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Abandoning Fixed Lines for Mobile

New mobile devices and apps continue to chip away at the reasons for keeping a fixed line.

I have some relatives who have half-retired from the UK back to rural Ireland, where the houses don't have numbers, streets have no name(s) and there aren’t any postcodes/zipcodes. Equally, there’s no broadband.

And since I’ve become the default IT department/go-to guy for everyone in my family (does this happen to anyone else?), they keep calling me for advice on the best way to get Internet and voice calling at their home.

With no broadband, their only option for Internet connectivity at first was dial-up over a fixed line. It’s hard to believe that anyone’s still using dialup, but there you have it. It’s also a very costly line rental, which left them paying an absolute fortune for a phone they barely used half the year, not at all the other half, and the pleasure of using dial-up.

The house is just on the edge of the 3 mobile network, so when pay-as-you 3G dongles became available, I recommended they get one of those (plus a booster) and slap it to the window. That worked well enough that they were able to cancel the dial-up. So then they started thinking that they didn’t need the fixed line anymore at all.

They have mobiles, but the international roaming rates are quite high. Grabbing a local SIM is great for making cheap local calls, but any international calls to the UK are still costly. They hadn’t wanted to go VoIP due to the complexity and cost of, say, buying a Skype Number, or committing to another monthly plan. Plus, they’d have to pay international rates for calling back to the UK, as, many of the people they call are, shall we say, of a certain generation and don’t use Skype. We couldn’t work it out for over a year.

But then, we discovered a nice little app from BT (British Telecom), SmartTalk. It allows you to make VoIP calls from your mobile, but it looks like you’re calling from your home phone, and the calls get billed to your home account. Better still your home calling plan comes with you. As their plan had free evening calls, they can make phone calls to landlines in the UK for free.

We’ve also switched them over to a MiFi unit for their laptop, and so far, it’s all working perfectly.

Are there any other (better) solutions out there I’m missing?