The best things in life are free. And you get what you pay for.
It is becoming increasingly popular to try VoIP for free, and this can be a great way to get introduced to the service. However, as with so many other things, there are likely to be strings attached.
Many of the top providers offer a free introduction to VoIP. Some companies will ask you to pay up front while offering a money-back guarantee.
Almost all of these will charge set-up and equipment fees and these are not guaranteed as part of the free offer, so "free" is in the eye of the beholder.
As of late 2006, Sunrocket gave the most for free. It offered free set-up and equipment and a money back guarantee for the first 31 days. For the calendar year of 2006, this offer included free phones. Their base price is one of the lowest, but it only covers 200 minutes per month.
When it comes to free introductory offers, most services are counting on you to sign up for the long run or to simply forget to ask for a rebate. Note: if you require a robust VoIP service, you will likely sign up for the long run. The best advice is to forego free offers and simply go with the one that offers the best service and the best year-round value.
If you want to try VoIP for free, there are other ways, such as computer to computer.
Since this method of VoIP requires no service activation and no added equipment (not even an adapter of any kind) there is nothing for which you can be charged. The only things you will need are software and basic equipment like a microphone and soundcard.
You can even download software for free. The most popular example of this is Skype, created by the same people who made Kazaa, the controversial peer-to-peer file-sharing program.
There is not that much of a catch with Skype - at least as it appears on the surface. You will get some nudges and consistent queries to upgrade to premium service, but this is no different from other services like the e-mail program Eudora Light or Kazaa itself. With Kazaa, there have often been rumors of hidden viruses and spyware, and there are similar questions about the security of Skype. In addition, Skype service can be sporadic in some areas (dropped calls, etc.) - but it isfree.
At the bottom of this page, you will find an overview and list of freeware providers.