Free Internet Phone Calls – What’s the Catch?

Free Internet Phone Calls – What’s the Catch?

There aren’t so many occasions in life when you really get something for nothing. Almost to the point where the modern day consumer is suspicious of anything that appears to be a great deal.  Then, lo and behold, reading the fine print of the ‘deal’ reveals the truth and there remains some great big sticky patch, waiting to snare you. So with that in mind, is it actually possible to drastically reduce your call costs when calling internationally? By using internet technology are these calls really ‘free’, or is there that dreaded ‘catch’?

VoIP – Opening up the Internet for communications

To answer this question fully, we need a basic understanding of the technology involved in making telephone calls over the internet.  In traditional phones, signals were sent along telegraph wires that were expensive to install and maintain. Mobile phones used satellites to bounce signals into space and then used relay stations to direct them across the country. Again, this comes at vast expense to companies who obviously pass on the costs to the customer, leading to sometimes extortionate charges.

Over the Internet however, this is very different. The digital structure of the Internet requires none of this maintenance or upkeep. The signals used to transmit information across the Internet are only very small and there is ample space for innovative companies to ‘add on’ extra pieces of information to the message. In the case of communication companies, this led to the development of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

VoIP is how companies can now offer you the chance to call over the Internet. The technology translates your voices into a digital code, which is transmitted via the Internet to the recipient of your call, at the other end, where the code is unscrambled and the other person hears what you are saying.

So are these services really ‘free’?

The first thing to consider is that for almost all people, there is a small monthly cost associated with having access to the Internet. You can argue that this means free calls are not technically free, but by the same token, most people would have the Internet installed even if they were not making free calls.

With an Internet connection, it is entirely possible to make free calls, but only to other people who are using the same free Internet calls software as you. So if there is a ‘catch’, then this is it. For example, calls between 2 Skype users are entirely free (all you need is an internet connection and the Skype app). However, if one person has Skype and wishes to call a ‘normal’ phone number, the call will be charged.

So with that in mind it is advisable to ensure as many of your friends, colleagues and relatives are using the same services as you.  Unfortunately though, with so many Apps out there, everyone seems to have multiple installations. For example it would not be unusual for the average user to have Skype, WhatsApp, Rebtel, Facebook and Tango, all for slightly different purposes and to contact different people.  Even still, it’s not a bad reality in terms of the cost savings involved.

Which service should you choose?

With the ever-burgeoning smartphone App market,  our choices seem endless.  New players are forcing market leaders to improve quality and the healthy competition offers up some really great pricing. Read more about some of the top apps to arm yourself with as much cost-saving information as possible!