The advent of Voice over IP telephony (“VoIP”) has radically changed the face of communications for both personal and business users. It has opened up opportunities for enhanced, and substantially cheaper communications, especially for long-distance and international calls. VoIP for Business has provided communications options that are not possible with a fixed line environment.
However, the prudent personal and business user needs to be vigilant to make the best return on their investment and achieve the lowest possible international call rates.
Here are three simple tips for personal and business users to make sure that they accrue the full benefit of cheaper international communications.
Reduce Personal Costs
Smart device apps like Skype and Whatsapp provide the ability to make essentially free international calls. Clearly, they require a network connected to an internet service provider to operate successfully, but the spread of WiFi networks has made this much easier to manage.
A personal user can connect from a desktop linked to a broadband service provider at home, and increasingly from a smart device attached to a home WiFi network. You will need a high-speed connection for an acceptable video image, especially if you make group calls between several participants.
Out in the wide world, many municipalities and malls are providing publicly accessible WiFi networks and many stores and cafes are also providing their own networks. In theory, you can connect internationally from your smart device while sitting having a cup of coffee in your local mall.
There is no difference between local, regional and international calls, just select the person you want to call and off you go.
If you cannot find a WiFi service, or your smart device doesn’t support WiFi for some reason, there is a second option. International call service providers will connect you internationally for the cost of a local call.
Dial the service provider at local rates, enter the international number you want to call, they connect you using VoIP and you are talking. Some even offer a video call service. However, local telcos and cell service providers lose revenue when you use this service and some actively try to prevent you making international calls in this way by cutting off the service provider. Enlightened ones have adopted a revenue sharing business model, but many service providers are short-lived and change their access numbers frequently. You will need to search for service providers locally.
VoIP can also be used to call home from overseas, but your options are much more limited, perhaps to Skype from an Internet Café. If you have a local cell service number, you can use an international call service. Be aware the costs of using data over your home cell provider roaming service, even for Skype or Whatsapp from your smart device are very high and should be avoided. Many users have been shocked by the size of their data bill when they come home.
The increasing use of VoIP based call services is worrying cell service providers, since again in theory, if all the people you want to talk to are registered with Skype or Whatsapp and have decent access to WiFi, you don’t need a cellular service at all. With Skype, you can pay a relatively modest fee and make calls to landlines.
Reduce Business Costs – Improve Outbound Call Security
Most VoIP for Business systems provide the capability of assigning security levels to users and user groups. The business can assign logon PIN numbers to users and assign users to user groups to ensure that they are restricted to the type of calls they are likely to need to make during the working day. Call logs and registers provide management information to make sure that call services are not being abused, for example by borrowing the managers phone to make an international call.
Unauthorised international calls can be largely eliminated by using user PIN numbers and group security levels.
Reduce Business Costs – Use Video Conferencing
Companies with an international presence pay a lot for international communications, particularly video-conferences. The costs of a video-conference are usually less than bringing all the participants together, but they can be reduced further by using the power of VoIP, coupled with video to provide a video-conferencing environment.
As an example, Skype for Business allows a meeting organiser to set up a video-conference, and email a conference id to each participant. They then log-in using a standard browser interface and the conference id. The meeting them proceeds using VoIP.
More sophisticated video-conferencing environments, for example Polycom, use a similar principle to arrange conferences. The difference is that they offer a wider range of ancillary facilities like desktop sharing, file transfer and less common video options.
Overall, VoIP will provide substantial savings in international calls. The prudent business needs to make sure that they are achieving the full benefit of VoIP.