Expats are usually intelligent, free spirited, adventure seekers and, above all else, fiercely independent. But, even the most stoic of us misses home every now and again. We miss the people and places familiar to us as a child, or find ourselves reminiscing about our college days. Whatever the reason, the sound of a friend or family members' voice back home can act like an alien powered multivitamin when it comes to helping us face the challenges and obstacles to being a westerner in a far-off land.
Of course, many expats utilize the internet for most of their communication needs these days. However, a telephone call is much more personal and satisfying. If you are from the US or Canada, you are probably now accustomed to fairly inexpensive calling rates to anywhere in the world. That is, while you are actually in the US or Canada. However, if you have ever tried calling the US or Canada from remote locations, like Indonesia or the Philippines, then you know that calling home can quickly become an expensive luxury that must be rationed for use only when required. Fortunately, the internet once again is the expats financial savior.
Before the dot com crash in 2000, there were many companies toying with the free internet calling business model. The model was to be supported by callers viewing and clicking on ads to generate income for the companies. Unfortunately, users were not as cooperative in the process as was required to actually return a profit to the dot coms engaged in this type of offering. After the crash, there were still many companies offering Internet PC to Phone calling; however, none of them were free, and most were only slightly less expensive than using an actual landline when came to call the US or Canada.
Now nearly ten years later, there is again a resurgence in companies offering this service. Albeit, in a highly limited manner. A simple web search for "free internet calls" will turn up countless sites offering some sort of freebie or promotion. However, most are worthless and not much worth investigating (believe me, I have spent countless hours doing this). But, there are a couple that could really benefit expats when trying to call home to the States or Canada.
Companies like Skype, Yahoo, MSN and others have garnered huge areas of market share in the Internet Calling space by providing free PC to PC internet calls. This is, of course, very useful in its own right; however, expats abroad want to be able to call the not so web literate friend or family member. No, the expat wants to call his elderly mother or uncle on a regular, down to earth Ma Bell landline; or perhaps his brother on a cell phone. For those times, the PC to PC calling model is useless and he needs a service that provides PC to Phone internet calling. Now, all of the previously mentioned companies DO offer this service, but, it is definitely not free. Cheaper? Yes. Free? No.
For a free PC to Phone Internet call, we have to dig a little more. The companies are there – we just have to find them (wait I already have!) After an exhaustive search, I have found ICall and Media Ring Talk to be the most expat friendly. And by expat friendly, I mean of course, free calls to landlines and cell phones in the US and Canada. Yes, that is correct with these two services you can call the US or Canada absolutely free of charge. Calls are limited to five and ten minutes respectively with the free services. But, hey, beggars can not be choosers.
Now expats that have a net-connected PC, a Headset, and a microphone can call their friends and family for free. While calls are time limited, there are no limits on the number of calls you can make. You can literally call your mother over and over and simply live with the mild annoying fact that you will be disconnected every five or ten minutes. So, do a web search for either ICall or Media Ring Talk, and start saving those hard to come by dollars today. Beside, most expats are never on the phone for much more than five minutes anyway, right?