How to choose a good international calling plan?

A few years back placing calls from U.S. to other countries, especially India was very expensive.Now, many service providers are offering relatively cheaper VoIP-based calling plans. There are many good reasons to buy an economical international calling plan. You want to be connected to your loved ones without thinking too much about the cost of communicating with them. At the same time there is no need to spend extra money on a service that is cheaper elsewhere. In tough economic times like these, every dollar saved is like an extra dollar earned.
There are many providers in this niche and you will find different calling cards, calling plans, and prepaid international calling plans. Reliance, Airtel, TrueRoots, etc are some of the popular calling plans. Calling over the internet (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol) is also fairly common nowadays. Leading providers like Vonage enables a customer to make an international call using high speed internet instead of a phone line using VoIP.
Based on information collected from the websites of different service providers, few plans for making calls to India are discussed here.

Vonage World Plan

Vonage allows the caller to use high speed internet instead of a regular phone line to make an international call. Some of the advantages of this plan are:

  • Installation is very simple. All you need to do is make two connections. First, connect the Vonage adapter to the high-speed Internet. Second, connect your telephone to the adapter.
  • You do not have to keep your computer on to make or receive calls. Vonage works on any high speed internet connection-broadband/cable/DSL
  • You have to pay a fixed monthly fee. Vonage occasionally offers promotional deals.
  • You can transfer your existing number to Vonage. Before signing up make sure that your number is available.
  • The adaptor is portable so you can carry it anywhere during a business or leisure travel.
  • The advantage of using Vonage over another calling plan is that you can make unlimited calls to more than 60 countries, including India. Just make sure that calls to your home state are included in the plan. Not all cities and villages in India are currently covered in the Vonage World Plan.

Skype

  • Skype is free for both voice and video calls.
  • The caller and receiver must have a computer and should download the free Skype software to make such calls.
  • While the overall voice quality of Skype is average, the system is not compatible with home alarm systems.
  • You have to purchase a Skype phone.

To sum up the VOIP plans

Vonage set up may not be as simple as the website suggests. This is true when you are transferring your existing number. You will have to pay both the service providers for some time (usually a week). Many times people do not have an active phone line till the transfer process is complete. This can be very frustrating. Before signing up for the contract ensure that the numbers you want to call are covered in the Vonage World Plan (this can be done on www.vonage.com)
Standalone VoIP services of Vonage and Skype are likely to be good for you if you are a heavy international caller. MagicJack is another option for you. All you need to do is purchase a device and make calls from your computer for a fixed yearly fee. Magicjack also provides wall plug adapter which converts into your home phone line and you can make calls from a physical phone. Before making a choice, read service reviews and ask your friends. While the upside in all the cases is unlimited talk time to your home country, the downside in Skype and MagicJack can be interference while calling and downloading large files at the same time.

Verizon International

Verizon offers international calling to 118 countries with a 300 minute (costing$14.99 a month) and 500 minute (costing $19.99 a month) plans. Additional minutes and countries are also available at low per-minute rates. There are special prices offered to Verizon customers. The cost is almost 2c per minute if you take the 500 minute plan. Check if your country is covered by Verizon and compare with other providers.

Reliance Global Call

If you do not want to use a VoIP based calling plan you can purchase minutes from any of the leading service providers. In 2009 the charges were 6-7 cents per minute. The advantage of using Reliance is that you can call from any phone: mobile/landline. You do not have to carry an adaptor as in the case of Vonage.
You have to follow two steps:

  • You must dial the toll free access number. Follow the instructions and enter the number you wish to call starting with country code (91 if you are making a call to India). It is not required to dial the international access number.
  • For Landline: You must enter the country code +city code+ phone number. Here is an example for calling someone in New Delhi: 91-11-41344580
  • For Mobile: You must enter country code and the cell phone number. Here is an example : 91-9314609882
  • The voice quality of Reliance is very good. You can opt for pinless dialing.

Conclusion

There are many international calling plans in the market. If you make a lot of international calls, you must look at all the options. Look out for special offers and promotions for ‘first time buyers’. It always pays to make an informed choice.