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How I spent just $4.16 on mobile calls at VON

A while back I cancelled my North American roaming plan, replacing it with a Canadian only plan.  I also reduced the minutes on my BlackBerry calling plan, and added a consumer plan from Rogers with unlimited evenings and weekends.  I use the Nokia N95 with WiFi for this purpose. In addition, I added both MobiVox and TruPhone accounts.  Both services are free or nearly free for the majority of calls I make.   

The impact has been reasonably substantial.  It's shaved about $250/month off my bill. 

However, it still leaves me with the "how do I handle travel in the US" problem.  Here's what I did at VON this week, which worked quite well.

  1. In Boston, I replaced the Rogers SIM in my N95 with a $.10/minute Cingular SIM.  That SIM gives me nationwide US calling, but not international to Canada.
  2. TruPhone, of course, automatically detected the new SIM in the N95, and updated its database.  Now every call made to my TruPhone number would end up routed to the US on my N95 — the same phone, just a different SIM.  I simply gave out my TruPhone number to everyone back at home, and told them to call me on that number. 
  3. I went to my MobiVox account next, and asked MobiVox for a local Boston dial-in number.  With that in hand, I was able to make a local call to MobiVox (at my $.10/minute rate) and basically call anywhere in the world using their incredibly low rates.

From that point forward, all incoming calls were routed to my N95 where I took them either on cellular or on WiFi.  Outgoing calls were handled by either TruPhone (if in a WiFi zone) or MobiVox (if not). 

So let's cut to the chase. What did I spend on mobile calls at VON?

  • $0 with Truphone.  All my calls were free.
  • $0.158 with MobiVox.  Many of my calls were free with them.  Yes — you read that right.  A little less than 16 cents.
  • $4 with Cingular for about 40 minutes of cellular calls that simply couldn't be made on WiFi.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Shai Berger November 7, 2007, 8:53 am

    Awesome. Thanks for the tips.

    I'm still trying to do all my calling through Skype on my notebook over WiFi. I got the SkypeOut flat rate during their promotion for $15/year (normally $30/year).

    Works ok since I had WifI at both the hotel and the conference. But it's annoying to tell incoming callers that I will call them back.

    – Shai

  • bob November 11, 2007, 2:05 am

    Why did Truphone care about your sim card? Its only requirement is wifi access.

    Which leads me to my next question: if you were out of wifi range, you didn’t get incoming Truphone calls, correct? (unless they were forwarded to you cingular number, which costs 10 cents/min)

  • Alec November 11, 2007, 4:16 am

    Hey Bob — you're correct. Truphone lets you receive calls via cellular when you aren't in a WiFi zone. It simply forwards the call to the Cingular number. One of the very nice features they've built is to automatically detect the SIM change, and change the forwarding number for you that way.

  • bob November 11, 2007, 11:44 am

    Incidentally, this sounds a lot like T-mobile's @home UMA offering. The pro of that service is the seamless integration/hand-off of cell to wifi and vice versa. The con (apart from the currently limited number of UMA phones) is that they still control pricing (e.g. out-of-network cellular roaming, etc).

    Your BYO solution gives you more control over price (sim exchange, etc) but makes the cascade integration less seamless. I don't think you can get the kind of seamlessness that uma offers without having hooks to all technologies involved (everyone has a hook to wifi/internet, but not to cellular). Cellular bandwidth is basically a cartel-controlled commodity in the states. The barriers to entry are simply to high. The 10 cents/min you're paying to cingular is an artifact of this.

  • bob November 11, 2007, 12:15 pm

    I think we'll just have to wait until competing pipes become more mainstream ala wimax/wibro. Anything carried on the cellular pipe is subject to anti-competitive practices from the incumbents, at least in the states. Look at how slow they are to deploy 3G. And as it is, they do traffic-shaping. And I don't see this non-net-neutral policy going away either until the incumbents are seriously challenged by cheap and stable interoperable data carriage offered via some other channel. Let's hope that day is soon.

  • John O'Prey November 29, 2007, 3:42 am

    Hi Alec,

    Very good article and sounds like you saved yourself a bundle. That is great for you but how much did it cost your friends at home calling you on the Truphone number?

    Also wouldn't it be great if you could combine the Wi-Fi calls and GSM access numbers into one account?

    John O'Prey

  • Alec November 29, 2007, 4:23 am

    It really didn't cost them much at all John.

    My family has an unlimited North American calling plan from Bell Canada. It cost nothing more to call Truphone's 360 number versus my cell phone.

    My office pays .02 / minute for North American dialing, wherever they call. Again, no difference for them.

    The one person who did pay extra is has a Canada only long distance plan on his cell phone.

    And yes, having a combined GSM / WiFi number would have rocked. Truphone almost gives you that.

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