Cheapest Phone Calls

Reporter: Jackie Quist

Smashing the cost of phone call --- free phone calls to the United States; two cent calls everywhere else - Google, the biggest player in the cyber world, has taken on the phone companies, discounting like never before. "I think very slowly but surely the landline's becoming obsolete", said Joe Hanlon from online technology site CNET Australia.

"I think we'll see a real change towards internet telephony and away from like traditional phone services", he added.Two years ago Google launched voice and video chat, they are now adding 'call a phone', a computer to phone service that's taking on rival internet call providers like Skype. "I think the Gmail service would definitely give Skype a run for its money", said web designer Mark Egan.

Mark has slashed his phone bill by using Skype, the online video calls saving him at least $500 a month. His mobile phone bill is now only $50 a month and Skyping clients in London and family and friends interstate, is absolutely free. Being face to face is also giving a more personal touch. "Its good, its reliable, it cuts out a lot of money for calls, cuts my phone bill down, its easy. I probably communicate a lot more with people because I'm there online and they're there online. I probably wouldn't pick up the phone as often as I do pick up skype", Mark said.

Contacting the United States for instance is cheap -- via computer Skype to Skype it's free; calling via your computer to a US landline costing 2.7c per minute with a 6c connection fee.

Google Voice to Google Voice also free, but here's where Google has trumped Skype -- calls to home or business phones are currently free and next year costs just 2.2 c a minute with no connection fee.

The Telcos offer very cheap international calls depending on the phone plan. Overseas landline calls with Optus Worldsaver are just 2c per minute, but the connection fee is 45c a call. Telstra's International Value Pack is also selling calls at 2c a minute, their connection fee 39c.

And there's the phone card option -- calls to landlines are 1.5c per minute but again beware service and connection fees

Calls to mobiles from home via the Telcos are expensive. From your Optus fixed line (Home Starter Cap) callers are slugged 80c a minute with a 45c connection fee; with Telstra (Home Line Budget) its 42 c a minute -- 39 cents to connect.

Call a mobile using Skype for just 26c a minute, and just 6c to connect, but Google is outdoing the competition -- free calls to mobiles till the end of the year, after that just 14 c a minute and no connection fee. "T he real pros come from the expense, cutting out a big chunk of your phone bill each month. The big con is convenience, having to sit down in front of your computer and wear a bulky headset while you chat to your grandma overseas is a lot less convenient than being able to pick up the phone and call someone", Joe said.

And there can be issues with line quality -- echoes, drop outs, and video pixilation. "Companies like Skype have done a lot of really good work to make that experience better, but its always going to rely on how fast the internet is at both ends", Joe said.

With payphones all but gone and landlines fast getting the chop, online phoning is without doubt the way of the future. "If instead of using Skype I'd use my phone, then it'd blow my cap right out of the water. The Gmail phone service sounds great, sounds right up my alley, something I'd definitely look to take up", Mark said.

Google's computer to phone service is only available in Australia for outgoing calls. The service will work for Australian Gmail users who have Gmail language set to English US

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