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Are free conference calling services really free?

Are free conference calling services really free?

Article by Kieron James









Communication is something that you cannot ignore if you are really serious about the success of your business. Businessmen and professionals have always travelled to discuss proposals, make sales presentations and share financial results, face to face. But with conference calls, you can communicate with any number of people even if they are not physically present with you in the same room. Business travel is not only time consuming, but also very expensive. You must also factor in the cost of accommodation. There are many free conference call solutions available that smart companies make use of to reduce costs and still maintain the smooth running of the business.

Both personal and business communication can be made easy by conference calling. Many conferencing services provide inexpensive and easily accessible conferencing solutions that will suit any type of business. If your teleconferencing requirements are at a basic level, free conference call services may be enough for you.

All that telephone conferencing requires is a normal telephone line. A telephone number and pass code is provided to the participant by the teleconferencing service provider. You dial into the conference bridge and key in the pass code to get connected to the teleconference. Voice conference calls through usual channels are usually free for most participants because it is one person, typically the host, who bears the cost of phone conferencing. Others pay just the cost of a long distance telephone call without any other surcharges.

With the advent of internet, teleconferencing is often advertised as “absolutely free”. Many websites offer call conferencing services that let you connect with any number of people absolutely free of charge. The reality is that you are no longer paying the company which hosts the conference bridge on a per-conference, per-delegate or pence-per-minute basis. Rather, you are paying to access the bridge as a charge from your fixed or mobile operator.

Many so called “free conference call services” are hosted on special rate numbers – typicall 0871 or 0844. These are more expensive to dial than 01, 02 or 03 numbers – particularly if you are calling from a mobile.

An alternative exists with 03TALK which operates its service on 03 numbers. Calls to 03 numbers are included in your bundled minutes, meaning that there is no incremental cost in a conference call made to 03TALK. If you have minutes available with your contract at the time of making the call, 03TALK is free to use. If you don’t, the call costs the same as a call to an 01 or 02 number. This is irrespective of whether you are dialling from a fixed or mobile network.

In short, calls to 03TALK really are free. Calls to most conference service providers are operated on more expensive 08 numbers.



About the Author

Kieron James is the CEO of 03talk which is a trading name of Zimo Communications Limited, a UK digital communications company established with quality of service as its principal objective. For more information please visit http://www.03talk.com.










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Are free conference calling services really free?

Are free conference calling services really free?

Communication is something that you cannot ignore if you are really serious about the success of your business. Businessmen and professionals have always travelled to discuss proposals, make sales presentations and share financial results, face to face. But with conference calls, you can communicate with any number of people even if they are not physically present with you in the same room. Business travel is not only time consuming, but also very expensive. You must also factor in the cost of accommodation. There are many free conference call solutions available that smart companies make use of to reduce costs and still maintain the smooth running of the business.

Both personal and business communication can be made easy by conference calling. Many conferencing services provide inexpensive and easily accessible conferencing solutions that will suit any type of business. If your teleconferencing requirements are at a basic level, free conference call services may be enough for you.

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All that telephone conferencing requires is a normal telephone line. A telephone number and pass code is provided to the participant by the teleconferencing service provider. You dial into the conference bridge and key in the pass code to get connected to the teleconference. Voice conference calls through usual channels are usually free for most participants because it is one person, typically the host, who bears the cost of phone conferencing. Others pay just the cost of a long distance telephone call without any other surcharges.

With the advent of internet, teleconferencing  is often advertised as “absolutely free”. Many websites offer call conferencing services that let you connect with any number of people absolutely free of charge. The reality is that you are no longer paying the company which hosts the conference bridge on a per-conference, per-delegate or pence-per-minute basis. Rather, you are paying to access the bridge as a charge from your fixed or mobile operator.

Many so called “free conference call services” are hosted on special rate numbers – typicall 0871 or 0844. These are more expensive to dial than 01, 02 or 03 numbers – particularly if you are calling from a mobile.

An alternative exists with 03TALK which operates its service on 03 numbers. Calls to 03 numbers are included in your bundled minutes, meaning that there is no incremental cost in a conference call made to 03TALK. If you have minutes available with your contract at the time of making the call, 03TALK is free to use. If you don’t, the call costs the same as a call to an 01 or 02 number. This is irrespective of whether you are dialling from a fixed or mobile network.

