Direct calls from a cellphone can cost you anywhere between Rs 6 to Rs 40 per minute, depending on the country you are calling. If you are a frequent international caller, cheaper options like calling cards that are offered by most service providers come in handy. These cut your calling costs by almost half.
For instance, a one minute call to Singapore using an Airtel calling card costs Rs 3.5 whereas the same on a direct call costs about Rs 7. Calling cards come in various denominations, starting from Rs 100 onwards in most cases, making them an affordable option. They come with validity. The only discomfort, if you may call it, is that you are required to call up a service number and then enter the number mentioned at the back of the card, followed by the destination number. Not for impulsive callers, but certainly a boon for frequent callers. The call quality is the same as what is offered by a direct call.
Calling from Internet-linked personal computer is another option. While PC-to-PC calling is free, it is not the most convenient way — with a headset and a mike put on. It’s also not a feasible option for the not so PC savvy.
There are a couple of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software applications that allow cheaper international calls over the Net. The basic requirements for making a VoIP call are an Internet connection (preferably broadband), an adaptor or a compatible device, a service provider and a software application.
There are options provided by the likes of Net4’s Phonewala and World Phone. Once you have registered with these Internet telephony service providers, you can either buy an Internet compatible phone or an adaptor to make your phone work like one. Alternatively, you can make calls from your PC by downloading the “softphone” on your PC from www.worldphone.in.
Phonewalas gives the option of making calls at Re 1 per minute to around 40 destinations across the world. However, if you were to call up a mobile number in the UK or Australia, it would cost Rs 10 per minute.
For a monthly rental of Rs 599, you can also make free calls of up to 500 minutes to numbers in the US, UK and Canada. However, a different charge applies for calling UK mobile numbers. An unlimited Silver Plan plan gives you up to 3,000 minutes free every month at a cost of Rs 2,499. It also has calling cards in denominations varying between Rs 100, 250, 500 and 1,000 that allows you to call US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore mobile numbers at one rupee per minute. Calls to landlines of almost 40 destinations across the world can be made at one rupee and the remaining destinations at Rs 10 per minute.
World Phone has unlimited calling options that are useful for those who frequently make calls to the US/Canada or Europe. For instance, the Unlimited Rs 1,500 plan allows you to make free calls to the US or Canada and pay 95 paise per minute for calls to Europe and South East Asia.
You can also buy calling cards to call from your PC to international landline or mobile numbers. These cards come in denominations of Rs 250, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and allows you to call various countries for 95 paise per minute. You can also buy a virtual number for specific countries where you can also receive calls.
Skype, which is now a well-known service brand owned by eBay, is a downloadable software that can be installed on your Windows PC or Windows Mobile. While Skype-to-Skype calls on PCs and mobile phones come free, for calling landline and cellphones, one can buy Skype credits. Call rates are as low as less than a rupee for some countries. For a detailed chart, visit http://www. skype.com/prices/callrates/.
Of course, you need to have an Internet connection to use Skype. By paying an additional amount you can also purchase a number where people can call you at comparatively cheaper rates.
Jajah is another such service that allows you to make international calls simply by keying in your number and the destination number. As soon as you key in the numbers, your landline or mobile, whichever you keyed in, rings as also your destination number. So you don't need to stay up at your PC. It gives you the cost advantage of the Internet phone and convenience of the handset.
Even MTNL has forayed into being an Internet Telephony Service Provider and launched its VoIP services. You will have to pay Rs 500 for registration and a refundable deposit of Rs 1,000 in addition to the monthly rental of the plan you choose (Rs 400 for VoIP 400 and Rs 200 for VoIP 200). In addition to this, you will have to also pay a rental for the adaptor. Detailed tariffs can be viewed at http://mumbai.mtnl.net.in /triband/voip/rates_cntrywise.xls.
If you are okay with making PC-to-phone calls, calling cards are available in denominations of Rs 220.4, Rs 551 and Rs 1,102. These allow you to call US, Canada, UK, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia fixed line numbers at Rs 3 per minute. An Australian mobile number can be called at for Rs 14 per minute whereas the same for a New Zeland number costs Rs 12 per minute.
All said and done, paying less for a call is not as cool as making a free international call. Fring is one software that allows you to make free international calls. The software integrates contacts on your Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype, ICQ and MSN, all into one, and you can call up anyone on the contact list for free.
However, you need to have Wi-Fi enabled handset, because even GPRS speed is not enough to allow smooth streaming of packets needed for good quality of voice over the Net. Setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot would require you to buy a router, which can cost Rs 1,500 onwards. An Internet connection is must, and call quality depends on the Internet speed. It worked pretty fine when we tried it over a 128 kbps connection.
Postpaid users of Tata Indicom can go in for Talk World that allows you to call US and Canada at Rs 2 per minute on weekends. The weekdays charges are Rs 6.40 per minute, if you call between 9 a.m. 9 p.m. The same Rs 6.40 per minute charge applies to calling Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. On weekends, you can call up these countries at Rs 4 per minute. The charges for calling UK/Europe and Gulf countries are Rs 6.40 per minute. While there is no weekend offer for UK/Europe, a one minute call to Gulf countries costs Rs 7. The monthly rental for this plan is Rs 299.