How To Save Money On Phone Calls

01
of 08

Ways To Cut Down Your Communication Costs With VoIP

Happy Phone Calls
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Communication is a heavy weight on budgets and these days more than ever, with the economic slowdown, everyone is looking for ways to cut down the cost of communication, especially that of fixed and mobile phone calls. The main factor that has made VoIP so popular is its ability to make people save money. Here are VoIP solutions you can try to trim down (and why not eliminate) your phone bills. It applies to any kind of user, from the mobile-savvy teenager to the corporate manager. Whatever be your communication needs and habits, doing one (or more) of the following should help.

  • Get a VoIP Phone Line At Home
  • Get a VoIP Device And Eliminate Monthly Bills
  • Use Your PC And Make Free Calls
  • Use VoIP To Save On Mobile Calls
  • Save on International Calls
  • Avail of Giveaways
  • Deploy VoIP In Your Business

02
of 08

Get a VoIP Phone Line At Home

Router with LAN cables and WiFi antenna
Tetra Images / Getty

Most houses and small businesses are traditionally equipped with the PSTN phone service, also called a landline, and many people, especially the elders, find some difficulty in drifting away from this paradigm. And then, it is better to keep things simple while making and receiving calls, free from dependencies like a PC. Getting a VoIP line at home keeps that simplicity during use, and even allows you to make use of existing traditional phone sets.

The cost of such a service on average ranges from $10 to $25 a month, depending on the plan you choose. Different service providers tailor their service plans in a variety of ways, and you are sure to get a package that suits your needs and optimizes your cost. This is however not the least costly way of using VoIP, as there are services that are free in certain circumstances, so keep navigating through the pages for more. Also, this kind of service is common mostly in the US and Europe, and people elsewhere tend to consider other types of VoIP service.

This kind of service requires first an Internet connection, preferably a DSL line, with sufficient bandwidth. Secondly, a special device called an ATA (also called a phone adapter) has to sit between your phone set and the DSL Internet router. The phone adapter device is shipped to you with any new subscription, so don't worry about hardware-related hassles.

Many small businesses use that kind of service, and some service providers have very good service plans for small businesses in their packages. But if your business needs more than that (including PBX services and the rest), then consider deploying a full-fledged business VoIP system.

Here are some links for your to get started with this kind of service:

03
of 08

Get a VoIP Device And Eliminate Monthly Bills

Ooma Telo Packaging
ooma.com

This type of service also resembles residential VoIP services, but with an interesting difference - no monthly bills. You buy a device and install it at home or in your office, and you make and receive calls 'ever after' (so to say) without paying anything. At the time I am writing this, there are very few services like that. There is a trade-off between initial cost on one side, and call costs and restrictions on the other side.

Again, this kind of service is beneficial mostly to users in the US and Canada. There is no clear geographical restriction as such, but since the existing services are based and centered in the US, using this kind of service outside the US and Canada involves difficulties that somewhat cancel the cost savings.

Here is a brief presentation of the different existing services. ooma (yes, it starts with a small o) sells its hardware (a hub and a phone) for a relatively high price and allows you to make unlimited US/Canada calls for free 'ever after' (take this 'ever after' with a grain of salt). PhoneGnome works in a similar way, with some slight differences, namely in price and features. MagicJack sells a small USB device for bread-and-butter cheap, and allows free local calls afterward, but requires a computer to make and receive calls. Finally, 1ButtonToWifi focuses on international calls and mobility, making them free or very cheap.

Finally, the 'no monthly bill' concept, while being true in many circumstances, is not completely translated into reality in all cases. You need to incur some costs every now and then, depending on how you use the service, e.g. making international calls, renewing a subscription, getting additional features etc. Read more on these services:

04
of 08

Use Your PC And Make Free Calls

Computer calling
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This is where VoIP comes free, and this is where VoIP has the most users worldwide. There is no restriction on location or country and no additional device is needed. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection of sufficient bandwidth. Then, you need to choose a PC-based VoIP service and download and install its application (called a softphone). You can then use your headset to make and receive calls. The most popular example is Skype which, at the time I am writing this, counts 350 million users worldwide.

Many people have been using computer-based VoIP for years and have made and received thousands of local and international PC-to-PC calls without ever paying a dime for it. Downloading and registering for the service is free, and as long as the communication is between users of the same service, the calls are also free and unlimited. Charges apply only when making calls to or receiving calls from landline or mobile users, through traditional PSTN or GSM networks.

