Author Topic: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?  (Read 7357 times)

olivia

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Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« on: September 12, 2013, 06:07:18 PM »
I have 3 siblings living in Europe/Scandinavia and I talk to them regularly.  I was using an unlimited Skype plan that costs $39.99/month, which is on top of my usual phone bill.  I don't have a landline, just an iPhone 5.  (I cancelled the Skype plan because my most talked to sibling was back in the US this summer, but she's moved back to Europe so I need to find a way to call again.) 

Are there better/cheaper ways to call overseas than Skype?  That are also reliable?  (Not that Skype is mindblowingly reliable!)  I do text via WhatsApp but I am close to my family and need to be able to call them very regularly (as in at least every other day). 

Daley

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 07:14:27 PM »
Olivia, Skype is never the cheapest way. Also, trying to tie it in with the cellphone isn't entirely the cheapest way, either.

Best solution is going to be... *drumroll* a home VoIP account. (Bring back that home phone!) Fortunately, calling landlines in Denmark, Norway, Sweden (and most of Europe for that matter) is part of nearly every discount/free international package available from every VoIP provider out there.

VOIPo has a 1,200 minute International calling package that hits all the major European nation-state landlines for an extra $7.95 a month on top of their current monthly rate (when you buy two years up front) of $7.71 a month (after tax) for their 5,000 minute "unlimited" calling plan. That'd be $15.66 a month for 20 hours of Scandinavian talk time. They'll even provide the device for you pre-configured. Just plug one end into your network and an old landline telephone into the other, and you're laughing. Extra bonus points, you now have a home phone with an absurd amount of domestic incoming and outgoing minutes that you can use to cut down on your cellphone usage.

If you only want to pay for what you use, buy an OBi100 and sign up with VOIP.ms. You can pay only for what you use, their outbound rates to landlines in those countries range between 1.2-1.8 a minute, and depending on the carrier, some mobile providers' exchanges are under 2.5 a minute. If you want an inbound US number for the account, you can do that in most US exchanges for under $7/month with a crapload of incoming minutes, or you can just pay for the number itself (much less) and only the incoming minutes on it that you use. Heck, you don't even need to have an incoming number if you don't want it. That said, there's actually the option of being able to potentially obtain local to your family in Europe incoming phone numbers for your account as well that only cost between $4-6 a month with unlimited incoming minutes. Using the baseline pricing of $40/month that you were spending with Skype, that could buy you through VOIP.ms a single local incoming phone number in Denmark, Norway and Sweden with unlimited incoming minutes on each of those numbers ($14.50/month), and still have enough money left over to make between 1,400-2,100 minutes of outgoing calls billed at the landline termination rates mentioned earlier (1.2-1.8). Don't let setting up your own equipment intimidate you, however. It's only a few fields entered into a web-based configuration form, and they even have configuration guides for 'em.

This'll be a good read for you to just get accustomed to the exact potential of what you're potentially getting into, as well as how to set it all up:
VoIP and the Return of the Home Phone

All that said, I'm not keen on Red Pocket's customer support (they're kinda flaky), but if you have good AT&T reception in your area and depending on your current cell phone budget, a switch to them might be of interest as they're only charging 1 a minute to each of the three Scandinavian countries on top of their monthly "unlimited" plans (lowest being $30/month with 100MB of data)... best part is, it wouldn't need to be treated like a calling card call, either, like P'tel and Airvoice do it... 100% direct dial. Not as cheap as the VOIPo + a sub-$20/month PAYG cell plan potentially, but you also didn't mention exactly how much talking you normally do or would like to do. 1,000 minutes ($10 on top of the plan) is still a lot of time, though.

Daley

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 07:44:37 PM »
Just a little tack-on note: See if your family members over in Europe can buy any Obihai devices themselves (or buy and take with you next time you're over there or one of them's over here). If you're willing to do the work yourself, it's pretty easy to set up with any VoIP provider that offers free Inum numbers, but Obihai has a free peer-to-peer calling option built into the devices that doesn't take any effort to set up.

