Sunday, March 27, 2016

International calling plans

DSC09722 (1010x1300)Our Saturday storm blew itself out ahead of Easter Sunday, black skies and spitting rain giving way to sunbreaks and rainbows.   Still, it’s unseasonably cold (even in England’s tropics), actually bracing to make the rounds from Sandbanks to Poole Harbour, stopping for a walk and a few pictures.  The Jazz Cafe served an excellent late morning breakfast that was a warm relief during the hail that started pounding the tables outside.

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Afternoon finds me back at 5 Woodside, sorting through potential telephone plans that might make an impact on my costs without sacrificing quality.

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DSC09711 (1300x867)With the demise of Operator One, my mobile phone bill has magnified beyond all reason.  Most of it is due to ‘quickie convenience calls’, made to or received from US and European clients.  The bill has risen to several hundred pounds per month: something Needed to be Done.

There are basically three ways to arrange cheap overseas calls.  

The easiest is to effectively buy a local phone number in the US that connects directly to a dedicated UK number.  This was Operator One’s approach, but most other services are not two-way.

Internet calling may be an option if your data plan is cheap enough, but remember that Skype is surprisingly data-intensive:

  • Skype-to-Skype calls: 50kbps or around 375KB for one minute of calling
  • Calls to mobile numbers or landlines: 6-20 kbps or around 150KB for one minute of calling
  • Video calls between two mobile phone devices: 500kbps
  • Video calls between a mobile phone and a computer: 600kbps

The most common is to buy a phone card that promises special rates: prepay the card, dial the access number, and place the call: the card is debited the amount.  It seems like a lot of work to fumble for cards and dial a lot of codes.

An all-in-one solution are plans that use a special direct access connection to the local provider before dialing the international call.  The call is billed at cheaper rates through the local provider and the charges show up on the regular phone bill.  I worry about transparency, though, and who has responsibility.

DSC09706 (1300x867)The best solution, from my perspective, was a service that would  transparently intercept and reroute international calls through the low-cost provider.  I chose Rebtel, which installs a light app on my phone that reroutes calls and debits a credit account that I keep with them.

Note added:  Rebtel has worked well for me: Call quality has been very good, and only seems to drop connections when refilling the credit.  Most importantly, it has dropped my bill to under £50 per month for the same number of calls.

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The usual disclaimer: I have not been asked to review plans, and have not been compensated for recommending one.  These are my own findings and thoughts, and I pay full-fare for the plans I use and the calls I make.

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