VoIP promises free PC-to-PC calls and cheap handset and mobile calls, but "free" would be even nicer. While many mobile plans offer free night and weekend minutes, but long-distance and international calls can still incur tolls no matter how "free" just picking up the phone is.
However, several companies have devised ways to take advantage of free calling times or otherwise defray tolls and termination fees, allowing you to make long-distance and even international calls for free.
We've covered Jajah several times in VoIP News, but it's still highly relevant. Jajah allows you to make about an hour's worth of weekly mobile calls for free, since other users buy premium Jajah services that underwrite telecom carriers' termination fees.
Enter your phone number on Jajah's Web site, then the number you're calling. Press a button on the screen . Your phone rings, you answer; the receiver's phone rings, they answer. Make too many calls, and Jajah asks you to sign up for a premium service. This is fine for personal calls but makes Jajah's free service a bit cramped for heavy-duty business use.
TelEvolution's PhoneGnome is similar to Jajah, in that Web-initiated mobile or calls to other PhoneGnome members' phones are free within the U.S. and Canada. Calls are free regardless when both caller and receiver have the $60 PhoneGnome box, a small (wallet-size) switching gizmo that automatically finds the cheapest way to route a given call (landline, VoIP, Skype, etc. ). So if calls to non-PhoneGnome users aren't actually free, it's a good bet they're traveling the lowest-cost route available at a given moment.
Free international cell calls on RocketVoIP are easy—well, except for the $10/month you pay for their RocketVoIP Basic plan. But still: That ten bucks means unlimited calls within the RocketVoIP network, and also provides a host of other features including call waiting, forwarding and blocking. The company also throws in 200 minutes' calling to the U.S. and Western Europe, further defraying that already modest investment.
Since it's usually going to be evening or the weekend on either the caller's or the receiver's continent (U.S.-Asia, U.S.-Europe, Asia-Europe), wait until you're on your mobile plan's free night-and-weekend minutes, dial the RocketVoIP access number, dial the overseas number you want to call, and presto: free international calling from your cell without even charging minutes against your mobile plan's monthly total.
You can also make free cell calls through SMS software, since the same protocols that allow instant text-messaging can carry voice as well. VoiceOne's Click4Me service makes use of this fact: You and whoever you want to call sign up with Click4Me and get Click4Me IDs; text Click4Me with "CALL" plus the recipient's Click4Me ID and the call connects. Click4Me also allows blocking of certain numbers/IDs, and lets users get e-mail or SMS messages showing which calls they've missed.
Other companies are building applications that ride on top of Skype technology. Mobivox is Exhibit A. Register your Skype account with Mobivox, and the company will list your Skype contacts as people you can call. You can then use local access numbers to call them for free from your mobile (presumably connecting with them at their laptops).
That said, if you and the callee are both in the Mobivox network, mobile-to-mobile calls are not only possible but free up to 250 minutes per week. As with Jajah, it appears that those 250 minutes are underwritten by others' purchase of premium Mobivox services, in this case international calling minutes.
In a nice touch, Mobivox actually tells you whether a call is free or not before you make it, through an operator app named VoxGirl. This type of plan offers business users a lot of flexibility since Mobivox's pricing is transparent, VoxGirl acts as a tripwire when you're about to run out of free minutes, and no contract or downloads are involved.
Hopefully these examples give a flavor of what VoIP has made possible in today's telecom environment. If you can't bring your overall telecom costs using technologies and deals from these and other VoIP-centric companies, you're not really trying.
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