Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

Summary: When you're calling your important prospect with a free conference call number, you probably don't realize the increasing chances of getting a number unobtainable message like this as digital telco disruption escalates.Conference calls are a vital part of collaboration, with millions participating in remote meetings by telephone.

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When you're calling your important prospect with a free conference call number, you probably don't realize the increasing chances of getting a number unobtainable message like this as digital telco disruption escalates.

Conference calls are a vital part of collaboration, with millions participating in remote meetings by telephone. While the form factor of telephones hasn't changed significantly in decades, the infrastructure is fundamentally changing. The internet grew up on the back of a rigid, industrial strength telephony system, and the people that own that and big media players are fighting for control of the meters that charge you for this plumbing.

In the old click squark modem dial up days AOL users paid the telco's billions in tolls and long distance fees, but now voice traffic is simply data and so is video. This should be great news for business users - we can see each other and talk free over Skype, how long can it be before the telephone companies start charging more reasonable amounts?

The whole network neutrality debate essentially comes down to this: the big telcos don't want to lose control of their metered cash cow and are claiming the internet requires massive investment to accommodate exponential growth. This will allow them to formally meter by the byte, just as they have historically done with voice calls, and control bandwidth and therefore content consumption in the future.

In the other corner are those who demonstrate only modest internet infrastructure improvement is needed and that the telcos should be running a (still immensely profitable) all you can consume flat rate internet service.

In the middle of this telecommunications 'great game' are hugely innovative internet companies (Google, Cisco and down) who have and continue to transform the modern world, and are disrupting it at many levels based on flat rate, always-on broadband... and then there are the telecoms 'traffic pumpers' who exploit the loop holes and intercarrier financial fees between the archaic million dollar telecoms switch rule books and today's far more flexible digital telecom technologies. Attorney Jonathan Lee explains how this works very well here:

...because of the legacy intercarrier compensation scheme--with its regulated rates, based on location--the traffic pumper can take advantage of the Commission's rules that "he who chooses (the caller "chooses" the terminating carrier by calling a certain number) doesn't pay (rather, the caller's carrier pays), and he who pays (the caller's carrier) does not choose the carrier through which it can terminate calls.  Thus, the traffic pumper's costs are less than any other carrier (no nettlesome high-cost/high maintenance long loops), but it has call volumes closer to those of an urban carrier, yet it charges rates that reflect the rates charged by the highest cost carriers!  Lowest costs, highest prices and a captive customer base sounds like a recipe for success, huh?

Getting back to your conference call, the various 'free' services are obviously making money somewhere, and it's by pocketing the difference between nominally starting your conference call in rural Iowa or similar and ending it in a metropolitan area. Jonathan's post describes how this works in more detail, but this doesn't work when you dial in using your voice over ip phone service: the VOIP service provider doesn't play by the old rules with their flat rate service to you.

The result is that freeconferencecall.com is now blocked by Google Voice, Magic Jack, Speakeasy, Callcentric and other VOIP businesses. You can still dial in using your mobile phone or your LEC (local exchange carrier) landline but using VOIP is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Other similar 'free conference services' are likely to also be blocked in the near future.

You're therefore playing Russian roulette assuming important calls will be accessible to you on VOIP, and the same is true for the person you are hoping will dial in to the call you have set up with them.

Topics: Unified Comms, Browser, Mobility, Networking, Telcos

About

Oliver Marks leads the Global Digital Enterprise Team at HP, having previously provided seasoned independent consulting guidance to companies on effective planning of business strategy, tactics, technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models that make best use of modern collaborative and social networking tools to achieve their business goals.

These are Oliver's views and not those of his employer HP.

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9 comments
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  • Free Conference Providers

    I spoke with my free conference provider who explained that conference providers go to rural locations because rural locations pay more. This seems like a simple business principle...take your business wherever you can make the most money. Then he explained that the rural locations only charge around 2 cents per minute or less, but that there are intermediary carriers that charge 12 cents to $1.49 per minute, and that these intermediaries are making a huge profit margin. He said that these intermediaries are companies like Telus, Frontier, Cavalier and others. What really surprised me is that many of these companies that are making all the huge markup are sponsered by the likes of AT&T (I looked it up. It is true!).
    conferenceuser
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    Very appealing to the educational and business sectors are also the video conferencing solutions. You can save time and money on travelling and housing costs by bringing people face-to-face virtually. Many prominent universities have adopted video conferencing as an educational tool to be used in conjunction with online courses. Business leaders around the world use video conferencing to keep in touch with important contacts while on the go.
    Videoconferencing is now being introduced to online networking websites in order to help businesses form profitable relationships quickly and efficiently.
    Here is more information about this concept:
    http://www.thehdstandard.com/hd-streaming/video-conferencing-software/


    ______________________________________
    Catalin
    Professional Streaming Consultant
    cata12
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    Anyone know how this affects services
    like Vonage or Skype video? Will Skype
    begin to charge for their "free" video
    service?
    Appreciate-Tech
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    I've used freeconferencecall.com a few times and no one seemed to have had any issue connecting - a few participants and I used VOIP. I use gotomeeting.com - a paid service - as well and haven't found much difference between the two services.
    mkabir
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    You are right, both <a href="http://www.powwownow.com/">conference call</a> service looks same but difference is hidden to user.
    saradjones
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    Maybe not.
    Techerbee
  • RE: Why 'Free Conference Calls' are like Russian Roulette

    "You are right, both conference call service looks same but difference is hidden to user." What do you mean?
    Techerbee
  • Russian Roulette indeed

    Which is one of the reasons why our global audio infrastructure at PGi is in 75% of the Fortune 100 and powers our video and web conferencing solutions. Free options can be great for startups, contractors, etc, but they can't (and obviously aren't trying to) compete with the security, support, and availability of an enterprise-ready solution for SMBs on up.

    http://blog.pgi.com/2012/09/pgi-and-the-evolution-of-audio-conferencing/
    writerwin
  • freeconferencecallING.com

    Has anyone used this site for teleconferences & if yes, were there long distance charges? Could users call in with voice over internet land lines? How was quality of call? This website refused to tell me how they make money which prevented me from signing up.
    stevetest01