There is a way to make calls free all the time. The other party just needs to belong to the same SIP service as you do. SIPs, or session initiation...

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There is a way to make calls free all the time. The other party just needs to belong to the same SIP service as you do.

SIPs, or session initiation protocols, are a variety of VoIP — Voice over Internet protocol, or Internet phones — that allow people to use their computers to talk to friends on computers. It’s an engineering standard that the industry has settled on, although companies such as Skype use their own proprietary technologies.

You need an Internet connection, a computer and, for comfort purposes, a headset. SIPs tend not to be connected to a traditional phone line, so you can’t call someone who’s using an old-fashioned telephone. However, some SIPs offer prepaid services so you can call regular phone numbers.

GloPhone: This software is free to download and can be used for calling other GloPhone or VoiceGlo members. To call traditional phones, you must buy prepaid calling cards that price calls between 2.5 and 5 cents a minute.

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Prepaid cards work for international numbers, too, including Mexico City (4 cents a minute) and Vietnam (30 cents a minute). Cool “skins” and ringtones are available at www .glophone.com to customize your software phone.

Skype: Skype isn’t a SIP because it uses a proprietary technology. But it’s free — that’s why it’s part of this list.

Founded by the same folks behind file-sharing service Kazaa, Skype took the lead in free VoIP services and was acquired this month by eBay. Its software at www.skype.com has been downloaded more than 160 million times, possibly because it’s compatible with personal computers, Macs, Linux and even Pocket PC systems.

Features are limited unless you pay for them. Voice mail starts around $9 for three months. Skyped In, about $18 for three months, gets you a regular phone number that non-Skype users can call.

Skype also has teamed up with Boingo, a Wi-Fi service company, so you can make Skype calls in Boingo hotspots for $2.95 an hour or $7.95 a month.

SIPphone: Call other SIPphone users for free and, for 2 cents a minute, call anyone else in the United States. At www.sipphone.com, there are three software phones available: the Gizmo Project, PhoneGaim and Xten X-Lite 2.0, which looks curiously like Vonage’s soft-phone service.

Free World Dialup: Call up other friends on the Inter-

net with software from www.fwdnet.net.

EarthLink’s Vling: You don’t have to be an EarthLink Internet subscriber to get the service for free. Its new Vling service includes free voice mail, three-way calling, an online calling log and online account management. You can also call members of SIPphone, Free World Dialup and other SIPs. Software at www .earthlink.net/voice/vling is available for PC and Mac users.

AdCalls: Retired salesman Al Krauza co-founded a VoIP service that is free because it relies entirely on advertising. AdCalls.com is a multilevel marketing company that requires its representatives to pay to work there in exchange for a Web site and other tools.

If you can get a code, you can download this PC-only service and start calling friends anywhere in the United States for free. No credit card is required.

AdCalls also recently opened a service with free calls to Mexico. Some caveats: You can only call out on your computer, you must sit through a 15-second animated ad before each call, and AdCalls will now have your e-mail address. Also, phone calls last 10 minutes, though you may call back.

Try the service at your own risk.