Everyone likes to use use the telephone. From geek to grandma, all are familiar with how to contact someone with a phone. My grandma will pay a ton of money for long distance when she could be using a fraction of that money to make flat rate voice over ip calls usually called voip calls over her DSL Internet connection. In this post I plan on filling you in on some great voip offers that make Vonage look like a rip off. These offers aren’t free but are darn close, stay tuned for more.
If you have been in the loop over the last year you should have heard of Skype, they allow free calls from one Skype user to another, but if you want to call a real phone number domestic or international you have to pay for their “Skype out” service at a per minute rate. This is nice, but is not great because you pay based on how much you use it. It is a prepay model, but they could do better if they really wanted.
My attitude is let me pay someone some money like $20 bucks and give me unlimited service for a few months. My dream came true recently… there is a company named Finera that runs two operations that give you just that: Several months of unlimited calling to all US numbers and a select few international numbers too (hehe, I rhymed) Anyways, below are the two companies, I will give you the pros and cons of both. Read on my excited friends!
Both of the services reviewed only allow outbound calls which is the same a Skype since you never are assigned a real phone number for inbound calls. I believe that this will be offered sooner or later, but for now I am just excited thinking of calling out of state friends practically for free!
Lets start with VOIP Stunt, they give you several months of unlimited calling to many destinations, but only support a stupid little softphone client, like Skype. I don’t like this because I prefer talking on a real cordless phone at home. Wearing a headset that is tied to your computers sound card pisses me off in a hurry, it feels like I am leashed like a dog to my computer. If you are interested in instant gratification this is the quickest and easiest to setup. All you need to do is sign up, pay them, install the software phone on your computer and talk through a mic and listen through your speakers. If you do this, do yourself a favor and buy a headset with a boom mic otherwise you will have really bad echo problems for yourself and the person you are calling.
So you all know how I hate wires by now, believe me… I will do anything to find what I really want. Finera also has a different division called SIP Discount. They do not offer a softphone to make calls, but allow you to connect your “real” phone to their service. This is done through an adaptor called an ATA which stands for analogue terminal adaptor. This box is the same as what Vonage gives you when you sign up for their service, its a box that has an Ethernet port and one or more lines to plug a real phone, even cordless if you are like me. SIP Discount expects you to buy your own ATA, so go to VOIP Supply and get their basic Sipura ATA, it only costs $59 you can also pay for detailed help getting the settings right to make it connect to SIP Discount. Beware, some ATAs that are offered on eBay and other sites are locked to a provider, Vonage ATAs are locked to only work with Vonage. VOIP Supply is great they are totally clear on which adaptors are locked and which are open for tinkering. The settings are very easy if you use your head: you enter the server the ATA should connect too, then enter the user name and password of your account. Once you have your credentials entered into the ATA it should “register” aka login. The last step before you are on your merry way calling your mother in-law you need to setup a dial plan. Basically the rules on how the ATA dials numbers. Without a dial plan you will need to dial the true international format 01(xxx) xxx-xxx the dial plan will eliminate the need to dial 01 in front of every number you dial and can also eliminate the need to dial annoying area codes for numbers that you are used to dialing. Your Friends at VOIP Supply will help you with all that for a mere 10 bucks on top of your ATA purchase. The manual covers dial plans, this is the one time I actually broke down and read the manual, so do feel bad about doing it yourself.
Between these two Finera offerings you will be making the cheapest calls you ever made. Now you have no reason not to call that mother in-law you were avoiding. Feel free to comment if you want more detailed postings about dial plans.