Telco applications have come a long way in the last 5-6 years. The network topology of a carrier today, big or small, looks fundamentally different then it used to be. This might not come as a shock to most of you but keep in mind that telco infrastructure hasn’t changed much in the 30 years prior to this.
When the word VoIP started spreading, new systems started to come to market. The Word was “Next Gen”. After 5 years of new and better products and several abortions later the Next Generation is finally getting out of puberty.
There are now lots of stable services promising AND delivering cheaper calling costs. The fallback has been that where the phone used to be a “physical direct link” between the parties, the more digital it gets, the more ethereal this link becomes. Today most carriers route their international calls trough “public internet”, its the only way for enterprise level telcos to remain competitive, but on the other hand it brings the quality levels down to be comparable to almost any “Alternative” carrier.
In parallel the mobile phenomenon have addicted us to use the phone anywhere and everywhere. Most people today, having a land-line on the side, continue to use their mobile phone as their primary source of telecommunication most of the time forgetting the costs involved specially when travelling abroad.
So how does the average man continue to have a relatively reliable phone service without having to let go of their comfort and without having to spend their income on mobile phone bills ?
Obviously Skype is a great alternative when you are on the computer and can also be used as a land-line trough some appliances. It requires your contacts to be there as well in order for it to be free, which makes the whole thing mostly insufficient trough your daily chores (The skypeIn service relatively gives you some flexibility but only on the receiving side).
On the other hand there is a service called Rebtel that has an interesting twist and I must say: I am impressed!
When I first met the CEO of Rebtel talking in a panel in Sweden, promising the holy grail to mobile users and to their international contacts, I didn’t immediately understand what the fuss was all about. His tone was commanding tough and apparently that wasn’t something to dismiss so easily.
So what is Rebtel ?
As you add your international contact list to your account, it assigns unique local numbers to each one of them for you to call AND assigns a unique local number wherever THEY are for them to call you.
So lets say you live in Italy and you want to call Mark in the USA. You add Mark to your contact list, and automatically a “unique” +39 number (local Italian) is assigned to Mark. On the other hand a unique +1 number (USA) is assigned to you for Mark to call you back “locally”. So you and Mark can store this “Rebtel” number to your contacts.
In order to call Mark you call the local +39 number instead of calling internationally. Marks phone rings with your Rebtel calling ID. If Mark answers and you continue to talk the cost structure looks like this: You pay: local call fee + Rebtel International call fee (Comparable to other VoIP services), but you have the flexibility to call Mark at this rates from any phone you want, mobile included.
Now it gets interesting: Once the call is established, you kindly ask mark TO HANG UP and call you back at your local Rebtel number, but you DON’T hang up, you wait on the line for him to call you. If he does so, he finds you waiting on the line. This time both of you ONLY pay local fees, and there is NO REBTEL FEE.
How is this possible ? On my first example the call looked like this:
You (+39) —–> Rebtel Internet Gateway —–> (+1) Mark
So the call that Rebtel needed to make to Mark on your behalf needed to be charged. When Mark hangs up and calls you back at your Rebtel number the call becomes:
You (+39) —-> Rebtel Internet Gateway <—- (+1) Mark
There is no outgoing call anymore beside your local calls, therefore only local costs!! Great ? It’s not over yet. Lets say you decided to travel to Spain. Roaming costs normally kill you not only when you make calls but also when you receive them. So: Your contacts already have your Rebtel number. You buy a local sim card wherever you go and register it to your account (+34 for Spain), and set it as your current location.
As if by magic, all your contact’s local Rebtel numbers become “Spanish”. So when they call you or you call them, the number is a Spanish number this time, no roaming costs! And from your contacts point of you its seemless, they don’t even know where you are.
I tested the service for a while and I must say voice quality is great. I am sure new services will be added soon.
This is an obvious example of when technology helps you, without having to change much of your beloved comfortable habits.
Coming back to the original question: Free Mobile International Calls ? TRUTH!!