This is the most preferred and accessible way of using VoIP. Here is a list of the most popular software-based VoIP services you can use on your computer for free calls.

05
of 08

Use VoIP To Save on Mobile Calls

Smartphone conversation
Ezra Baily / Taxi / Getty

Everyone is converging towards mobility. Heavy mobile users can save great amounts of money using VoIP to make and receive mobile calls. The amount of money you can save depends on your mobile communication needs and habits and on the prerequisites of the service you use.

It is possible to make completely free calls from a mobile phone or portable device, provided you meet the following requirements. First, your phone or handheld device needs to be supported by the service you are using; second, your caller or callee needs to be using the same service; and third, your phone or handheld device needs to have an Internet connection. A typical scenario where you can make totally free mobile calls would be where you use a high-end device (e.g. a Wi-Fi or 3G phone, a BlackBerry etc.) to call a friend who uses the same service on their mobile phone or PC, while you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot. That call would be free even if your friend is on the other side of the planet. Examples of such services are Yeigo and Fring.

That is quite restrictive and not everyone can live such a scenario or something similar. Not everyone has a sophisticated-enough mobile device, and not everyone has an Internet connection on their mobile (i.e. a data plan). But when calls are not free, they can be very cheap, with rates starting at two cents per minute for international calls. The services available have different features and ways of working - some use strictly the Internet backbone while other start calls on the GSM network and eventually route them through traditional phone lines and the Internet. Here are some links for getting started with mobile VoIP.

06
of 08

Save Money on International Calls With VoIP

Free International Calling
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This page will interest you if you spend a lot of money on calling people abroad, be it close relatives, friends or business contacts. The best way to make completely free international calls is through a computer connected to the Internet. As explained before, you can use software-based VoIP services to make free calls worldwide.

This way of contacting people worldwide for free can also be used on mobile phones and other portable devices. You need to install the service's application on your mobile device and make sure your contacts do the same as well. Then, with an Internet connection, you can make and receive the calls for free, through the same service as your buddy.

There are many cases where you need to call someone abroad on their mobile or landline phones, and this kind of service is not free...yet. But it is cheap, as we have seen on the previous page. Some service providers have designed plans with really cheap call rates. These services moreover do not need a computer, they can be used on the move. The two best examples so far are 1ButtonToWifi and Vonage Pro.

I need to mention the device-based services here, which, when used in a certain mode, can allow you to save on international calls. For example, with MagicJack or PhoneGnome, a person in one country having the device can call a person in another country having the device as well for free since in-service calls are free.

Another way of saving on international calls is by using virtual numbers. A virtual number is an anonymous number that you attach to a real number, such that when someone calls you on the virtual number, your real phone rings. Here is a list of virtual number service providers.

07
of 08

Avail of Giveaways

Hands on Galaxy Tab. vm/E+/GettyImages

Many services give away a number of minutes of completely free calling to any phone worldwide. This allows you to use your computer to call landline and mobile phones worldwide for free. These giveaways are limited but are sufficient for a simple communicator. Some give free minutes as a bait to attract customers while others get their calls sponsored by advertisement.

Here is a list of such services.

08
of 08

Deploy VoIP In Your Business

Eyebeam Screenshot
Eyebeam Screenshot. counterpath.com

Deploying VoIP in a business not only allows to considerably cut down communication costs, but also adds more power to the communication process and infrastructure. For instance, new VoIP systems have PBX functionality and tons of other features and are very flexible and scalable. They also are geared towards Unified Communications, converging into one device voice, text and video, and enhancing presence management.

Deployment has been something of a headache for administrators lately, the main challenge being the initial cost and setting up. So it has been much question of return on investment, and subsequently the question of 'worthiness' of a VoIP deployment. For this reason, only big companies considered such a move. But now, the new systems are becoming quite compact and integrated. You can find all the functionalities of a whole communication system into one single device, and setting up is only more than a breeze. Adtran Netvanta is an example. Here are the most popular business VoIP solutions.

For smaller businesses, there are still smaller systems, much like home phone packages, but tailored for a corporate environment. These services have the bare necessity features, and cost only a handful of dollars per month. These VoIP providers have, along with their residential plans, a business plan.