Cheapskate's Guide to International Calls

I just sent my daughter off to Florence, Italy for a semester abroad. Naturally, I wanted to connect with her the cheapest and best way possible. Fortunately she had a Motorola V551 which is a quad band phone required to handle European GSM frequencies. Unfortunately it needed to be unlocked before it could take an Italian SIM card. Cingular provided the unlock code for free, it just took a few days for them to get it from Motorola. I found someone selling an Italian SIM card on ebay with extra minutes for about $40. It arrived a week later. Unlocked quad band phone and SIM card in hand, she was all set to call the anxious parents the minute she got off the plan. Not that she did, but she could have. In fact, it worked like a charm when she called the next day. The problem is standard international rates are a tad high so what to do? Good link: Info on cell phones abroad Just so happens I have friends working at both rebtel and jajah so it was natural that I check them out to help lower the international call telephone bill. Neither of them are the easiest to grasp but once you do the concept makes sense. I've only tried rebtel so far and so far so good. First I signed up (no money or credit card required), provided my number and the number of my daughter's cell phone in Italy. Rebtel returns two numbers; a local (or as close to local as possible) number for me and a local Italian number for her (Rome was the closest they had). I call the San Francisco number she answers the phone and either we talk like that for $.32 a minute or she hangs up and calls her Italian number for the price of a local call. Here's the hitch TIM , her Italian carrier charges .28 Euros or about $.36 a minute for a cell phone call so it's cheaper to pay the $.32 or in jajah's case $.21 per minute. If she had a land line in Italy then the call would basically be free. You may ask why not skype? Turns out, free (or even cheap) and reliable high speed internet access in a major Italian city is not as easy to find as you might think. So far nothing beats a cell phone but stay tuned. Sidenote: There is (or should I say was) a service called futurephone (don't bother going there unless you want to see their big red banner saying "this service is no longer available") that you may have read about in David Pogue's column. The word on these types of services is that they take advantage of high "termination" fees. For a good explanation check out Tom Evslin's, always informative, blog and the latest development on what happened to futurephone Meanwhile, allfreecalls is still up and running. What's the catch?

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