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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Era of Free and Cheap Phone Calls is Here

Free and Cheap Phone Calls Are Here Now For years now, people have had to pay a very high price to make a simple phone call.

I keep picturing 3 young children playing with a pair of tin can phones. Two of them are talking on the tin cans while the third one is dreaming that he would one day own the string that connected them. That way he could charge the other 2 a fee for the use of the string. This must have been the childhood dream of every telecom executive that was ever born.

That daydream was actually a good thing in the beginning because in their search for the fulfillment of it, these telecom moguls built the landline and cellphone networks in common use today.

The only problem now is that since they feel they can, telephone company executives are keeping the cost of their phone services at a premium. The average cost for an American to stay connected on their cell phones is around $50 per month. Not only that but cell phone abuse court cases are keeping the courts and TV judges like Judge Marilyn Milian of The People's Court exceedingly busy.


I mean, I don't mind paying for a phone, but I don't want to have to pay rent on it like a car or house payment and I certainly don't want to end up in court over it.  Plus if you use any fancy services like SMS and data services, you'll once again pay through the nose. After all, it's just a phone. A way for 2 or more people to keep in touch.

And the high costs are not just restricted to cellphones.

My own 85 year old mother is paying $34.95 per month (Canadian) for a basic landline phone number that she's had since the mid 1950's. It's not even a touch-tone capable phone. It's still a rotary model. That price does not include any long distance. (The phone model is NOT the phone company's fault but that's another story.)

Not surprisingly, this circumstance has created a huge demand for cheaper or even free alternatives.

The main reason I'm writing this is to tell you that you DON'T have to pay high prices to make calls to other people if you don't want to!

Due to some outrageous cellphone bills I incurred, I cancelled my cellphone service and switched all my phone services to a SkypeOut account a couple of years ago. I pay around $30 per year and have free landline and cellphone calling through-out the US and Canada. If I need to call overseas, which I rarely do, the charges are only a few pennies a minute. I just love this arrangement and I have yet to have anyone tell me that the voice quality is poor. They never seem to notice as far as I can tell.

I mainly use my laptop computer to make calls but when I'm roaming around I use my Dell Axim X50v with Skype Mobile software installed and take advantage of the free wireless hotspots that abound these days. In just over 18 months of wireless usage, I have yet to be in a situation where I've been unable to find wireless access in my area. My neighbourhood alone has over 500 open access points I can use making it an ideal solution in my case.

The only drawback to Skype and any other VoIP solutions for that matter is that you can't make emergency calls with it. So if that's one of your concerns, then it's not for you.

If the high price of calling has got you down, cheer up!

Over the coming weeks and months, I'm going to investigate and report everything I can find out about all the free and cheap calling hardware and services available today.

Skype, VoIP, WiFi phones, hardware, calling rates, accessories and anything else that is related to cheap phone calls will be covered here on this blog in detail.

If this is your area of special interest, I recommend that you sign up to the PDA Today Email Notifier found on the home page so that you can stay on top of all the latest information on the topic.