The past week has been a good one for U.S. customers of residential VoIP providers TeleBlend and Vonage, as both companies announced ingenious new programs to dispense low cost international phone calls. We talked with both companies about their plans.
Of the two providers, we were less familiar with Williston Vermont-based TeleBlend. According to director of marketing Derek Wagar, TeleBlend got its start when VoIP pioneer SunRocket shut its doors some four years ago, acquiring some of its assets and transitioning some of SunRocket's customers to the TeleBlend network. Today TeleBlend is a nationwide provider with a wealth of international calling options.
ParkNDialTeleBlend's new ParkNDial plan allows customers unlimited calling to one particular international phone number for a very low monthly subscriptioneither $5.99 or $9.99, depending on which country you'll be calling (we'll get to those particulars in a bit).
"It would be perfect for an international student who comes over to the U.S. for a year and really only wants to call mom and dad," Wagar said. "They sign up for this plan, they can call them unlimited from their cell phonewhatever phone is availablefor a really affordable price."
When you sign up for ParkNDial, TeleBlend assigns you a domestic phone numberyou can choose your stateand then links that to the international number you'll be calling. Calls with ParkNDial can be made from any phone, including mobiles, and will incur whatever charges apply to that phone usage. And, as Wagar pointed out, your ParkNDial number can go into your speed dials or contact directory.
Once you're signed up, you can talk to mom and dador whoeveras much as you want. "It is unlimited," Wagar stressed. "There's no caps on usage. If you speak a lot, you don't have to worry about surprise costs." That includes no hidden monthly fees.
Wagar also pointed out that you can change the destination number any time you want, just by e-mailing a different number to the provisioning department.
However, as mentioned, the $5.99 plan is good only for your choice of the following ten counties: Argentina, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, and the UK. For $9.99 a month the selection expands to include Australia, China, Colombia, France, Hungary, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and Venezuela.
If the county you'd like to call isn't on either list, be patient. ParkNDial will be announcing a bundle of 40 countries later this year. The price for that selection will be $14.99 per month, Wagar said.
Time to CallVonage's new plan, dubbed Time to Call, is a very different animal. In simple terms, it is an iPhone application that gives users the ability to make fixed-price calls of up to 15 minutes duration to any of 190 countries.
For 100 core countries, pricing varies from 99 cents to $1.99 per call. For the remaining 90 countries, prices range up to $9.99no doubt a mere fraction of what the call would cost from any conventional carrier.
According to Gavin Macomber, Vonage's vice president for international products, Time to Call is part of a big push, both to better meet the needs of mobile phone users, and to expand Vonage's presence in offshore markets.
Part of what makes this unprecedented is that payment is done through the user's iTunes account, so it's simple and convenientas well as cheap. And since Vonage launched simultaneously in iTunes stores in 87 countries, Time to Call is certainly achieving the overseas expansion goal as well.
"It's the first app that lets consumers make international calls on a pay-per-call basis,"Macomber told EnterpriseVoIPplanet, "and we've integrated the payment with iTunes, so the whole process from download to purchase to making a first call is really effortless."
Here's how it works:
"When you first download the app, you go to a registration page and select your home country and enter your mobile number," Macomber explained. "Then you select the country you want to call; we show you the call rate to that country. (We don't distinguish between landline and mobile, by the way.) Then you get an Apple popup asking for your username and password, just like you were buying a song. Then we send you to the dial pad or your contacts. We actually mirror your contacts in our application inside the app."
Macomber also pointed out that when you download and register the app, you are entitled to one free 15 minute call to any of 100 countries.
Finally, while Vonage supports 3G calling in the U.S. and Canada, in most of the rest of the world, Wi-Fi will be the connecting technology. "This makes it great for travelers," Macomber said, "so you don't have to be in one of those 87 countries, just somewhere where there's Wi-Fi service.
"It really is the easiest way to buy and make international callswe believeon the market today."