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Friday, March 03, 2006

Not just for geeks: Save money with VoIP phone calls

Mr Bargain Queen has put on his propeller-hat to show you how to save money with voice calls over the internet.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a way to make voice calls at a fraction of normal charges. Because the internet protocol is a much more efficient way to transmit data than fixed lines, the cost to the networks is much lower, and they can pass this on in the form of lower rates.

Once very much in the realm of geek-to-geek calls, VoIP is finally making an impression on the rest of us, thanks to the wonders of home broadband.

  • Local calls with VoIP are about 10c, whereas they are 18-25 cents on a typical landline.
  • Calling long-distance, an unlimited call to any capital city in Australia costs about 9-10 cents. This is much cheaper than a landline, which would cost about 25 cents just to be connected, plus 12-20 cents per-minute.
  • International calls are also very cheap – you can talk to the UK for 3-5c per minute, compared with 15-30c a minute on the landline.
  • And VoIP is effectively free where you and the person you are calling are on the same network!

With VoIP, we can afford for The Bargain Queen to talk on the phone as long as she likes. Which is, um, good.

The sound quality of VoIP calls isn’t always consistent; somewhat like the small echoes or delays one would experience when making international calls 15-20 years ago. However you can improve the quality by using a VoIP company that is based in your country of origin. Otherwise your voice call might be routed across the ocean and back, leading to poor quality. When The Bargain Queen speaks, she wants people to hear it right away!

You should also ask your VoIP provider whether they offer support for emergency calls and whether their service is available in a blackout. Not all VoIP providers can do this, so keep your landline on, just in case.

You can try many different providers for free using their downloadable software phones. Just plug an earpiece or VoIP phone ($30 from any computer shop) into your computer, and you can make calls right away. Once you’ve found one you like, set up prepaid account with them so you can control how much you spend.

Some good Australian providers include:

Broadband Phone

Happy calling!

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