Product Review: Skype Voice over IP

I recently traveled to Seoul, Korea on a business trip.

This was my first overseas business trip in a number of years. From previous trips, I had long since realized that calling home from overseas using the hotel operator was a complete rip-off. In the past, I had used a MCI or AT&T calling card account and their in-country direct dial back to the US. That meant that the per-minute charge was only a few cents.

This trip came up rather suddenly and I didn’t have time to set up a calling card account… So what to do? I knew that my hotel room would have an Internet (10/100Mb ethernet) connection so I figured, why not try Voice over IP? I believe there are a number of VoIP outfits out there (including some of the major telecomm’s like Verizon) but I decided to try Skype.

I downloaded the Skype software to my laptop, set up a Skype account. I also bought $10 worth of Skype dial out time which would allow me to call any regular phone number in the world for about $0.021 per minute (the $10 translates to more than 7 hours of talk-time). I also set up a Skype dial-in telephone number and voice mail so that folks to could call me and at least leave a message while I was in Korea. I think that cost $12 to rent the phone number for 3 months.

I also bought a $30 usb earphone/microphone headset at Best Buy.

In any case, I arrived in Korea, found my hotel and checked in. The next morning, I set up my laptop, connected it to the room’s ethernet jack and tried using Skype. Basically it worked once I figured out how to get the headset to work properly with Skype.

The Skype voice quality was not as good as my home office copper landline but it was, typically, better than I get with my cell phone around Boston.

And having a phone connection that allowed me to call anywhere in the world for about 2 cents a minute was very nice. I had to rearrange some flight reservations and ended up spending a lot of time on hold waiting for the next agent. Only spending a couple of cents a minute made that a lot less stressfull!

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