Yet another way to avoid expensive phone bills

Stockholm-based firm Sonetel is offering businesses one more way to avoid paying expensive long distance charges on their cell phone bill, this time in the form of an Android app. 

Sonetel has set up what amounts to a worldwide PBX network that it rents out to small and medium-sized businesses worldwide. In more than 200 countries, there are more than 45,000 businesses using the service, the Swedish company says. The advantage of having a PBX that’s not based in your local office, but in many locations around the world, is that you’re always making local calls. Sonetel users may never have to pay long distance fees again.

The way it works is the Sonetel Android app detects your geographic location. Then when you place a call, it dials a local number to route through first, then connects you to the number you dialed. So calling even a location across the world still costs the same as one or two local calls would. Users can even join in phone conferences with the service, and avoid paying charges for that. 

The app also offers users the option to place VoIP calls. If the user has access to a Wi-Fi network or a 4G wireless network, they could place a voice call over the Internet. At the other end, the call recipient still sees the same number on the caller ID. 

Sonetel’s service is the latest way that mobile phone users can avoid paying expensive bills for long distance calls. Cambridge, Ont.-based Fongo offers a similar app on smartphones that connects to a network within reach of 85 per cent of the population of Canada, the company says. It was released in February branded as the Dell Voice app. Skype is another mobile app option to make VoIP calls that reduce long distance costs to fractions of a penny per minute. 

The disadvantage of VoIP-only based options compared to Sonetel’s PBX service is you need a data connection to make a phone call. To call out on Skype you’d need either a Wi-Fi connection – not always easy to find – or a good wireless data connection – expensive when you’re roaming in another country. Sonetel’s service allows you to connect those long distance calls with even 3G voice networks. You’d still have to pay roaming charges to your carrier, but Sonetel recommends buying a local SIM card and putting it in your unlocked smartphone. Since you’ll be paying Sonetel the lower rates, you can put a minimal amount of money on the SIM card to get activated and calling.

Sonetel says an iPhone version of its app is forthcoming.

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