Posts Tagged ‘voip’

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Calling Home Cheaply using VOIP

April 5, 2009

Calling home, or indeed making telephone calls, is one of the hidden expenses which frequently blights a grad students life. While AT&T, TMobile et al already charge a significant amount ($40 – $60, depending on your plan) on monthly charges, they charge exorbitant per minute rates if you ever decide to make calls in the daytime. My plan, for example charges $0.45 per minute, for daytime calls (6AM to 9PM).

The only alternative solution to this is to use services using Voice Over Internet Protocol. Now there are different ways of using VOIP services. Lets have a look at them. As a reference, I am going to cite call charges to India for comparison purposes.

1. Get a VOIP connection at one of the many VOIP providers. I personally use VoipRaider, but there are many others to choose from. You can get a list here. All these services ask you to signup and buy some credit, like a prepaid phone card. You can then download an application to your computer and make calls using it. Dont expect high levels of support, but the services are adequate. There can be a delay of 1 – 2 seconds at times, especially if you are calling during peak times, but is much less at night. Also, most of these sites allow you to make one trial call before buying the service. You can thus pick and choose.

At the time of writing this post, VoipRaider charges $0.048 per minute to make calls to India, and $0.054 to send an SMS.

2. If you have a mobile phone supporting WiFi, you can probably install fring, a free application which allows you to connect to voip servers, and make VOIP calls directly on your mobile phone bypassing the cellular network. All the VOIP services listed above (VoipRaider, VoipBuster, etc) have an SIP server, and you can login to them via fring. I use this myself, but I have noticed a slight additional delay when I call using VoipRaider through fring. For a list of phones which support the fring application, go here. Most WinMobile, Symbian 8/9 phones and iPhones are supported. For installing fring on the iPhone, use this link.

3. The final approach is to  use a service which require you to dial an access number through your cellular network. While this will not save you any money if you use this service over the daytime, it is cheaper to use at night to call internationally than the voip services list in the first step. For example. dial91, which is the service I use, charges $0.026 per minute to call India, as opposed $0.048 in VoipRaider. Also, call quality is significantly better, with barely any delays at all.

The best approach would be to use a combination of the above. I use fring to call during the daytime, and dial91 at night. To make a comparison, assuming an average rate of $0.035 per minute, it would cost me $16 per month to call home for 15 minutes every day. The same number of minutes on my AT&T connection would cost me $200.

I would like to add, that these are the options I know. If you know of any additional/better ones, please do comment. I would love to know. Oh, and finally, the above services are available in the US and Canada, in case somebody is interested.