Saturday, September 03, 2005

International Callback With a VoIP Flair

A clever approach to lowering the cost of international phone calls is the "call back" service. Like the name implies, you call this service, let it ring once and hang up. The callback service will then dial your number within half a minute or so. When you answer, you'll get a dial tone and can then place the call to the party you wish to speak with.

Why such a complicated arrangement instead of just calling directly? It's to make calls cheaper. What makes callback services viable is the disparity in rates between calls made from the United States and calls made to the U.S. or other countries from locations outside of the United States. It's just cheaper when your call originates in the U.S.

Callback is something like the old trick students use to call home but avoid the outrageous long distance rates charged by the school. You dial your folks number and let it ring once or twice. They know it's you and call you back at their long distance rates. Since the original call wasn't answered, the student doesn't get charged. The parents pay for the call they make.

Now there's a new wrinkle on international callback phone service using computers and VoIP. A company called 2speak has figured out how to let people use VoIP to make cheap phone calls without any special software, no phone adaptor and not even broadband.

Here's how it works. You create an account on the 2speak website. You can then log-in and create a phone book with the numbers you want to call and the numbers of the phones you'll be using. When you want to place a call, you just select which number you are at and which number you want to call. You can use any computer with Internet access, even dial-up, or your wireless PDA. Within seconds, both phones will ring and you'll be able to talk to your party. As another wrinkle, you can opt to send them a voice mail instead. They'll get an email with a link they can click to hear your message on their computer.

The system is based on VoIP transmission, but the calls terminate to landlines or cell phones at both ends. The VoIP technology is hidden in the network. Its purpose is to transmit voice over IP instead of the public switched telephone network. That makes for cheap calling rates. For instance, make a call from the U.S. to China and you'll pay 10 cents a minute at today's rates. A call from China to the USA is also 10 cents a minute. A call to or from India to the U.S. is 32 cents a minute. Or you can call the United Kingdom from India for 32 cents a minute. Call the U.S. from your business trip in France and you'll pay 8 cents a minute with 2speak. The rate is also 8 cents a minute from the United Kingdom.

You should try this yourself. The 2speak website has an international rate calculator that lets you see what it costs per minute to call between any two countries. The prices are not much more than you'd expect using VoIP, except that nobody needs broadband access or special phone adaptors. You can even use this service to call mobile to mobile between countries. The only catch is that you do need Internet access to trigger the call.

By the way, there is no signup fee or regular monthly fee for this service. You pay for the calls you make plus a 95 cent billing fee in months that you use the service. There is no charge to receive calls and no charges for calls that aren't completed.

2speak has definitely come up with a creative blend of technologies to optimize the cost of phone calls while limiting the interface to equipment that users already have. Learn more and sign up for service at 2speak now.

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