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Free calls with O2 Connect, even if you're not on O2

O2 is testing O2 Connect, a VoIP service that will let you call and text friends and family over the Internet.

O2 is offering free calls -- Skype-style. The UK's largest phone network is running a trial of O2 Connect, a VoIP service that will let you call and text friends and family over the Web.

Fire up O2 Connect and you'll be able to make phone calls and send texts from your existing mobile number to any UK mobile or landline, via Wi-Fi and the magic of the Internet.

O2 Connect will be built-in to some phone contracts from O2, or you could add it to your deal as a bolt-on, or extra package. Prices aren't yet clear, but we'd be deeply unimpressed if it wasn't significantly cheaper than normal calls. And by significantly cheaper, we mean free.

The O2 Connect trial kicks off this month. 1,000 O2 customers have been invited to take part, and hopefully the service will be thrown open to all next year.

O2 also plans to offer the app to customers of rival networks, to entice you into using O2. The cheeky beggars.

Skype is the biggest and best known VoIP service. It's just been bought by Microsoft, and may find itself built into future versions of Windows and Windows Phone. In the meantime, there are various apps for Android and iPhone that let you make cheap calls using VoIP.

In another telephonic trial running at the moment, rival network Everything Everywhere -- the parent company of Orange and T-Mobile -- is testing 4G in Cornwall. Super-fast Web surfing is available thanks to a trial of LTE technology in the Newquay area.

Would you sign up with O2 if it netted you cheap calls? Are you already using a VoIP service to avoid oversized phone bills? Share your tips in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.