Compare Rebtel, Skype and other VoIP providers

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5icall.net has tested many different solutions for cheap international telephony. There are many type of payment models, technologies and features. I will give my view on this but you should of course select a solution according to your own situation. The basic structure is PC to PC , PC to phone, phone to PC, phone to phone. With phone I mean mobile or landline phone.

In times like these, when Google are integrating voice in Gmail and new international calling services are emerging from the ground like mushrooms, international callers around the world have never been better off. To briefly describe the current climate in voice, you can say that the competition is growing fierce and as a result, calling rates are being pushed further and further down. All companies in our space are forced to innovate, offer their users more convenience and added value. Maintaining a consistent and reliable call quality is simply an implied a must.

Skype is a program that facilitates computer-to-computer and computer-to-phone calls, which are also possible using the mobile application version of the software. Rebtel, on the other hand, is a service that allows you to make international calls at local rates using your cellphone. Although the end result of using either service is similar — making calls to locations around the globe for low rates — the mechanism by which each service works is different.
Phone to phone
If you just want to make phone to phone calls my favorite is Rebtel. The most cheap version that they have is when both you and your friend are registered for Rebtel. You make something that they call a smartcall where you make a call to your friend who immediately call back the number that is in the display. Both of you now have a local call each with no other costs. Rebtel doesn’t charge you a penny! This works between 50 countries. When you register to Rebtel you can get a local number for each friend that you put on your list. You call the local number and Rebtel relays it over to the real number somewhere in the world. If you don’t make a smartcall, the cost from Rebtel to other countries is similar to Skype and other IP telephony solutions. The difference is that now you have both a local call cost plus a Rebtel call cost. What you get is the freedom to be able to call people in your address book as a normal mobile call. The Rebtel cost vary from country to country and if it is to a landline or a mobile phone. Here are some random examples: Sweden-US 0.015/0.015, Sweden-Bolivia 0.060/0.139, Sweden-Tunisia 0.239/0.299. All costs are in USD for landline/mobile per minute. To US you can actually make the smartcall if you both are Rebtel registered but if you don’t, Rebtel will charge you the above amount. Jaxtr.com had before a phone to phone service where you had to order the call from a PC. So first you had to login to Jaxtr and initiate the call. Jaxtr then called both your phone and your friend’s phone and connected the call. Now they have an offer more similar to Rebtel. I can’t see any special reason for me to change from Rebtel to Jaxtr. It is mainly the same these days.

PC to PC call
This is where Skype
rules. It is for free with video and a mostly good sound quality. Skype is also very safe if you are afraid of being tapped. There are many services similar to Skype, such as Gizmo, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and many others. I see no reason to use anything else than Skype except for if your friends refuse to use Skype for some reason! If you already use MSN, Yahoo or some other similar you can probably stick to it.

PC to phone, phone to PC
In these cases I prefer Skype for the simple reason that I already use it for PC to PC. The price to call an international telephone from Skype is depending on country but it is generally very low. For some countries they cost more than their competitors rates and in some cases less. It is very hard to make a general comparison. You need to look up the countries you are going to call and compare by yourself. In general the differences are very small and have no importance if you don’t make many and long calls. In Skype and some of the others you will get a local telephone number so people can make a normal telephone call in to your Skype account. Preferably you want to get a telephone number that is local for your friend. If you live in Stockholm and your friend lives in New York you can get a New York number and your friend make a local New York call to you. That is a free call, local NY calls are flat rate AFAIK! In Skype you can get many local numbers like this for different places.

New Mobile services
The above is how it has been for some years now. The new mobile services make this a lot more complicated and gives even more options. There are so many different type of accounts and it is impossible to give general rules of thumb. For instance there are some mobiles including Iphone that can use Skype but in Sweden only through wifi. In 3G, Skype connections are turned off! There are other solutions however. You can download Fring (for example) to almost every modern mobile and in Fring you can use both Skype, MSN, Yahoo, Google talk and many others. If your mobile have wifi connection you can for instance make a free Skype to Skype call. If you have 3G connection you have to pay for the data traffic (except for flat rate accounts) and that is generally lower than a normal mobile call. If your friend also use Fring there you can make VOIP calls with your mobiles wherever you are. It can mean doubble data traffic cost but it should be lower than your normal mobile call anyway.

IP telephony is a real threat to the traditional phone operators. For instance Vodafone blocked VoIP traffic from their network. T-Mobile, refused to connect with VoIP-enabled networks. later the legal case between T-Mobile and Truphone, settled in the UK High Court was in favour of Truphone. In the UAE, it is illegal to use any form of VoIP. Even the websites of Skype and Gizmo are blocked. Why? No idea!
Rates and Billing
Both Skype and Rebtel assign rates that depend on the country you’re calling from and the country you’re calling. Individual rates vary, but are lower than traditional phone company rates on the whole. Both Skype’s and Rebtel’s calls start as low as 1.9 U.S. cents per minute as of 2011. Verify rates from your country of origin to your destination country before making calls to avoid unintended charges. Both Skype and Rebtel require that you load credit onto your account before you can make calls to phones.

Technical Differences
With Skype, you have two options for making phone calls, whether you use the computer or mobile version of the application: calling other Skype users directly or making calls to cellphones and landlines around the world. When you call a phone, a scrambled number — one at which you can’t be reached back — appears. You can separately purchase a Skype phone number at which you can be called. Rebtel, on the other hand, assigns local phone numbers to contacts in foreign countries, permitting you to enjoy local rates for international calls. When you call a person in a foreign country using Rebtel, a local number — which he can use to call you back, free of charge — appears on his caller ID. Furthermore, you can use Skype to send SMS text messages, which isn’t possible on Rebtel.

Internet Connection
In order to use Skype — even if you use its mobile variant — you must be connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi, Ethernet cable or your mobile carrier’s Internet stream. The only time you need Internet to use Rebtel, on the other hand, is when you set up local phone numbers for your contacts on its website. When making actual phone calls, you need only have a cellphone signal and credit on your cellphone.

Call Quality and Delays
When you call a phone using Skype, you use its assigned phone number — in other words, you’re making the call directly. As a result, you don’t usually experience a delay. Rebtel, on the other hand, assigns a secondary, local phone number to international numbers, which results in a delay of one or two seconds when making phone calls to and from faraway places. When using Rebtel, you may notice that it takes one or two seconds extra for someone to respond to you.

5icall.net randomly picked out 8 different calling destinations and compared our own prices with rates of the aforementioned competitors. However, this wasn’t as straightforward as you might think. If you use Truphone, you have to put up with a connection fee of 4.8c for every call placed. If you use Skype to call landlines and mobiles using Skype Credit and Skype Pro, you also have to put up with connection fees, which can be as high as 9.1c. However, Skype connection fees don’t apply to users that are subscribers.

Rebtel Rates

Rebtel Rates

Out of all 4, Rebtel and Google Voice are the only services completely liberated of any connection fees.*Google Voice offers free domestic calls but is currently only available for US users

If you have some ideas about this subject, please let me know! I read both emails and comments!

Cheap International Calls
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