I haven't used a calling card since my parents gave me one for college (to avoid my college's exorbitant per/minute fees), and I would have figured with unlimited cell phone plans, unlimited broadband VoIP plans (Vonage, Lingo, etc.), as well as software applications such as Skype, Gizmo, and now Google Talk that calling cards were so passe. Who needs calling cards, (including both post-paid and pre-paid calling cards) when you have so many competitive options that offer inexpensive calling, right? I mean really, who wants to dial a an 11-digit access number then remember their calling card account number (or pull it out of their wallet/purse) and then enter the destination number as well as their PIN?
Well apparently, even with so many phone options these days, each vying for the same "limited" phone minute pie, there is still a huge market for calling cards. Go figure.
There are several calling card companies that have now extended into the VoIP realm since obviously terminating via VoIP has much better margins than over the PSTN. One such company offering calling calling card services is CallExchange. They actually offer a hosted calling card platform allowing any customer to set-up their own calling card operation very quickly. In fact, they are fairly unique in that they offer customers the ability to launch a calling card operation with $0 startup costs.
How can it be free you ask? Well, this solution leverages the power of "affiliates"; you simply use an access number owned by an existing CallExchange customer then you pay a commission for all successful calls that originate from the affiliate's access numbers. If you decide later to deploy your own access number you can easily do so and reduce your per minute costs. Thus, you have the ability to inexpensively "test the waters" in VoIP post/pre-paid calling cards and then if things go well, keep all of your termination commission revenue by getting your own access number.
In addition to dial-in access numbes, CallExchange also supports dialing via SIP CPE-based VoIP equipment, SIP softphones, and soon they claim customers will be able to dial via a web-browser with no need to install a SIP-based softphone client.
CallExchange told me "That we are a pioneer in bridging the gap between wholesale minute providers and retailers with its unique web-based hosted turnkey solution for VoIP service providers, has developed a new way to enable entrepreneurs to respond to their local markets and provide the most sophisticated VoIP service through the simplest interface, giving ordinary people worldwide access to the highest quality telephony available. CallExchange's new CallShop Billing software means that one does
not need to be a technical wizard to start a VoIP business."
Further, CallExchange stated, "Entrepreneurs with Internet access can now quickly and easily set up call shops, enabling people to stay in telephone contact across the globe for previously-unimaginable low prices. Call shops make it cheap and easy for travelers and migrant workers to phone home."
This info is from CallExchange:
Working seamlessly with CallExchange termination, or as a stand-alone billing system, CallShop Billing enables quick call shop set up according to various business models. CallShop Billing goes beyond traditional call shop functionality and allows operation according to any combination of the following scenarios:
1. Call shop with prepaid or postpaid billing. The customer enters a booth and the cashier opens a line. With prepaid billing a customer is provided with a predefined credit limit; the connection ends automatically when the balance reaches zero. Postpaid billing allows the charges to be added to a bill to be paid later.
2. Call shop with prepaid pin-codes. In this scenario the customer pays in advance and receives a pin-code. He enters any vacant booth, enters his pin-code, and calls.
3. Pin-code authenticated calls via PSTN access. Customers call a designated PSTN line, enter their pin-code and call.
The unique one-step rate setting and included PIN generator make it simple to create multiple rate profiles to respond to market demand and offer sales and special limited-time offers.
CallShop Billing implements Radius/AAA protocol for real-time Authentication, Authorization and Accounting and provides highly reliable and secure Call Data Records. This program supports end-device manufacturers' extendable dictionaries, and unlike other software on the market, CSB enables modification of dial codes.
Multi-language IVR makes the program suitable world-wide. Call shop cashiers find it easy to operate the booths, monitor the call shop, and provide bill reports upon request.
CallShop Billing takes the headaches out of billing management, so that service providers can concentrate on their primary concern: their customers.
CallExchange recently announced a new software for VoIP-based call shop
billing and management, and they have a free demo version available for download at http://www.callexchange.net/dl/callshopsetup.zip.
So will VoIP ultimately spell the death knell for pre-paid and post-paid calling cards? After all, many claim that with unlimited cellphone plans, unlimited VoIP calling, and softphones (Skype) with free P2P calling, that the price of voice is rapidly approaching zero. What do you think? Post a comment.