No headphones required.
October 20, 2006 12:02 AM   Subscribe

Future Phone: Call a number in Iowa, give them the international number you want to call, talk for free - well, at American long-distance rates anyway. No headphones required.
posted by trinarian (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So what's the catch?
posted by dersins at 12:10 AM on October 20, 2006

So what's the catch?

Presumably they get a cut of the long-distance (which would be minuscule) fees from their local phone provider, or something, and then send the call over IP to somewhere that can inject calls into the local networks.

The only country I've ever called is the Ukrane and they don't have that. Calls to Canada are free on my cellphone (apparently)
posted by delmoi at 12:12 AM on October 20, 2006

according to their FAQ they're building the brand name now. I guess it's a start-up similar to YouTube offering free video hosting and drawing millions of users to turn around and sell to Google. I guess this is Bubble 2.0, selling popularity instead of products.

delmoi: a Peace Corps friend in Moldova [right next to Ukraine] sent me the link. Sadly, she can't use it either.
posted by trinarian at 12:20 AM on October 20, 2006

Here in NZ, it costs me the same to ring most big countries as it does to make a national call... So a service like this wouldn't be much good (well, if we had to pay a national toll rate).
posted by sycophant at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2006

Man, you used to have to be a phr34k with skills to get this done.
posted by Nelson at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2006

What's wrong with Skype?

The phone cards my parents get to call me are cheaper than calling Iowa too.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:05 AM on October 20, 2006

pollomacho: this service is a from America service. Assuming you're an expat from America, it'll basically allow your friends and family back home to call your phone from their phones for domestic long distance rates... which is zero now with most cell phone services.

I was elated when I got my first phone call from a friend back home this morning. This breaks me from the responsibility of having to call everyone back home with Skype. They can call me easily now too.
posted by trinarian at 1:29 AM on October 20, 2006

Those kind of services have been around for quite a while in Europe... e.g.,
posted by rom1 at 1:29 AM on October 20, 2006

In the UK a few companies have set up using 07744 numbers for mobile users with free minutes packages to get 'free' international calls. Article here.
posted by i_cola at 1:41 AM on October 20, 2006

What's wrong with Skype?

It's not archaic enough for some people.
posted by public at 2:08 AM on October 20, 2006

No, see, you call this number with your free skype account and then you dial out to the number of your choice for free.

That or you can dial 1-800-free411 on your free skype account, request the directory-listed number of your choice, listen to an ad and then get connected for free.

posted by loquacious at 3:30 AM on October 20, 2006

By the way, I'm still waiting for Skype to buy Flickr and release the new photo-phone service Skyr.

The could sell it in little cups with some muesli and blueberries.
posted by loquacious at 3:32 AM on October 20, 2006

is that similar to ??
posted by markhu at 3:32 AM on October 20, 2006

I doubt calls to E.U. mobiles are free. :(

E.U. mobile companies are the most exploitive monopolistic parasites you can imagine. U.S. mobile carriers cover far more area for far less money.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:40 AM on October 20, 2006

They're going to introduce a ten second ad at the beginning of the call.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:54 AM on October 20, 2006

Jeffburdges writes: E.U. mobile companies are the most exploitive monopolistic parasites you can imagine. U.S. mobile carriers cover far more area for far less money.

While it's true E.U. mobile companies are exploitive, it's hard to compare the pricing structures of European and American phone services. For instance, receiving calls on my cell phone is always free (domestically, that is). Because operators don't charge their users for receiving their call, they ask a higher interconnection fee. I do see lots of EU mobile prefixes in the Futurephone list though.

One of the traditional cash cow of mobile operators in the EU is high roaming charges. (The cost you pay when making or receiving calls abroad.) The EU governement is pressuring the mobile operators to drastically lower their fees. If the operators don't do this voluntarely, the EU will force them to make roaming free. (Even though the "home operator" usually has to pay a fee to the foreign operator for allowing their subscriber on their network.)

As a result of this, the Spanish/British operator o2 announced this week they would indeed cut roaming charges, allowing free receiving of calls abroad, and drastically lowering charges for outgoing calls.
posted by lodev at 6:43 AM on October 20, 2006

Word is spreading — quickly enough that Doolin's computer programmers are worried their nascent system will crash if there's too much traffic. In the meantime, though, they hope to build a "captive audience" of people who like the service, and won't mind when ads start to pop up.
Posting here should test their system.
posted by ?! at 6:45 AM on October 20, 2006

All that said, services like the one discussed, where an operator receives a part of the revenue of a long distance call to offer another service have existed for several years in several European countries.

The same method was also used by the free dial up ISPS that were available here in the late 1990s: because of the massive volume of call minutes they generated, they got a part of the charge from the operator. (Most of those ISPs were owned by telcos.)

This was possible because we Europeans usually historically had to pay for local calls as well. (As opposed to just long distance calls.) Nowadays, because of market pressure (more competition) and more efficient backbone routing (voip and the like), several operators are slowly (in Belgium at least) introducing all-you-can-call plans as well.
posted by lodev at 6:47 AM on October 20, 2006

Isn't this exactly how calling cards work? Some company sets up a VOIP server to avoid overseas rates, and you direct your calls through them (for a small fee). These cards have been around for at least 8 years.
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:36 AM on October 20, 2006

lodev, o2 is only cutting roaming calls in Spain for contract subscribers.. and only if you pay +5 pounds per month.

And you can quite easily compare the U.S. and E.U. pricing structures : just double all U.S. prices. U.S. mobiles are still way cheaper.

T-mobile's most common U.S. plan is $40/mo for 6 hours (0.066 $/min) with truely unlimited nights & weekends and no long distance charges within the U.S.. Orange France's 3h offer is about 0.25 euros/min with unlimited evening calling restricted to orange france numbers. And lets not forget the outrageous long distance charges for calling just across the boarder into another country.

Text messages were often free in the U.S. until operators saw how E.U. companies treat them as a cash cow. T-mobile recently doubled its text message prices, meaning they now charge about the same as Orange France. And this dangerous precedent has various people talking about email too. The E.U. simply needs to mandate that text messages should be free (up to some sizable nmber).
posted by jeffburdges at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2006

David Pogue has been describing the details of this service and attendant (poorly based) complaints in his last few articles in the Circuits column.
posted by AuntLisa at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2006

Got a busy signal twice, an operator recording once and I can't call Romania. Ah well, I was getting used to those $400 cell bills.
posted by quite unimportant at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2006

oops, hope I didn't kill it :-/
posted by trinarian at 9:06 PM on October 20, 2006

« Older The Man Who Destroyed the Atmosphere   |   Double Curse of '86 Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments