I was facing an hour-long conference call yesterday, dialling in to a US access point. I didn’t feel like stiffing my client with a humungous phone bill and as usual I’d left the various headset/handset options for Skype somewhere in a dusty cupboard. Ordinarily, I just shout at the laptop from the privacy of my home office, but this wasn’t an option in an open plan office…
Enter Michael Ross and a text message to check out Rebtel. Wonderful!
I signed up for a $10 credit, getting another $10 free on top and then the magic kicks in.
Via the website one can “convert” an international number to a UK geographic number (ie “free” in effect since my airtime bundle on the iPhone is massive). This must then trunk the call to the US over VOIP network bandwidth to a US POP near the destination phone number. The call from the virtual POP to the ‘real’ number is then a (free) local call. So – a bit like Skype except:
- it works on my mobile.
There are some cunning touches: enter a phone number via the website and it’ll send the access number by SMS. Neat. One click to call.
Clearly, there’s an overhead in terms of storing a “Rebtel equivalent number” for each international contact, but this is a small price to pay for the absolute joy of chatting virtually free. The other downside is that the service is less attractive while roaming (since the value of ‘local’ number reduces significantly when it’s not part of one’s free airtime). Furthermore there’s not a ‘static’ incoming number (cf the SkypeIn number), but I’m not being fair here since Rebtel is a service for mobiles, and as such it’s wonderful.
Oh, did I mention it was cheap? Yesterday’s call was 25 minutes and the cost was <drumroll> 16cents </drumroll>. Yes indeed – 8p.