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Dial Away

Long distance for one flat fee? Call it a deal.

With Baby Bells asleep at the switch lo these many years, cell phones have become the first choice for long distance. But exceed your minutes and that next cell bill could be an eye-opener.

How about a little insurance? MagicJack, a USB stick, serves up all the long distance you can use for $40 the first year and $20 per year thereafter. Dial all-VoIP, all the time from your desktop PC, or stash the matchbox-size device in your briefcase and plug in while on the road.

To set it up, plug MagicJack into any USB port on any broadband-equipped PC, plug any handset's phone cord into the other end, and in 10 to 15 minutes, it configures itself. A slick little softphone/ message center loads for those who like on-screen dialing and headsets; a Microsoft Outlook utility uploads your contacts to the hardware. Another useful feature: the ability to forward calls to five landline or cellular numbers simultaneously.

With MagicJack, you get a new number to receive calls; every area code is available, as are most local exchanges. Create a local business presence in distant cities by choosing a local number. Calls travel the high-quality network of MagicJack's parent, YMax Communications, which has a local presence in most metropolitan areas. The private network helps improve call quality and reduces termination costs, letting MagicJack carry that low price tag.

When unplugged from a PC, the device leaves no contacts or other personal settings behind. Calls between MagicJack numbers are completely free, and dialing the U.S. or Canada from overseas using a MagicJack with a North American number is toll free. My last cell phone call from California to Canada put a $50 surcharge on my bill. That call alone would have bought me a MagicJack.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the January 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Dial Away.

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