By Harry Keaney
These days, if you see your friends talking to their computers, they’re probably not going nutty; they may even be saving money.
Although the crowded information superhighway seems an unlikely place for people to stop and chat, it may hold the key for those hoping to cut costs on long-distance calling.
On Thursday, the Chicago-based internet telephony company Go2Call announced that it would provide free international calling to selected European countries, Ireland among them.
According to Go2Call, this PC-to-phone service requires no software to download or install; computer users simply register at Go2Call.com, enter the number they wish to call, and hit "go."
As for the equipment required, Go2Call cofounder John Nix, speaking in a conference call with the Echo Thursday, said that most PCs now have multimedia capabilities and already have in place sound speakers and microphones required for internet calls. If needed, these and other items may be purchased online through the Go2Call store.
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The free calling service is available to anyone with an internet account and a multimedia PC. It is recommended that users have a minimum 28.8k modem for best quality calling.
Go2Call will generate revenue from its free calling service by signing up advertisers who will pay for most of the calls Go2Call connects, Go2Call’s other cofounder, Larry Spear, told the Echo on Thursday from London following a media tour in Ireland.
Go2Call said that recent projections indicate that 30 percent of international calls will be conducted over the internet by 2003.
"With only about one-percent of traffic over the internet in 1999, this will be explosive growth," Nix said.
According to a Go2Call: "The calling process is made fast and easy by Go2Call’s unique web-based technology, which eliminated the time-consuming downloads or installations that most other service providers require."
Adding to the service’s ease of use is a personalized address book in which users may store frequently called numbers that can be instantly dialed with just one click. Once users have placed their call, they may continuing surfing the web to facilitate information gathering, entertainment or purchasing, without having to end their call.
Go2Call also offers a free comparison service to find the lowest cost means of calling any country in the world. Go2Call’s internet search engine, CallFinder, contains more than 25,000 PC to phone rates from the world’s leading service providers.
There is certainly no shortage of telephone talk between Ireland and the rest of the world. According to TeleGeography 2000 figures for 1998, Americans place 1.5 billion minutes of calls to Ireland and Britain each year. Canadians and Australians each rack up about 230 million minutes of calls to Ireland and Britain each year. This represents nearly 15 percent of Australian outbound volume. Almost 70 percent of all outbound calls from Ireland each year are to the UK.
One can only imagine how much more talking will be done as cell phones themselves continue their evolution into fully fledged computers, with all the capabilities of current PCs, and more.