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January 10, 2008

Things to Consider When Picking an International Calling Service

International Calling

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Senior Editor


Picking an international calling service might seem simple, but taking time to consider a shortlist of factors is worthwhile. By doing so, you can ensure that the international calling service you choose not only suits your needs now, but is flexible enough to continue being a good decision even as things change in your life.
TMCnet asked Frank Tam, president at Packetel, what he would put on his shortlist of factors to consider when choosing an international calling service. Tam’s list is expanded upon below.
1. Per Minute Rate
First and foremost, of course, is how much it will cost you to make international calls. Rates tend to be pretty competitive, but not all plans are created equal even in this regard. This is especially true in that rates to different parts of the world may vary widely. Make sure the plan you pick has low rates for the places you call now, and the places you’re likely to call in the future.
2. Connection and Maintenance Fees
You might find a plan with nice low rates, but then be unpleasantly surprised by the added cost of connection and maintenance fees associated with the plan. Check the fine print for these items to make sure they don’t put the service out of your target budget.
3. Payphone Surcharge
Payphones are becoming less common with the proliferation of cell phones, but some people still use them. If you’re among those people, or think you might need to use a payphone at some point, check to see how the international calling service you’re considering handles calls placed in this way. Some tack on high connection fees for calls placed from payphones.
4. Expiration Date
Does the international calling service you’re considering have an expiration date, or is it pay-as-you-go? If there’s an expiration date, how many months or years of serve are you paying for? This will determine if the service is really reasonably priced or not.
5. Calls to Cell Phones
What happens if you use the international calling service to make a call to a cell phone user? Sometimes this results in additional, unanticipated charges. Again, checking the fine print is worth your time.
6. Local Access Number
Does the international calling serivce you’re considering provide a local access number? This is important because if it doesn’t you will have to dial long-distance to access the service if you’re outside your local area. This can cancel out the affordability of low per-minute rates.
7. Calling Card Options
If the plan includes a calling card, it also pays to carefully look at the fine print so you get what suits your needs and reap the maximum bang for your buck. Take into consideration where you place calls to, where you’re calling from, how long your calls are, and what phone you’re using (e.g. home, cell, pay).
Just as with so many other things in life, taking the time to understand all the elements of an international calling plan—how much and for what you’ll be billed—is a smart move. For more tips, visit the International Calling channel on, brought to you by Packetel.

Mark your calendars! Internet Telephony (News - Alert) Conference & EXPO—the first major IP communications event of the year—is just days away. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place in Miami Beach, FL, January 23–25, 2008. The EXPO will feature three valuable days of exhibits, conferences and networking that you won’t want to miss. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.


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