With Skype, users get what they pay for

The sound of people chatting using Skype and other free telephony services is not what you’ll want to hear if you’re a company investigating voice over IP (VoIP) technology.

It’s not that VoIP doesn’t have a place in the office — it can be a very attractive technology for businesses. Rather, it’s simply that the sound quality you’ll hear when using free VoIP services such as Skype, Jajah, Paltalk, PeerMe, Gizmo Project and Vbuzzer to make telephone calls is generally poor.

If you’ve ever made or received a call placed from a desktop computer or a handheld wireless phone using Skype and other peer-to-peer IP telephony software, then you know how bad it can be. In the words of Ovum Inc. research analyst Jan Dawson: “Skype [quality] can make for very good phone calls or dreadful calls.”

Most often it’s the latter. Granted, it all depends on the quality of the connection — but when it comes to calls made on-line, you never know exactly what that connection will be. On the Internet, streams of voice and data rarely travel along the same path twice.

As a result, Internet calls can warble, echo, reverberate, crackle, fade and sometimes simply drop entirely. With

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