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February 01, 2007

Make Yourself Cheap

Just learned a new way to make myself cheap to call – especially from Western Europe where two of our children happen to live but also from the US.  A Fractals of Change reader sent me a link to an article by David Pogue in today’s NYTimes  Overseas Calls Made Cheap, if Not Easy”.

“You want to know how much it costs to make a 10-minute call to New York from London? From a pay phone, $15.70. From a T-Mobile or Cingular cellphone (American handsets that work overseas), $3.40 to $12.90. From your hotel room phone, $58. Perhaps it would be cheaper just to fly home,” he wrote.

OK.  We all already knew that.  And I know that I can take my Vonage box with me so that I can make free calls (for which I pay about $30 month) to the US and Western Europe from anywhere I can get a broadband connection.  And we all know that we can use Skype from our computers for pennies per minute.  Even knew, because we have one, that you can pay $4.99 a month can have a local number somewhere in the UK which rings on your Vonage-connected phone wherever that happens to be.

I was starting to skim the article faster and faster thinking “about time the Times knew all that” when something new popped out.  Vonage has local numbers in Canada, France, Italy (son Jarah), Mexico, Spain, the UK (daughter Kate) and the US which, when you call them, allow you to dial any Vonage subscriber anywhere in the world free.  So all you pay is the cost of the call to the local number in which ever country you’re in and you can reach any Vonage subscriber.

Now chances are that you don’t know who is a Vonage subscriber and who isn’t so how are you gonna use this?  Initially, it’s most useful if you already are a Vonage subscriber.  Then you tell your kids, or friends, or clients, or traveling significant others that they can reach you at local rates from all of these places so no excuse for not calling.  If you get many international calls from these countries or even domestic calls from places where Vonage has local US numbers – assuming you want to encourage these calls, you just have to give your callers what Vonage calls the V-Access number or tell them to go to http://vonage.com/features.php?feature=v_access to find the access number wherever they happen to be.  I already gave Mary the 414 V-Access number since her mother lives in Milwaukee.

If you’re a telco geek you probably knew all this just as I shoulda known it so here’s an arbitrage play just for you that lets you make free calls to lots of places when you’re traveling:

  1. get a Vonage phone if you don’t already have one.
  2. don’t tell anybody the number.
  3. call forward it to one of the free-calling services in Iowa that I posted about here which reach landline phones in much of the world.
  4. call it from a V-Phone when you’re away from home and you’ll be able to make cheap calls to any phone – not just Vonage phones – that the free calling service can reach.  Of course you have to dial three numbers but think of  all the fun there is in this complex arbitrage.

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