In short, calls to 03TALK really are free. Calls to most conference service providers are operated on more expensive 08 numbers.

Kieron James is the managing director of Zimo Communications, a Network Operator providing number translation services on a wide range of geographic and non-geographic number ranges.

Are Free Conference Call Services Really Free?

Are Free Conference Call Services Really Free?

We have all heard the expression “there is no such thing as a free lunch” but with so many companies purporting to offer free conference call services is the famous idiom outdated?


The answer depends on how you define the term “free”. After much research into this subject I have managed to come to some interesting conclusions. I have looked at the following available options to assess their effectiveness for business conference calls.


1. Free conference calls using Skype

2. Free telephone conferencing using non-geographic numbers (NGN’s)


Free conference calls using Skype


Many of you reading this will have heard of Skype which allows you to make free voice calls over the internet (Voice over Internet Protocol or VOIP for short). If have a PC or laptop and a good quality headset connected to a broadband internet service with sufficient bandwidth then you can hold a conference call with a limited number of participants without paying a thing.


The incremental cost of the conference call is zero, but the setup costs are considerable unless you already have the equipment described above. As the cost of computer equipment falls and bandwidths get better, more people than ever now have the required platform and hence Skype is an ideal solution for some people.


Our experiences with in call quality with Skype vary considerably. During quiet times when our internet connection is not busy we get excellent results in call quality, however it can be somewhat unreliable so we don’t consider it robust enough for important business calls or ones where there are a large number of people.


Skype summary: The actual conference calls are free, but you need to have invested in the computer equipment and internet connection first. Limited number of participants and lack of reliability make it unsuitable for key business conference calls, where reliability is a must. There are other VOIP services that may be more reliable and economical then Skype, here are some other VOIP services compared

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Free telephone conferencing using non-geographic numbers (NGN’s)


This type of free telephone conferencing allows audio conferencing participants to dial into a non-geographic telephone number to hold their conference call. It’s important that you understand what a non-geographic number is and how telephone operators – or “telcos” – charge for calls to them.


As the name suggests, a non-geographic telephone number (NGN) is a telephone number that does not terminate at any fixed location. Instead, when you call an NGN, the telco redirects the call to a “real” telephone number. In the USA the most famous type of NGN is the 1-800 free phone number. When you call a 1-800 number you have no idea where the operator who takes your call is located, they could be anywhere in the world.


Of course, telcos are not in the business of giving away free calls, so someone somewhere has to pay. In the case of the 1-800 number, the company you are calling pays the telco for the cost of the call.


Another type of NGN is a premium rate number. In the UK there are an array of different number ranges some of which cost callers as much as 1.50GBP (nearly 3.00USD!) per minute per call, such as this service. These are often used for “adult” services and chat lines. Companies wishing to promote a premium rate service hire a premium rate number from the telco and advertise their services with the intention of generating large numbers of calls to that number.


When customers call the premium NGN, the telco bills the customer for the call and gives a percentage of the call revenue back to the company who rents the NGN from them. In effect the telco and the company renting the NGN are sharing the revenue from the call. The important point to note here is that customers pay the telco not the company who is renting the premium NGN.


Teleconferencing companies who offer free telephone conference call services use this mode. The commission which the telco pays the audio conference service provider is used to pay for running the conference bridge, advertise the service and (sometimes) to make a profit.


Some telephone conferencing companies advertise this type of audio conference as being a totally free service. But there is almost certainly a charge for the call taking place. Therefore, to benefit from this type of conference call service you need to find an operator who can host a call at an affordable rate with a reliable connection.


This is the closest thing you can get to a truly free telephone conferencing, as they use the cheapest type of revenue generating NGN available in the UK. Namely, one that begins with the dialling code 0844. Some other companies use 0870 or 0871 numbers which are more expensive.


NGN summary: NGN based free teleconferencing services can be useful for small companies and individuals with moderate audio conferencing requirements, however these type of services are usually very basic and not suitable for larger organisations. For larger businesses, supporting greater numbers of participants, teleconferencing services tend to be a better option. As they are more likely to offer the support needed to make the call run uninterrupted on a clear line.

Peter Bennett is CEO of a large UK teleconferencing company;Ozone Conferencing. Peter took extracts from OzoneConferencing’s free conference calls service for this article.