Talkster, Skype CallerID and Avoiding Those “Caller Pay” Mobile Charges

Use SkypeOut with Talkster to make SkypeOut calls to “Caller Pays” mobile phones at your “local” SkypeOut rates (= free, if on a Skype Unlimited plan).

A couple of weeks ago I reported on how North Americans can make calls on SkypeOut and send their mobile phone number as their SkypeOut callerID. This has had significant unanticipated implications for a couple of services that use your mobile callerID for immediate identification and access to their service.

iotum’s Free Conference Call: I noticed that, over the past couple of weeks since making my mobile number my SkypeOut CallerID, I did not have to enter the PIN codes supplied for each of the Squawk Box calls I register for. When I initially registered for Free Conference Call last fall I had to supply a mobile phone number with which I would associate my FCC account. If I called into a call from my mobile phone I was immediately identified using my mobile CallerID and put into the call. But since I usually called in via SkypeOut, where the callerID had been “000123446” I had to enter a PIN code to access the call. However, now that SkypeOut sends my mobile callerID, I am immediately put into the Squawk Box call as if I called in from my mobile phone.

Then last week, speaking with Talkster CEO James Wanless, he pointed out that the availability of mobile phone numbers as the CallerID (CLI) for SkypeOut calls makes it feasible to make SkypeOut calls to mobile phones in “Caller Pays” countries at “local” wireless phone charges using Talkster’s Free World Dialing service.

Prior to discussing Talkster’s service, a reminder: for calls originating from any carrier or VoIP service, the charges for calling mobile phones in “Caller Pays” countries are approximately an order of magnitude higher than charges to landlines in these countries. Basically call termination rates are established by the various mobile carriers in these countries; the originating carrier or service has little control over this differential. For this reason Skype’s various Unlimited plans do not include calls to mobile phones in “Carrier Pays” countries; the same general principal applies to calls from, say, Truphone or other VoIP-based services. Skype’s Unlimited plans, where relevant, will include calls to mobile phones in U.S./Canada since it is the mobile phone owner who pays for the mobile connection.

Here’s how Talkster’s Free World Dialing to Skype works:

  1. First ensure you have set your Skype CallerID1 to be your mobile number, preferably, but not necessarily, a mobile number you have entered into your Skype profile.
  2. Talkster asks you to create individual “pairings” with each friend’s mobile phone number in the remote country.
  3. You “register” your mobile phone number and your friend’s mobile phone number in, say, Germany or U.K. as a pairing.
  4. Talkster then gives you “local” phone numbers for this pairing — for instance I get a “416” or “647” Toronto number; I am also given a “local” German or U.K. number for my German or U.K. friend to use.
  5. SMS messages containing these numbers are sent to both yourself and to your friend. On my Blackberry there was an opportunity to add the phone number to my address book.
  6. I then use SkypeOut to call the “416” or “647” number in Toronto; Talkster detects my mobile callerID at this number and automatically calls my German or U.K. friend on his/her mobile phone.
  7. We then have ten seconds to confirm we want to talk; I stay on the connection. There is no charge for this confirmation step.
  8. My German or U.K. friend hangs up and then dials back to his/her assigned “local” German or U.K. number and is immediately connected back into my initial call.

And the resulting costs:

  • Wireless carrier charges: Each of us is paying “local” wireless calling rates (i.e. I use up “local” minutes from my monthly Rogers subscription, and my remote friend pays according to his/her mobile subscription arrangements for local calls in his/her country) for the wireless connection at each end.
  • The call originator pays whatever SkypeOut rates apply for to the “local” Talkster number. Since I am on a Skype Unlimited plan there is no charge for calling the “416” or “647” number assigned to me by Talkster.

The end result is that nobody is paying those high “Caller Pays” rates for calls to a German or U.K. mobile phone (~ US$0.25 per minute according to Skype’s rate schedule). It is not a traditional “Call Back” service in that I never hang up but rather stay on the connection while awaiting a call back from my remote friend to initiate the call. Effectively I am given a Toronto number for connecting to my friend in Germany or U.K.

Using SkypeOut with a Skype Unlimited plan for local access, Talkster’s Free World Dialing now makes calls to mobile phones in “Caller Pays” countries at no additional cost, provided my remote friends are willing to make a “local” call back into the call.

Talkster is different from the Skype To Go service in that, on Skype To Go, the caller is still be paying those “Caller Pays” charges on a call to a “Caller Pays” mobile phone service and you may end up paying a connection fee. On the other hand the called party does not have to make a call back. (Not being in a Skype To Go country, I have not experienced this service but James understood the algorithm.). Whereas Skype To Go works in eleven countries, Talkster is available for 34 countries.

A few comments from my interview with James:

  • The setup connection call becomes a form of presence indication in that the called party needs to answer to indicate that s/he can participate in a call.
  • They do not use SMS for notification of a call since SMS delivery does not have sufficient reliability to send a message in a timely manner; also SMS does not necessarily indicate that the called party is available to take a call.
  • An individual can set up separate pairings for each remote contact whom you call frequently. Talkster allows up to 15 pairings for Canadians, 20 pairings for U.S. users. However, their experience is that most users will only set up a maximum of five or six pairings. Pairings can be between numbers in 34 countries.
  • With this calling algorithm, it’s a “Friends and Family” service for your frequently called numbers but not one for generally making calls to these countries.
  • While this service is driven by the cost saving for calls to mobile phones, it can also be used to make calls to remote landline phones in the available countries.
  • Talkster is developing business relationships with online communities as a key target market where they would have access to (user permitted) demographics to target advertising more effectively. James has commented on this aspect in his recent post “Using the Social Graph for Targeting Ads“. Rather than being “just another call back service”, Talkster expects to monetize through advertising during the ten second period when making the initial setup call. They may also have a means to send out coupons via SMS.
  • There are no termination charges associated with this algorithm.
  • According to James, because there are two inbound calls connected, apparently this enhances the call quality. Confirmation would only come through experience.
  • Whereas Skype Unlimited Mexico provides unlimited calling to three cities in Mexico (with significant discounts to other regions), Talkster recently announced free calling to 14 regions of Mexico.

A classic example where this lower cost service became available to Skype users simply by Skype’s making CallerID available; there was no additional work required by either Skype or Talkster to make the service work.

Skype CallerID will only accept mobile phone numbers or your SkypeIn (online) number.

Tags: Talkster, Skype, Free World Dialing, Skype To Go, Skype Unlimited, iotum, Free Conference Call, Skype callerID, SkypeOut

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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