Talk is cheap, but not on the phone!

TELECOM | “Call me from your end.. It’s cheaper,” Ahmad Humeid tells his friends abroad.

By now, everyone who has family or business partners in Europe or North America has learned the tricks to avoid Jordan’s high telecommunication costs. Why should anyone spend JD 0.41 (during peak time) or JD 0.287 (off-peak time) to call friends, family or that important client in Austria, when the call can be made much cheaper when the call originates from abroad?

Take Germany for example. Calling Jordan from there can cost as little as 15 Euro Cent (JD 0.13) per minute! Deutsche Telekom, the formerly Government owned German telecom giant still charges 59 Euro Cent per minute for a call to Jordan, but by now, every clever person in Germany knows how to get cheap calls using the networks of Deutsche Telekom’s numerous competitors (by simply dialling a special prefix before the actual telephone number). Better still, web savvy consumers in Germany check price comparison sites on the net to check out who of the providers is currently offering the cheapest tariff for their call. Tariffs change constantly according to supply and demand, making these comparison sites very useful.

Admittedly, the sound quality on these cheap calls might sometimes not be optimal. Still, I can personally testify that I had hours of good quality phone conversations with people who called me using these services.

The jolly thing (though not for your Jordanian telephone company) is that other telecom technologies (such as the web and SMS) assist consumers in bypassing high telecom costs.

The oldest trick in the book is the “I’ll-ring-you-and-hang-up-trick”. To talk to your brother in Berlin, make an agreement with him that you’ll ring him once then hang up. This is a signal for him to call you. Some people even have a more elaborate system: one ring is papa, two rings is auntie Suad, three rings is Abu Falah, and so on.

The younger generation uses another trick: “I’ll-SMS-you-trick”. The person in Jordan SMS’s the person in Europe, prompting them to call back. A variation on that trick, especially for people who are in constantly online (such as people on a corporate network), is the “I’ll-Instant-Message-you-trick” (self explanatory).

Of course, all these “tricks” cause the person in abroad to foot the bill for the calls, but at 15 Cents per minute you can say: A. “Who cares?” Or B. “I’ll buy them lunch when I see them next time!”

Some families and businesses are bypassing the telephone network altogether by using text chatting, using MSN, AOL and Yahoo Instant Messaging. Others are using internet voice chat applications. When a 60-minute conference call with a client in Europe or the US costs a small Jordanian software company JD 24.6 (the equivalent of a day’s pay for a junior software developer!) it’s only natural that managers will think twice before making such a call and resorting to text chats.

To be fair, comparing telecom costs between Jordan and Europe also has to take into consideration factors like monthly base-fees and free local call minutes. Jordan’s liberalized telecom market has indeed brought lower prices and more service choice to consumers. But all of these developments still leave our international calls too expensive.

And although the comparison might not be fair, I was shocked to learn that calling Israel from Europe can cost as little as 3 Cents per minute using one of the mentioned cheap service. That’s how cheap talk can get!


5 Responses to “Talk is cheap, but not on the phone!”

  1. Ameen Malhas Says:

    The Jordanian telecom sector definetly needs to bring prices down. Without ‘clock-watching,’ personal as well as business calls can take their due course. A service I use relies entirely on the internet and it’s called Vonage (www.vonage.com). It hooks up to a broadband internet connection and you are assigned a US based number which can make and receive phone calls from anywhere in the world with a high speed net connection. You do need an American credit card and address but with ARAMEX’s shop ‘n ship service that isn’t a major obstacle. It is 30$/month for virtually unlimited calling to North America (Canada included), with rates below 10 cents/ min for Western Europe and it works in Amman on ADSL (Due to current TRC regulations, I can’t divulge how I know this). But with VoIP technology challenging copper based networks, I realize the telecoms (in Jordan especially) don’t want to waste their vast investments in these networks, and so we find ourselves in a sort of Catch-22. I hope we see this unfold in a manner that benefits the customer, as well as the service providers.

  2. Ammar Ibrahim Says:

    Well some other ways include using Voice over IP.

  3. Ameen Malhas Says:

    Yes Ammar, there are alot of VoIP services out there (Net2Phone, Gphone et al). But what makes a services like Vonage (and more recently, Lingo) unique, is their ability to receive phone calls regardless of where your location is. I have a New York city number (212), that I receive calls on it in Tucson, AZ, Los Angeles, and Amman. It also connects to regular handsets (Corded and Cordless), giving you the option of stepping away from your PC and not wear a headset which kind of looks funny ;) .

    I’ve also read recently that the ability to SMS and MMS is going to be expanded to both Landlines and VoIP based handsets, which should be interesting!

    My2Sense

  4. Thomas Says:

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  5. ALAMTEL Says:

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