Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cheaper international calls

Cheap global callsWhat’s the cheapest way to call my family overseas on my cell phone? There are a couple of options here, including a new one that should be intriguing for frequent overseas callers.

You’ve probably realized that calling overseas from a cell phone is a real drain on the wallet. For example, it costs $1.49 per minute to call Colombia on a Verizon Wireless cell phone. On AT&T, it’s $2.19.

But if you’ve had the foresight to sign up for their international calling plans for $3.99 monthly, the cost is 20 cents or 17 cents a minute, respectively.

That’s still expensive. You could get lower prices by getting a calling card, but beware of gotchas like connection fees, weekly fees and billing in five-minute chunks.

Outright fraud is also rampant in the calling-card industry: A study released by the Hispanic Institute in December found that the average card only delivers 60 percent of the promised minutes.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at a new technology that you could call a “high-tech” update on the calling card, except the principle is really quite simple. It was pioneered by a Swedish company, Rebtel Networks AB, in 2006, but a couple of competitors, like California-based Jajah Inc., have started offering similar services.

You can sign up with one of these companies on its Web site. You enter your own cell phone number and the numbers you want to call overseas. For each one, the Web site gives you a domestic number. (If you don’t have access to the Web, you can call the main local access numbers of these services.) On the other hand a company called already has a hybrid service which combined regular online phone card account with Voip access so you get to enjoy best of both worlds and accounts are accessible over the web.

Sooner or later, overseas calls will be dirt cheap (if its not already) and most calls will go through Internet lines one way or the other but for the meantime hold on to that landline of yours.

No comments: