Browsing the internet, driving at high speed on a highway, or walking on a pavement, for sure you have seen a “low cost international calls” or “cheap long distance telephone calls” advertisement. Is it true or is it a gimmick? Is it some kind of a new marketing trick? And if it is true, how does it work? Are there any pitfalls one needs to know of? These are questions many people have when they see such ads.
A straight forward answer is yes; it is possible to do long distance or international low cost telephone calls without breaking the law. Also, one does not need to have any particular technical expertise to be able to make such calls. In this article, I am going to explain how providers manage to provide low cost international telephone calls, and what you need to do to be able to make such cheap telephone calls.
Using the normal analogue telephone (in layman terms known as land line), the caller is physically occupying a line (pair of wires), thus he or she has to pay for “renting” that line. International cables, or connections between countries, are limited and expensive to maintain, hence normal long distance calls, or international calls tend to be very expensive.
Thanks to the Internet and hardware advancements, nowadays most households are permanently connected to the internet at a very cheap rate. Why? Unlike an analogue phone, where an actual physical line is occupied by a single user to establish a connection between both ends, anyone who is connected to the Internet does not occupy a physical line. In fact, thousands of connections can be easily passed through a single fiber optic cable. Fiber is the type of cable typically used nowadays for almost any type of connection. This means that establishing an international connection through the internet, e.g. from Germany to Australia will be much cheaper than establishing an analogue telephone call from the same locations.
Over time, internet researchers and programmers developed VOIP; Voice over Internet Protocol. In simple terms; transmission of voice and other type of communication, such as video over the internet. You can watch this What is VOIP video for more detailed information about VOIP. Thanks to such technology, with a personal computer, a VOIP provider subscription, a microphone and headphones anyone can make cheap international telephone calls without being a telephone expert.
A VoIP provider is a provider that provides VoIP service over the internet, in simple terms a large scale PABX. When used for personal use, usually you have to install a software on your computer called soft phone (software telephone), which acts like a normal phone. Using an ID, username and password provided from the VoIP provider on registration, the soft phone will connect to the VoIP provider from where you can make calls. In large company infrastructures, typically the PABX itself is always connected to the VoIP provider.
The next question would be, which is the best VoIP provider? In this case it is very difficult to answer. Everyone has different requirements, thus what works for Mr Smith, does not work for Mr Schultz and vice versa. When choosing a VoIP provider, one must check pricing, audio quality and service level agreement. The location of the VoIP provider is also important. If you live in the US, and you mostly call European countries, it is recommended to get a VoIP provider somewhere in Europe for much better rates. Several businesses typically have subscriptions with different VoIP providers in different countries, to benefit more from this technology.
If you do not have an Internet connection you can still make cheap international telephone calls. Most of the old analogue telephone line providers, are also providing VoIP services. In most cases, if you do not own a computer you need to dial a specific prefix before the actual number, so your call is routed through the Internet instead of the analogue and old telephone lines. Contact your local telephone provider for more information about such services.
As we’ve learned from this article, it is possible to make cheap international calls without breaking the law and without the need of technical expertise. Still, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for one to properly read all of the providers’ documentation. Thorough research when choosing a low cost international call provider is a must so as not to fall in some marketing pitfalls, or be a victim of some hidden charges.