SIP is better than Skype

US Robotics 9600I always become angry when people tell me: “with Skype, I can make free phone calls around the World!“. SURE, it’s Internet telephony, you can do it with Skype, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo IM, AIM, Gabber, Trillian, Mercury… I think that any personal messenger supports voice call today. If both users use the same software on their PC. But if you want to call a “normal” phone you’ve to pay.

A couple of weeks ago I received a free US Robotics VoIP USB phone, included in an order I of hardware that I did on the Internet: it is advertised as a Skype phone, but It doesn’t interest me. After some tests I discovered that it can be used as a “general” SIP phone… and I can use it with any VoIP service that supports this open protocol :)

– Services

I chose two free services that support SIP VoIP system:

  • To make free phone calls I used VoIP Buster: it’s part of a network of similar sites (they’re owned by a single company), and it offers 300 minutes of communication per week (landlines only). You can call more than 30 countries for free, and you can do it with their software, or with a generic SIP client (hardware or software… see below for details).
  • To receive calls from landlines phones, I searched for a company in my country, because I needed an italian number. I found that Messagenet offers free “real” numbers for free, with SIP support.
    Anyone can call you from a normal phone line (and pay a regular local call, if he’s calling from the same area code). I chose a number with 011 prefix (Torino) :)
    Of course if you’re not italian you’ve to find a similar service for your country. Please leave a comment with your suggestions 😉

– Software

The choice for SIP softphones is not too wide. Many of them are bound to closed services, so they can be used only with them. Anyway there is a couple of good generic application that matches my purpose: X-lite and SJphone. I chose the first one because SJPhone doesn’t seems to support my phone natively (or it doesn’t support hardware VoIP phones at all?).

Configuration is quite simple, you’ve only to follow instructions on VoipBuster site and/or MessageNet web page to setup X-lite to send and/or receive regular calls. Unfortunately, X-lite has a limitation: it doesn’t support multiple account configuration. Its commercial version, “eyeBeamhas this feature (pricing starts from 30$). I please you to leave a comment if you know a free alternative SIP software that is able to manage incoming and outgoing accounts.

If reconfiguration is a problem for you (you’ll have to change 4 or 5 fields into X-lite account manager), you can also find a SIP service that offers both in & out calls. There’s an interesting offer of Messagenet: 13.2 Euros/month to call 28 countries in the World. I’m sure you’ll find similar offers browsing SIP operators in your country.

After X-lite setup (with Messagenet configuration), I can receive calls directly on my USB device: anyone can call me from any normal phone, my US Robotics rings and I can answer with its “green button”, without touching my computer. Same to make calls to landlines phones in the World (with VoipBuster config.): I pick up the phone, enter the number (in international format) and start speaking :)

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