While there are many options for using a mobile phone while traveling the world, many of which I’ve discussed and will of course continue to discuss further, there is an inherent problem that isn’t likely to go away even as networks go international. This, of course, is cost. Dialing and even receiving international calls can be extremely expensive, with some plans charging users as much as a dollar or more a minute!
Imagine for the cost of regularly checking the home office, the home base or just plain home could cost as much as an upgrade to a business class plane ticket on the flight home! An alternative is Voice Over IP. While not exactly a new technology, this is still new to many people, and something that is still a tad confusing for mobile phone users.
At present VOIP (or VoIP as it is also sometimes referenced) relies on two main technologies. The first is UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access), which is designed to allow VOIP to run over GSM cellular networks. If your mobile handset doesn’t work on GSM, then of course UMA won’t work either. The other is SIP, the standard that is used by most computer-based VOIP technology providers.
Among the most popular VOIP services is Skype, which also offers a mobile version called Skype Mobile. This is a Java-based application, and will thus work on many smartphones – but as some users discover it doesn’t work so well, or at all. Skype Mobile is a good alternative as many Skype-to-Skype calls, including those from Skype Mobile to other Skype users are free. The downside say many users is the fact that Skype Mobile is written in Java and thus can be unstable on some handsets.
Mobile VOIP for iPhone
Currently American iPhone users have issues with VOIP, and part of this is limitations with AT&T’s terms of service. But Skype will work over Wi-Fi, and should perform reasonably well over a strong 3G network, which AT&T offers. The question of course is international reliability when using the iPhone while traveling.
An alternative to Skype for the iPhone is iCall, a service that is promising to offer calling to anywhere in the world. The best part of this service is that it will switch from the cells to Wi-Fi as the service becomes available. Calls from the United States to overseas can also be affordable, at least more affordable than traditional mobile plans, and cost around six cents a minute.
The list of mobile providers, and which handsets each supports, is too long to include in a single post. But over the next few months I promise to take a look at a few of these and report back my findings. Fortunately, I have some international travel in the cards and I’ll want to do some international dialing. In the meantime, our friends at Mobile VoIP Service Review can offer some tips and suggestions.
As with any service, read the fine print and if possible have a back up in place for your travels. Finding out that the one service doesn’t work so well while you’re traveling just means you’re left with a nice paperweight in your pocket.