Calling US from China
Figuring out the cheapest way to call the US when you are living in China is incredibly complicated. The main issue is that you don’t really want to spend $2/minute with your cell phone while you are there, but you do want a US phone number so someone can call you. Here is the best recommendations that I’ve been able to piece together
h2. Get Vonage or Skype
The best way to stay in touch for folks who are in the US is to have a VOIP setup so that you can have your number routed to a VOIP phone in China. I have Vonage for instance and the US number is portable to China. Most folks in the military and what not end up with this kind of system, so that all you need is a broadband or ADSL connection in your home in China or in your office and you can pick up the US phone. I’ve actually tried to use both in China and the call quality is definitely funky for both Vonage and Skype, but since you’ll usually not be using it to talk, but to leave voice mails, that’s fine. BTW, the advantage of Skype is that is also allows both SkypeIn so you have a phone number and Skype currently allows free calling anywhere in the US or Europe. So its really cheap.
In actuality, you’ll be using voice mail a lot since there is such a time zone difference, so what you really do is collect your messages in the morning from the previous day, then leave messages for people that they’ll pick up in their morning.
h2. Get local Chinese unlocked phones for local Chinese calls.
Makes more sense to buy them in China and they are cheaper too. Natalie can go out with you and get them. They are in the Superbrand mall in Shanghai. Most folks end up buying Nokia or Motorola, but the Samsung Chocolate is supposed to be really great. You want something that is quadband so it works in the US too.
Also, this will give anyone in the world an SMS address they can use to text you if they really need you and this is way cheaper than calling.
h2. VOIP Calling Card for long distance to US while on the road
From home, the recommendation are these online VOIP calling card plans. I have not investigated the Chinese versions of these, but “Globaphone”:http://gphone.com/service/index.asp is one I’ve been using. They are about $0.60/minute calling to China. The plan I used is GlobalPostPaid
If you are going to call the same folks alot. Like relatives back in the US, you want to make sure they get an international calling plan. That’s because it is 4x cheaper to call from the US to China, so you really want to call them hang up and have them call you back. There is actually something call WebCallback they have that triggers their system to call a Chinese phone number so you are using the $0.12 rate called GlobalCallback.
h2. For US Cell phones
The main issue is going to be international roaming. While there is a data plan that reduces roaming rates, there really isn’t anything that will get your voice calls down to anything reasonable. Last year, Gary was paying $1,000-2,000 per month for voice calls. So here’s the recommendation:
* With the Blackberry, use the Cingular international data plan. This lets you use ignition and qiming servers effectively for free. Avoid using either voice or SMS with your or Terri’s phone
* Since caller id doesn’t work with these phones while in China, you literally don’t know if it is Mary or some guy selling life insurance who is calling and the time zones are all wrong anyway. Believe me, you will get most of your calls at 2AM in the morning if you leave your phones on. Instead, you should use the Cingular landline number (I can dig it up, its buried in your phone firmware) to access your Cingular voice mail. So every day you can call the voice mail from a Chinese phone to check messages