According to a survey made by the Skype firm, awareness of net calling technology is steadily growing in Britain.

Almost half of those questioned said they knew they could make cheap phone calls via the net using the so-called voice over IP (Voip) technology.

The research pointed that those aged over 55 were the most likely to use the net to keep in touch with their relatives and friends. By contrast only 36% of 16 to 24-year- olds said it was their preferred route.

To help preserve long-distance relationships is one of the most popular uses of net communication technologies. Skype said that 59% of those questioned use e-mail, instant messaging and Voip calls to maintain links with distant loved ones.

The second most important communication channel was the telephone and third was text messaging.

The survey also revealed the high cost of keeping touch. According to those questioned, Britons spend between £50 and £100 a month on paying to communicate.

More than half, 53%, of those in the 16 to 24 age bracket said they had no idea what their total bill for communications would be each month. Just over a quarter, 26%, said their monthly bill was always a shock and too high.

Since it launched in 2003, net calling firm Skype has racked up more than 55 million users. Earlier this month it was bought for $2.6bn (£1.4bn) by auction site eBay.

(BBC news)