Basically, you get VoIP services going at both ends integrated into your regular phone setup, you're going to be able to make free calls, and the call quality will still be superior to Skype.

olivia

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 07:55:23 PM »
Wow, lots of awesome information, thank you IP Daley.  I'm not sure a home VoIP will be my best bet just because given the 6 hour time difference I'm often calling during my work hours.  By the time I get home from work (usually after 6pm) it's midnight or later over there.  But if it's cheap enough it could work for weekend calls.

I will likely be calling primarily to a European cell phone, as the sister I talk to the most only has a cell phone (she lives in Spain).  It doesn't sound like the VoIP accounts typically include calls to cell phones, am I reading that correctly?   

I do have good AT&T reception, and am currently with AT&T for my cell phone, so Red Pocket could work for me.  It looks like Red Pocket PayGo would only charge me 1 cent/minute to call my sister in Spain, although that may be to landlines only...and is that on top of their usual rate? 

Ack this stuff makes my head hurt.  I really appreciate you taking the time.  I'm not trying to shoot down everything you've suggested, just trying to figure this out! 

Is there any other app like Skype that charges less money to call from a cell?  We can do FaceTime on our iPhones but internet in Spain leaves something to be desired, so that doesn't usually work too well.

olivia

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 07:56:37 PM »
Just a little tack-on note: See if your family members over in Europe can buy any Obihai devices themselves (or buy and take with you next time you're over there or one of them's over here). If you're willing to do the work yourself, it's pretty easy to set up with any VoIP provider that offers free Inum numbers, but Obihai has a free peer-to-peer calling option built into the devices that doesn't take any effort to set up.

Basically, you get VoIP services going at both ends integrated into your regular phone setup, you're going to be able to make free calls, and the call quality will still be superior to Skype.

Oh interesting...this could work, my sister is coming home at Xmas and I could get her one then.  I'm going to look into this more for sure.  The only thing that may not work out is the time difference problem.  But thank you!

Christof

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2013, 12:23:30 AM »
Is there any other app like Skype that charges less money to call from a cell?  We can do FaceTime on our iPhones but internet in Spain leaves something to be desired, so that doesn't usually work too well.

Do you have Wifi at work that you can use to place a call?

A reminder: If you use any internet enabled software to place calls you are not limited to products offered in your own country. You could also look for a Spanish VOIP provider.

Another option is that your family opens an account that gets them a number in the US like Google Voice, VoipVoip, CallCentric, etc. Those calls would be routed via IP, so might suffer from the same problems as FaceTime.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 12:29:32 AM by Christof »

daverobev

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 07:03:11 AM »
Well, if you can get 'the other end' on the same kind of device as you, and do it on wifi..

Thinking FaceTime or whatever, or Skype - both would be free.

I use skype, and just put credit on when I need it. Depends if you're calling a landline the other end or mobile - if mobile then it is definitely NOT cheap. I usually Skype call my mum in France, but if she's not online I call her land line using Skype instead. I think it's 1p or 2p a minute (my account is is GBP because that's where I'm from).

But the key is having wifi. Doing it over the cell network is less good.

If it's that important, all parties should find a way to make it cheap, and having the same system - I 'like' Skype but don't love it, but then I refuse to update it from 4.5 or so. It works, it's NOT expensive for me.

Daley

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Re: Cheapest Way To Call Europe/Scandinavia from US Cell Phone?
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 08:01:52 AM »
Wow, lots of awesome information, thank you IP Daley.  I'm not sure a home VoIP will be my best bet just because given the 6 hour time difference I'm often calling during my work hours.  By the time I get home from work (usually after 6pm) it's midnight or later over there.  But if it's cheap enough it could work for weekend calls.

I will likely be calling primarily to a European cell phone, as the sister I talk to the most only has a cell phone (she lives in Spain).  It doesn't sound like the VoIP accounts typically include calls to cell phones, am I reading that correctly?

I do have good AT&T reception, and am currently with AT&T for my cell phone, so Red Pocket could work for me.  It looks like Red Pocket PayGo would only charge me 1 cent/minute to call my sister in Spain, although that may be to landlines only...and is that on top of their usual rate? 

Correct, most of them typically don't. That said, there are exceptions. As Christof mentioned, there's CallCentric (on my recommended list, but normally not one of the cheaper providers per minute for domestic service) and VoipVoip (not on my recommended list, there's DTMF and general quality issues with a lot of their routing), and both of them actually have good mobile rates to most European countries, especially CallCentric who does Spain mobile at a flat 4.95 a minute (which is far better than RedPocket's 25 a minute or any of the pricing to Spain mobile carriers through VOIPo and VOIP.ms).

