Are All Free Calls Really Free?

Woman talking on landline telephone

 PhotoAlto / Getty Images

Everyone knows that a free call is a phone call for which you don’t pay anything. So why the question? As a phone user, you need to understand the implications of such terms as ‘free call’, when they are really free and when they are not, and where you can get them from.

Many services that offer calls for really free. This is thanks to VoIP, which uses the Internet to channel voice calls, so you pay for nothing. Normally, calls that are not free are those that are made to landline and mobile phones.

However, free calls are not always free for you. A free call is a call offered by a phone service provider (either a PSTN, GSM or VoIP phone service) for no charge. The charge here is what you are billed for a minute of the call. What you actually pay might not always be ‘nothing’.

When are Free Calls not Really Free?

In some cases, while the calls may be termed ‘free’ by service providers, they may not always be ‘free’ for you, since there may be associated costs. These costs may be those of other required operators or networks. Take the following examples:

  • A VoIP service may offer you free calls but if the service requires call termination from another access network, you have to pay a fee for the access network, which might, for instance, be your GSM provider.
  • VoIP calls for mobile phones over 3G are commonly free when you call your contacts that use the same service and same VoIP application. But on your side, you need to add the cost of 3G connectivity, which is far from being negligible.
  • Some services offer unlimited calls for free upon a subscription. We question their right to use the word ‘free’, since, even if it is only once, you pay for the service.
  • No-monthly-bill services are quite common. The calls are free but, first, you need to invest in their hardware, which is a cost to include in your budget. Besides, you might need a phone line (in the case of Ooma) or a DSL line (in the case of MagicJack).
  • There are free calls that are free only to certain destinations. For example, you have some US-based companies that offer free calls to any phone within the US and Canada, but not abroad. An example is Google Voice.

Free Calls Have Revolutionized the World of Communication

This is because of its magical ability to cut down cost, and to allow people to make free calls worldwide. VoIP services and applications like Skype have greatly contributed to this, where haves and have-nots alike have been able to join the ‘talking’ world on the net.