Most of us have some friends and family living, studying or travelling in different parts of the world. In the past, expensive international call charges meant that people often went for weeks or months without actually hearing their loved ones’ voices. These days, though, all that has changed. Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, it’s now possible to call anyone, anywhere, at any time, for as long as you want – and it’s cheap, if not free.
Airmail letters, telegrams, long-distance echoes … it’s time to relegate all these to history.These days, thanks to email, it’s easy to communicate with people all over the world. Email and messaging services allow you to read, almost instantly, what someone has written to you. And now VoIP technology means you can make international phone calls using broadband, too.
These calls can be free, as long as you’re prepared to accept some limitations. For more flexibility, you can sign up with a VoIP provider that offer low-cost monthly call plans.
Free international calls
Typically ‘PC to PC’ enables you to make free international calls. To enjoy free international calls, you, and the person you’re calling, both need the following.
1. a computer or laptop
2. a broadband connection
3. a headset/ microphone/ speaker (these may be integral to your computer)
4. an account with a VoIP provider that allows this type of calls, such as Skype or MSN.
This system suits many people. But it does have its drawbacks:
• you are tied to your computer, as is the person you’re calling;
• you need to make sure that you’ve both signed up to compatible providers that will allow you to talk to each other (usually, this has to be the same provider, though is starting to change);
• it is totally independent of your traditional landline service, so you can’t just pick up the phone and dial any number you need/want to, it has to be PC-to-PC;
• you can use this to make a calls to other landlines or mobiles, but if you do, you will be charged for the calls by the minute;
• you often find it’s best to agree in advance a time to call the other person, by email, so with a PC-to-PC so that you ensure you catch each other at each others PC;
• the call quality isn’t as good as that of a regular landline or mobile phone.
Many people are happy to put up with these limitations, because the calls are free. So if this set-up suits you, then that’s great.
Cheap international calls
You may, though, decide that you want the flexibility of making calls using a traditional home telephone instead of through your PC with headsets. If so, you could consider signing up with a VoIP provider that allows this.
With this method, you sign up to a paid call plan with a VoIP provider. The VoIP provider will send you an adaptor that allows you to plug the base of your normal handset into your computer or router. This uses VoIP technology to make ‘phone-to-phone’ calls. The only difference is that the calls go through your existing broadband connection – and not through a landline.
It means that you can simply pick up the phone and dial a number, as before. The person you’re calling doesn’t need to have a computer, or broadband. The call quality is so good that the person you’re calling won’t know you’re using VoIP.
How much you pay depends on the call plan you choose. You can choose one that includes just a few European countries, for example, or the US and Canada, or one that covers many more countries around the world. Whatever you go for, the monthly cost will be capped. As long as you call only the countries listed in your call plan, you’ll pay exactly the same subscription, each and every month, for unlimited, anytime calls. No unpleasant bills!
So, if you’re looking to make cheap international calls, it’s simply a matter of working out which suits you best. Then free or cheap calls are yours to enjoy.
by: Costas Kariolis