Mobile broadband talk is cheap

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Here’s an idea your Telco doesn’t want you to know – you could use VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) on mobile broadband or data plans and save bundles on phone calls.

Mobile broadband plans are available now for cheap. Here’s a sample of what’s available:

US – AT&T PDA Personal (BroadbandConnect) – US$35 for unlimited data
UK – 3 and Vodafone – 3GB for £15 a month
Singapore – Singtel – 50GB for S$22.42 a month

Assuming a 5GB cap on the data usage, how much VOIP talk time is that equivalent to? According to this forum posting the G711 protocol uses about 38MB per hour in each direction (downstream and upstream), rounding that up to 80MB per hour, 5GB gives 62.5 hours of talk time!

How is it that Telcos can offer such a low price for mobile broadband data plans knowing that this can jeopardize their standard mobile plans business? For one thing, people are used to the reliability of their existing phone services which just work. Having to install and setup new software, sign up with a VOIP service provider or even understanding VOIP itself is like learning rocket science to most people. It took a massive marketing campaign like Skype to get people warmed up to the idea. Nevertheless, there’s no avoiding the trend that talk is getting cheaper, literally speaking, with mobile services moving on to an all-IP platform.

Here’s a little experiment (costs you nothing) that can get you started on VOIP (using SIP rather than Skype). You need a PC, Wifi and a Symbian/Windows Mobile/iPhone mobile phone with Wifi. First, sign up two new SIP accounts at SIPphone (so that you can make calls from one account to another. You could create an account on behalf of your spouse, sibling etc.). This is a free SIP account by Gizmo5. Notice that you’re assigned a phone number (1-747-xxx-xxxx) just like having a real phone number. Next, install the softphone onto your computer and have it setup with one of the SIP accounts you have created earlier. Next, get fring onto your phone. Follow this video tutorial to setup the other SIP account in fring. Make a call from the softphone to fring – simply dial the SIP phone number and moments later you will get a call on fring!

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