VoIP Dial-Out to POTS (PSTN) - SightSpeed, Gizmo and Skype

VoIP Dial-Out to POTS (PSTN) - SightSpeed, Gizmo and Skype

Summary: As I have been traveling, it has become obvious that paying the roaming fees charged by my Swiss cellular provider to make calls was a silly, and expensive, waste of money. The obvious solution was to put some money on a dial-out service of one of my audio IM accounts.

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As I have been traveling, it has become obvious that paying the roaming fees charged by my Swiss cellular provider to make calls was a silly, and expensive, waste of money. The obvious solution was to put some money on a dial-out service of one of my audio IM accounts. This gave me a first opportunity to test these services, as well.

The Gizmo Project actually gives you 10 cents dial-out credit when you open an account with them, so that you can try out the service. What a good idea that turned out to be! Although I am always a bit cautious about such "free offers", I could find no tricks or strings attached, so I tried it first. It was as easy as could be, just enter the number you want to dial (including country code, of course) click the green phone button, and off you go. Of course, if you are calling a contact who has registered their phone number, it is even easier. I called Switzerland from Florida, and talked for several minutes, then called my brother's U.S. cell phone and talked again for several minutes before the 10 cents ran out and the call was cut off. Good audio quality in both cases.

I have a personal preference for SightSpeed at the moment, so I wanted to test their dial-out capability as well. No "freebies" there that I could find, so I needed to put some credit onto my account. That turned out to be a problem, because I couldn't figure out how to get it to take my credit card with a Swiss billing address. It seemed to be insisting on a U.S. billing Zip code for the credit card. I was probably doing something silly wrong, but as I am on vacation at the moment, and would prefer to be spending the time with my partner rather than sitting in front of the computer, I abandoned this until after I get back home. I intend to sign up for a "Plus" account so that I can test multi-party video anyway, so I'll figure out how to get them to take my credit card then.

I also considered trying to use SkypeOut. I have seen something about a "first call is on us" offer on their web page, but I couldn't find anything about this in my account. Perhaps I have been a member too long and the offer is no longer valid for me. After wandering in their web pages for a long time, looking for that, reading about Skype Credit, Skype Pro, and other related calling plans, I ended up more confused than when I had started. I finally gave up in disgust, as usual with Skype. Sometimes I don't know why I even keep trying them.

One other note about calling on Gizmo. They have an offer called "All Calls Free" (they abbreviate it as ACF). I read about this last week before leaving home, but honestly I couldn't figure out all of the details about it. It seems that if you meet some set of requirements, you can make all of your calls to other Gizmo users for free - not only PC-to-PC calls, but also calls to their land line and cell phones in most cases. The conditions seemed rather elaborate and confusing to me, and I thought that they included having Gizmo installed on a mobile device or smart cell phone, so I didn't think much more about it. But after adding the dial-out credit to my account, I noticed that ACF was active on my account, so I have obviously met the conditions somehow. I'll look into this more.

jw 26/12/2007

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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