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Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Rebtel; simple, convenient international calling

There are lots of neat mobile VoIP services out in the market – two of my favourites are Truphone and DeFi mobile because of the way they embed themselves into a Nokia S60 handset, provide an additional phone number and just work where there’s WiFi. However one provider that I’ve been taking another look at is Rebtel. Rebtel is aimed at people who call abroad using their mobiles (Rebtel does work just as well from landlines) and (not surprisingly!) don’t want to pay the extortionate rates charged by the mobile operators. Whilst Rebtel uses VoIP to carry the international leg of the call, the call to the local Rebtel number is made using your regular mobile minutes. Rebtel’s killer feature is that it works on any mobile phone; no software to install, no SIM cards to swap over. This can be a five quid or a five hundred quid handset – Rebtel just works.

There are several different ways to use Rebtel. First you need to set up an account online and add some credit. At a simple level, for ad hoc international calls, you call the local Rebtel operator number and follow the IVR. This is Rebtel ‘double dial’. However the easiest way to use Rebtel is via ‘direct call’. Login to your account and enter the phone number of a friend or colleague who lives abroad. Rebtel then provides you with a permanent virtual number for your friend. So if I want to call Annie in Australia, I’m given a local UK number to use instead of her Australian number. I save the local number in my phone and use this to call Annie in the future. Cost is zero to my mobile operator (for me) because the call comes out of inclusive minutes, plus £0.013 per minute to Rebtel. I could also make this call for free (assuming inclusive mobile minutes), using ‘smart call’, by asking Annie to call me back on the local Australian number displayed on her handset while I stay on the line. Not quite as seamless but a way to save even more money.

Rebtel has just launched ‘collect call’. If I, as a Rebtel user, call someone who isn’t on Rebtel, they will see a local number displayed on their phone. They can then use that local number to call me back on in the future and I pick up a small call charge from Rebtel. The online account management system lets you manage the settings for ‘collect call’ so you can choose whether to accept or decline calls.

Rebtel accounts and numbers can also be managed via SMS and

Rebtel has just launched a great promotion – up to 50 percent off call rates to 23 countries around the world for the next 30 days. A nice gesture in these financially challenging times.

Never one to stand still, Rebtel has been taking a look at the iPhone and will have a Rebtel application in the iPhone AppStore in the next couple of months. They aren’t saying too much about it yet but sounds like one to watch out for. Knowing Apple’s somewhat ambiguous view of VoIP this’ll be interesting!

You can also follow Rebtel on Twitter

In case you’re wondering, I’m told that Rebtel is a corruption of Rebel Telecom, a fitting name for a market disrupting service provider!

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.

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