RedPocket's international calling will be billed per minute on top of the flat monthly rate.

Between the Spain mobile contingency and for the sake of simplification, I'm figuring CallCentric is probably going to be the best all-around priced option, even though general European land-line calling is a bit higher priced, so let's move forward under that idea.

Given the need to call during work hours, the fact that you have an iPhone, and it sounds like you may have WiFi access at work (what with the previous Skype usage in the past), you might be able to get by using a SIP phone like 3CX with CallCentric, and then you're just paying for the outbound minutes to Spain (just don't do it over mobile data). However, if there's quality issues, you can still use CallCentric's own ringback application, but then you'll be billed the 4.95 a minute to Spain plus 1.98 a minute to connect to your cellphone, making each call cost 6.93 a minute (unless you pay for one of the North America 500/1000 packages). Most VoIP providers do "calling card" style support as well, and the cool thing about CallCentric is that you can tie that functionality in with your own private number and set it to kick in only when called from say your cell phone. They also have free NY state phone numbers with unlimited free incoming calls (you're permitted up to two), so theoretically you could also just assign calls from your cell number to one of those free numbers to forward straight to your sister in Spain, giving you a US based direct dial to Spain billed at a price just shy of 5 a minute. This move singlehandedly eliminates the need and support for data usage, eliminates the need for SIP clients on your phone, eliminates the hassle of calling cards for a frequently called number, still opens up the possibility of using VoIP service at home/work for other international calling. I know I'm overwhelming you with options and implementations here even with CallCentric, but I'm trying to show you that the reality of these options are nearly limitless when you take control and become your own pseudo Baby Bell.

Clearly, it's important to figure out roughly how many minutes a month you'll actually be using to call her, as knowing this number will help you better understand how worthless "unlimited" services frequently are, but also when they're worth the money. That said, you have the potential to get 200 minutes to Spain per $10 spent. If you figure 15 minutes every other day, that would nearly carry you a month.

Ack this stuff makes my head hurt.  I really appreciate you taking the time.  I'm not trying to shoot down everything you've suggested, just trying to figure this out! 

Is there any other app like Skype that charges less money to call from a cell?  We can do FaceTime on our iPhones but internet in Spain leaves something to be desired, so that doesn't usually work too well.

The hard part's the learning curve on options. Once you get past that and understand what you're dealing with, it gets a lot easier. You just pick the best fit, configure it, and start throwing money into the machine. Clearly, the internet service issues in Spain need to be considered as well, but video calling always takes more bandwidth than voice. Stick with voice services. If you don't want to do Skype specifically (which, I'm all for open standards VoIP and the ability to tie into the phone network cheap/free, so that's always great), and if your sister has WiFi access on her end with her own iPhone, she could get a CallCentric account as well with a free US phone number and then you could either call directly back and forth for the price of data using 3CX at both ends (the 3CX softphone is like the software equivalent of the OBi100 ATA mentioned before for smartphones), or one of you could call the other one via the free NY state phone number for US domestic calling rates... you get the idea. Again, I don't want to overwhelm, I want to inspire some radical lateral thinking if you guys can't/won't just do straight up Skype user to user type of things... which seems to be the case given the desire to tie in proper phone calling service.

Meditate on the idea, re-read. It's not as complex as it sounds, but its potential options are rather diverse.

As a closing bit, I'm going to throw out a rather antiquated idea to supplement and reduce your monthly international call budget. Be pen-pals as well. Hand write big, long letters once every 7-14 days and mail it to them. Use it as an adjunct to utilizing technology to stay close. $1.10 in postage can potentially relay a whole lot more in text form than 22 minutes of phone calls can due to the attitude and mindset of thinking and choosing your words instead of just immediately talking. With the right envelopes and stationery, my wife and I have sent 8-10 page tomes for that price to a friend in Ireland. It's a dying art form because people don't have the patience for it anymore when they can just pick up the phone, but man is it worth it to cultivate that skill.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 08:08:40 AM by I.P. Daley »