How to make cheap international calls over the Internet

By now, most people who normally work in an office will have used Skype, Teams, Zoom or Google Meet. Or maybe even Cisco Webex. Pretty much everyone else will have made voice or video calls using social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, or Houseparty.

When you use any of these applications, you are making a call over the Internet and – aside from any licence or subscription fee your business or you personally, might be paying, the call is entirely free, no matter where the other person on the call is located

In other words, you already know how to make cheap international calls on the Internet.

But – and it’s a big but – if you want to use any of these applications to make calls to conventional phone or mobile numbers – and to receive calls through them, you have to have additional software installed and be subscribed to an appropriate SIP trunking service that enables you to ‘break out’ calls to standard phone connections.

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Making free VoIP calls over the Internet

Essentially, any call made purely over the Internet will be free (aside from the subscription you pay for your broadband, the running cost of your computer and the electricity you use), IF it’s made entirely across the Internet, from one point to another – or in the case of conference calls, between multiple points.

But if you want to make or receive a call from any other number – a standard telephone line or a mobile, for example, the hosted VoIP service provider needs some kind of bridge between the digital and analogue networks. As they manage quite a large volume of calls, they can do this quite cost-efficiently by routing calls across the Internet before crossing the bridge. They can hence offer or free in-country calls and low-cost calls to mobiles and international numbers.

The cost of doing this – and running the entire VoIP service that sits behind it all (it’s all done in software) – is covered by the subscription charge.

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What VoIP call packages are available?

There are VoIP call packages to suit almost every conceivable requirement. Some VoIP services will offer free or very low cost calls to specific countries, or to a limited number of countries. Others will make some kind of charge for making international calls – but this will usually be much lower than what you’d pay using a standard telephone service.

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Can I call a mobile or landline for free from VoIP?

Some packages do offer free calls to mobile numbers – others will offer a set number of minutes per user, per month.  Usually (for UK-based services), these will cover mobiles that are registered in the UK, so if you want to call mobile numbers registered overseas, you need to check this with the VoIP provider.

Most VoIP services offer free and unlimited in-country landline calls, but if you want to make international calls, you need to seek-out packages that have that as a specific feature.

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What kind of quality can I expect on international calls?

It’s difficult to gauge the quality and reliability of the service that VoIP providers offer for international calls, as there are so many factors and variations between the different countries and networks. To some degree, they cannot control the quality of connections once the call has crossed over onto a local in-country network. That said, the quality you get on international telephone calls today is excellent and there is no reason to believe it won’t be just as good over a VoIP service.

The general advice would be to go for a tried and trusted service from an established and well-known supplier.

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Best VoIP to phone services

There are some specific ‘VoIP to phone’ services that you can subscribe to, which offer lower-cost international calls when using a VoIP client on a laptop or desktop. These services use the same technology but just take a different approach to the way that the service if offered. The benefits of VoIP to phone services can be a good option for businesses that want to make international calls regularly. But make sure you check out the specific prices for international calling before you commit.

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Can I make international calls with override providers?

Yes, of course, but make sure you understand what you will be paying for the service before you make calls. It won’t be entirely free, but it will be cheaper than a standard call charge. If you only need to make calls now and again, override services are certainly an option to consider. You can easily sign-up for such a service online. The provider will then give you an access number, which you use as a prefix to the international number.

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Does my broadband provider offer free international calls?

For most business broadband connections, you have to have a phone line, so some broadband providers do offer call plans alongside their services options. These can be attractive if there is a call plan available from your broadband provider that suits your needs. This is well worth exploring before you sign up to a connectivity package. However, if you have a specific need to make international calls on a regular basis, you are probably better offer looking at a dedicated VoIP service as this will give you much greater flexibility as it separates the broadband from the call plan, so if you want to switch one of them at any time, you can do that without changing the other.

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Does my mobile network provider offer free international calls?

Mobile network providers usually offer additional packages that enable you to make lower-cost international calls. Otherwise, calling abroad from a mobile can be prohibitively expensive. The other way to do this is to purchase an international SIM card that enables you to make calls at a lower rate. But they are still not cheap when compared to international call plans available on VoIP. As many frequent travellers know, the best way to make calls when visiting another country for some time is to buy a SIM locally.

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