Skype through your wireless router in your home. The hand-held WiFi-enabled cordless phone connects to the Internet and dials out using your Skype account. Calling Canada for two cents a minute to calling Karachi for 19 cents a minute and New Delhi for 20 cents, Skype is a relatively cheaper alternative. There are also a variety of packages available on Skype's webpage, which can make calling cheaper for the usual caller.

Not only has Skype introduced cordless phones but has recently developed software that can be installed on a variety of mobile phones which treats long distance calls through your cell phone (through WiFi) on the Skype network. This allows people to use their cell phone to make long distance calls without expecting pages and pages worth of extended charges.

The long-distance market is quickly unfolding, and new companies are introducing similar servies that use "VOIP" (Voice-Over-IP). So what is the difference? Unlike normal and traditional landline services where the phone runs through a jack in the wall, the VOIP service uses your Internet-Protocol (IP) service to access the Internet and dial out of your house.

Too good to be true? Not really. The only downside to this would be the dependence on a reliable Internet connection. A poor connection would mean losing your ability to call out even in emergency situations. However, in the world we live in today, the chance of losing an Internet connection is rather slim (as it usually is for extremely short occurrences).

So what to do? They key to being able to save money is to do your research. Skype is usually a cheap alternative. Compare the rates with your local phone company, and upon visiting Skype online, you will see a variety of packages and rates. Buy a cordless Skype phone, make sure you have an internet connection, and you are set to go!

Happy talking!

Author of this article: Abbas Lakha
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