Long distance phone service refers to the calls made to non-local numbers, both domestic and international, through a specific long distance phone service provider. Usually, your plan with a phone company like AT&T refers primarily to your local domestic costs, and long distance and international costs will be charged to you separately.
Long Distance Phone Service
Long distance and international service are provided by both VoIP providers and traditional phone companies. Traditional phone companies depend on a system called the PSTN to transmit calls. The PSTN has been in place for as long as there have been phone calls. It is the original method for sending a call.
PSTN and VoIP phone service: differences between long distance calls
Traditional Long Distance Phone CallsThe PSTN, the antique structure that traditional phone companies use, is based on a network of wires, cables, and satellites. It suffers from an aging infrastructure that can cause many problems in its functionality and efficiency. The equipment is frequently old, and the technology often outdated. As a result, the cost of sending a long distance call with a traditional phone company can be very high.
The main difference between the PSTN and the VoIP system is that the PSTN is an analog system, while the VoIP system is digital. This means that the PSTN sends sound data as an electronic frequency, while a VoIP system sends sound data as a binary code.
It’s difficult to send an electronic frequency for a long distance call without losing some of the quality of the data. This means that in the analog PSTN system, a call must stop several times before reaching its final location.
In order to reach its long distance location, a call sent over the PSTN must follow a mapped-out course of intermediary stops at all of the most convenient hosts along the way that are linked into the PSTN. It is because of the need for all of these intermediary stops, and the need to maintain the aging infrastructure, that a long distance call made this way can be more expensive and less efficient.
Before options like VoIP calling became available, many people were dependent on long distance service providers (you may remember 10-10-321 and 10-10-220 from the early 90s) to get the best prices on long distance calls. These companies were very popular because their services were relatively cheap after telecommunications were deregulated in 1996.
These long distance phone services allowed users to use other long distance carriers besides their primary providers. As a result, though calling costs could be cheap, they were irregular and varied based on location. Services like these are still available, but are much less common because of changes in the telecommunications industry, primarily the shift away from standard providers towards cell phone providers.
Today, services with these long distance phone service providers can be extremely high. Calls made with 10-10-321 cost $0.20/minute, and calls made with 10-10-220 cost $1.20 for the first ten minutes and $0.20/minute after that.
VoIP Long Distance Phone CallsA long distance call sent with a VoIP service provider undertakes a much simpler process. A VoIP system in any home or business is composed primarily of an IP (Internet protocol) phone, VoIP phone service, and your Internet service. You can make a phone call with VoIP with any device connected to your Internet service.
Through your Internet connection, you are linked to your VoIP service provider. Your service provider determines the route that will be the fastest for getting your call to its destination, and they send it along that route. This may mean that if you are in California and you are placing a call to New York, your service provider might have the option to send your call to New York through a route in New Jersey, or through a route in England. The service provider will evaluate both of these routes and determine which one is fastest, and depending on traffic and other factors, the route through England may actually be faster than the route through New Jersey.
A VoIP service provider has this freedom with a long distance call because binary digital data is so easy and inexpensive to send. This is why VoIP providers charge minimal fees to send long distance calls: there is effectively no difference between sending a long distance call and a local call. And most of those extra fees are charged only for international calling.
There is also very little infrastructure to maintain in VoIP. Most of it is stored centrally by your service provider, and the service providers usually have the most up-to-date technology. The more current the technology, the more effective and capable it is, and the less likely it is of needing a lot of repair. This does mean that your service provider needs to spend money on new parts and equipment in order to stay current in technological advancement, but in the long run it is a lot less expensive to buy a new, better computer, than to be constantly repairing old technology. Also, the technology that VoIP uses is constantly being upgraded while the PSTN is no longer on the cutting edge.
Price comparison between VoIP and PSTN long distance callsThe following data is provided to demonstrate the difference in cost for long distance calling based on the needs of the PSTN, and the needs of a VoIP service provider.
With a basic long distance residential plan with Verizon, you could be spending an initial fee of $5/month. That is comparable to the monthly fee of a residential VoIP plan for long distance. Phone Power, for example, costs $4.99/month.
However, with Verizon, after you pay that initial fee, long distance calls cost $0.10/min. With VoIP, you pay no additional cost for each long distance domestic call. Your domestic calling is unlimited.
Traditional Nationwide Calling PlansFrequently, you might find that the traditional phone companies using the PSTN charge you a nationwide calling fee. This lumps all domestic calling together as one fee.
This kind of billing tries to split the difference between the costs of long distance and local calling. Using a plan like a nationwide plan, a phone company tries to get you to commit to a certain billing plan so that you will pay a monthly upfront fee. This can save you money as making regularly long distance calls that are not covered by a plan can be very expensive, but usually these plans are still more expensive than choosing a VoIP option.
On top of that, international calling can be extremely expensive with fees from standard phone companies. Some packages with standard phone companies try to curtail the cost of international calling for you, but even with these packages, costs are still more expensive than choosing a VoIP option.
The listed VoIP service providers all provide unlimited domestic calling, which, of course, includes long distance calling. Their fees and deals on international calling are detailed below. For point of comparison, we have first included some long distance and international rates for a major standard telephone company.
AT&T International Calling
- Business plan available for occasional international calling for $3/month
- Residential plan with occasional international calling starts at $1.29/month
- Calling plan for US to Asia $10/month
- Rates on extra minutes on call plans run from $0.30 to $5/min.
- Rates on calls not covered by plans range from about $3 to about $12/min
AT&T Long Distance Calling
- Business plans for long distance range from $15 to $190/month
- Residential plans range from about $3 to $12/month with $0.10/min rates
VoIP International and Long Distance RatesBelow is a listing of several major VoIP service providers, their starting monthly fees, and an example of an international rate per minute on a call to India. All these VoIP providers include long distance domestic charges in the starting monthly fee.
- ITP: $9.99, $0.049
- RingCentral: $39.95, $0.059
- Nextiva: $19.95, $0.030
- Jive: $29.95, $0.030
- VoIPo: $5.38, $0.020 (some free minutes included)
- VoIP.com: $12.50, $0.019 (some free minutes included and international plans available)
Created by: rachel_greenberg, Last modification: Wed 05 of Sep, 2012 (22:47 UTC)
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