Public VoIP for cheap long distance calls

I had to prepare for a research project recently that would involve conducting lengthy telephone interviews with service providers around the globe. As a home-based worker with a small company, I began to get very jittery about the likely size of the phone bill I would run up – small businesses and big phone bills being like the proverbial oil and water – and so began to search for cheap phone options in the form of public VoIP.

After looking at various options, I settled on Jajah. It wasn’t so much the rates that were the deciding factor – yes, they were very good, but they were comparable to other VoIP players. What I particularly liked was that I didn’t need to download any software onto my already overburdened laptop. Nor did I have to invest in a VoIP phone, or worry about which one was the best buy (a big deal for me as I am a true Northerner – I worry and I watch my money, often both at the same time).

In practical terms, the Jajah service is phone-to-phone, which means that the call is initiated on the Jajah website, and the service calls both parties and connects them. There are some neat options, too, such as an easy-to-use address book for saving dialled numbers, the allocation of a local number for regularly dialled contacts to circumvent the need to use a PC for subsequent calls, and an automatic redial at a pre-determined time. There is even a conference call option (though I haven’t tried that yet). The whole thing is scarily simple.

Of course, none of this matters if the call quality is poor – particularly as these are business calls. But so far, for me, call quality has been pretty good – I’d say it is on a par with my standard landline. Additionally, call quality hasn’t degraded during a call, even for very long calls. And the fact that I am using my own phone has a positive impact on the overall experience. A few calls have been barely audible, but I have typically been able to remedy these by re-dialling. And on the odd occasion that I haven’t then, of course, I still have my landline.

Pre-Jajah use, I was very sceptical about public VoIP for business use, and viewed my landline as far superior – a bit of ‘phone snobbery’ to be honest. Now, though, I am a VoIP convert, and find myself raving about it to anyone who will listen. I have some minor quibbles, for example, around the address book set-up, but as for the big downsides, I’ve yet to find them.

I’m not necessarily recommending VoIP for routine business use as the cost of local/national calls from traditional providers is not high enough to justify the switch. However, it is a pretty compelling commercial proposition in the context of a specific usage requirement such as a period of intense of international calling for a home-based or small business user.

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