What are the best global phone plans?
When Mohamed Jalloh wants to check how his mother is doing back home in Sierra Leone, he doesn’t use e-mail or Facebook. Instead, Jalloh, who moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and runs an H&R Block franchise, communicates the old-fashioned way: He picks up the phone. Read Jalloh’s story here.
Sometimes the best way to communicate is simply talking over the telephone. You want to wish your mother a happy birthday? Need to discuss a shipment that just came in? Go over a point in a contract? Speaking over a long-distance telephone system may provide the give and take you can’t get with, say, an e-mail.
There’s a wide variety of carriers offering many different options. Here’s a look at four:
It offers a number of choices, including:
- AT&T Worldwide Virtual PrePaid Phone Card. With the $30 card, you can call more than 200 countries from a landline or mobile phone. Rates range from 5 cents per minute to France, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, to $1.10 per minute to Guinea-Bissau.
- AT&T Worldwide Value Calling. With this plan, you make direct international calls from your landline for a flat $5 a month fee. Rates vary, from 91 cents a minute off-peak to Canada to $34.11 to Qatar.
- U-Verse Home Phone Service. This digital service is available to customers who have U-verse TV from AT&T in the U.S. Rates vary according to destination and whether you’re calling a landline or mobile phone.
- GoPhone. It’s for international calling and texting from a mobile phone. Text messages are 25 cents per message sent. Rates for calls vary by destination.
PennyTalk is a prepaid calling service that is aimed squarely at the international caller. “This is perfect for the cost-conscious entrepreneur calling overseas,” says Esti Witty, senior vice president, direct sales.
Here’s how it works: You can open an account with a minimum of $25. As you make calls, charges are deducted from your balance. Also, you register all the phone numbers you might be calling from. The result: You don’t have to punch in a lot of access codes. Perhaps most important, starting at 2 cents a minute, rates are cheap There’s also a 49-cent fee for each call that connects and a 99-cent monthly service fee.
There’s also flexibility. Since you don’t sign a long-term contract, should you have no need to use the service for, say, one month, you won’t be charged. And, if you’re calling from a BlackBerry or iPhone, you don’t have to pay additional fees to other long-distance services. According to Witty, PennyTalk is also developing a new service specifically targeted to businesses with multiple employees.
Thanks to the merger of Sprint and Nextel, international callers have a variety of options, according to spokesperson Hector Garcia, including:
- Block of Time for Small Business. As the name suggests, you can buy a block of long-distance minutes for a flat monthly fee from one of five plans.
- International Calls All Day. For wireless callers only. There’s a $5 monthly fee and low per-minute rates, depending on the country. Calling a landline in Beijing? You pay 13 cents a minute compared with $1.59 a minute for callers not in the plan.
- Boost Mobile Prepaid Service. For $60 a month, you have unlimited texting to anywhere in the world. For $50 a month, you get unlimited voice, text ,and Internet access to anywhere in the U.S.
- International Direct Connect. For $10 a month, mobile-phone users of Sprint’s prepaid service for calls can get access to a walkie-talkie-like service to Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
- Mexico International Long-Distance Plan. Pay an additional $5 a month and get free calls to landline phones in select Mexican border cities when calling from the U.S. Calls to landline phones in other cities are 5 cents a minute.
“The range of different calling plan options is a definite benefit, because customers can customize their calling based on their exact needs,” says spokesperson Kelley Vendeland. For example, if you’re just starting up, you might do well with the Vonage World residential and Vonage World Mobile plans; as you grow, you might switch to a small-business plan.
The specific options include:
- Vonage World. For $14.99 a month for six months, $25.99 for a one-year agreement, plus taxes and fees, you get unlimited landline calls to all cities and locations in more than 60 countries; free unlimited in-network calling anywhere in the world; and Visual VoiceMail, which converts voicemail to text, giving customers the ability to view voicemails as e-mails or SMS messages on their PCs or mobile devices.
- Vonage World Mobile. It’s $24.99 a month, although existing Vonage World Home customers can save $10 a month when they add the Vonage World Mobile service. You get unlimited calling to more than 60 countries, dialing directly from your existing address-book contacts without using calling cards or PIN codes. There’s also free unlimited local and long-distance calling over WiFi with an iPhone. And you can make unlimited international calls from a BlackBerry or iPod touch.
- Vonage Mobile Pay-Per Use. You pay low per-minute international rates, but get the same features as Vonage World Mobile.
- Small Business Premium Unlimited. Cost is $49.99 a month with a one-year agreement. You get: free unlimited calling to landlines in Italy, France, Spain, the U.K., and Ireland; unlimited local and long distance calling in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico; a free dedicated fax line. Rates are as low as 1 cent per minute.
- Small Business Basic 1,500 Minutes. It’s $39.99 a month with a one-year agreement. International rates are as low as 1 cent per minute. You get 1,500 minutes of outbound local and long distance calling to the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. After that, you pay 3.9 cents for each additional minute. But, there are unlimited incoming minutes and unlimited Vonage-to-Vonage calling.