Passing the Buck

Now you can hand off cellular calls to VoIP and save big on roaming and long-distance charges.
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This story appears in the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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If you make a lot of long-distance business calls, you probably already know you can save by routing them over the Internet using VoIP technology. How would you like VoIP savings on your cell phone, too?

Boca Raton, Florida-based i2 Telecom International has a new device (patent pending) that hands off cellular calls to its VoIP network, so you can save the roaming and long-distance charges still levied under many cellular plans. Its InternetTalker MG-3 saves still more on calls to Canada, Mexico or overseas, where cellular carriers still levy steep charges.

About the size of a CD case, the $109 MG-3 connects to a traditional or IP phone line on one end and the router for your broadband connection on the other. It's not unlike the analog/digital converters distributed by all VoIP service providers, letting any phone connect to their broadband networks. But MG-3 has the added benefit of routing cellular calls over the Internet. One prerequisite is that caller ID be activated on all the phones involved.

In a typical usage scenario, you might use your cell phone to call overseas or a domestic number off your carrier's network (not that you can really tell which numbers are off-network, of course). Instead of dialing directly, you call the home or office line with your MG-3. Using caller ID, the device determines that the call is from an authorized phone and switches you onto i2Telecom's VoIP network. Now you dial the long-distance number and are connected at a much lower price than cellular rates.

How much lower? Rates for some of the more popular international destinations include about 3 cents per minute to the United Kingdom instead of the $3.90 per minute typical of straight cellular calls, says i2 Telecom senior vice president Rick Scherle. Per-minute charges are roughly 3 cents to Mexico City instead of 55 cents, 5 cents to China instead of $4.20, and 21 cents to India instead of $4.20.

You'll still log minutes on your cellular plan during prime time. But i2Telecom's clock starts only if a call leaves the Internet and travels over the traditional phone system. Monthly rates for domestic calls start at $11.95 for 300 off-network minutes or $16.95 for 500 minutes; you can also negotiate plans based on your company's calling patterns.

MG-3's installation and configuration were brief and intuitive, and it works well with various office telecom equipment like PBXs and key sets. The device recognizes incoming calls from up to three cell phones of any type, and, like most VoIP devices, calls between MG-3s in branch offices or key employees' homes are completely free.

There are still boundaries between different telecom networks, but an SUV-size hole gets punched in them every day.

Edition: July 2017

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