How do you call Skype numbers
November 25, 2009 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Teach me about Skype. Thinking of dropping my landline and getting cable internet. How would the internet phone number work? I'm in a small (LT 10,000) town. --California
posted by notned to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've used Skype for outbound phone calls and have been happy with it. I haven't used their inbound service. I have also had good experience with Gizmo (a standard SIP/VoiP service) and Google Voice for outbound calls.

Of these, call audio quality of Skype has been the best, but this may vary depending on the bandwidth, latency, and jitter of your data connection. All three are at least as good as cell phone audio quality.

They're also all ridiculously cheap - pennies per minute for international calls to landlines in Europe, free or cheap for US calls (GV is free within the US, not sure of the others).
posted by zippy at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2009

With Skype, you can subscribe for a real phone number and for a calling plan. They are separate. So, if you wanted a number that only could receive calls, you can do that. If you didn't want people to be able to call you and only wanted to make calls, you could do that. Or, you can do both. It currently costs around $30 a year for the combination.

I've been using Skype as my primary business phone number for the past year and a half. I use a headset connected to my computer. This works for me since I'm a high tech consultant and sit at a computer all day. Which, is sad. ;)

In any case, I also have Skype set up to forward to my cell phone if I don't answer on Skype.

If you want to use Skype on a more regular kind of phone, there are a number of different devices you could buy, from a WIFI Skype phone (connects to your WIFI and acts like a cordless phone using your skype account), to a USB phone you connect to your computer, and a few other variations. You can go to and check out their store and see the options.

I've found the quality to be sufficient. There are quality issues on less than 5% of my calls. Given the cost savings, I'm happy with that.
posted by reddot at 12:16 PM on November 25, 2009

Response by poster: OP with a followup. I know Vonage doesn't have local numbers. My friend got a number from LA. I wouldn't like that. Where can I find what my number might be?
posted by notned at 12:36 PM on November 25, 2009

If you're going to go with VoIP and a new number, I'd recommend signing up for Google Voice. You can choose the area code that your GV number is in, and then forward that number to any other number of your choosing.

If you have kids you may still want a landline around for 911 service. VoIP stuff seems to always crap out when you don't want it to. Some local telcos offer cheap per-minute plans (for instance Verizon where I live offers a $2/month plan).
posted by kenliu at 12:44 PM on November 25, 2009

I use a standards-based SIP VOIP solution, not Skype. Skype is fine when you are traveling but I don't like the vendor lock-in for a home phone. I'd recommend buying an unlocked SIP adapter, and then choosing a "termination provider" (VOIP telephone co.) that has the right balance of features and price.

I use Callcentric, and would recommend them unhesitatingly. You can either get a new number (referred to as a "DID" in VOIP lingo) through them, and they have them in most local areas, or you can transfer your existing number for a fee. You can search available numbers here.

Initial configuration can be a bit tricky if the VOIP adapter is inside your router/firewall, but Callcentric has pretty good step-by-step instructions.

One interesting thing about VOIP is that you basically pay for inbound and outbound service separately. The number rental (which is between $3-5/mo typically) will include unlimited incoming calls. For outbound calls, you either pay a few cents per minute on a PAYGO plan, or have a $20/mo flat unlimited plan (more if you want unlimited international) if you are a heavy user.

Advantage over Skype is that, if you decide you want to change VOIP termination providers, you don't have to toss your hardware. (Skype hardware can only be used with Skype, for the most part.) SIP hardware will work with any SIP termination provider; it's just a matter of changing the settings.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:46 PM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

And if you are using VOIP as your only phone, I'd recommend buying a UPS and plugging your cable modem, broadband router, VOIP adapter, and cordless phone base station into it. This way you'll still have service if the power goes out (for a while, anyway).

Given that everyone in my house also has a cellphone, I am comfortable with this for emergencies, but if you have people without cellphones at home, you might want to keep the copper hot (just with dialtone, that's all you need to call 911).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:49 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

OP with a followup. I know Vonage doesn't have local numbers. My friend got a number from LA. I wouldn't like that. Where can I find what my number might be?

Go to the Skype Online Number page, then 'buy a number' (you may need to log in to your skype account), and you can then select which state and area code you want. You get a 50% discount on the number if you sign up for a monthly subscription (unlimited minutes). I recently relocated to the US from the UK so I have a UK online number and unlimited calls to the UK, no complaints so far. The only downside I've found is that you need the computer on and skype running to receive calls (although those skype wifi phones look like they may solve that problem, I haven't seen those before)
posted by hibbersk at 1:41 PM on November 25, 2009

I know that Skype has become synomous with VOIP but I would recommend the SIP (an open format for VOIP) option along the lines of Kadine2048. The only exceptions would be if you have a lot of your contacts on skype with whom you will be able to speak for free or you live in a country where ISPs are allowed to block SIP traffic (which in not the case in your area).

Skype hardware is generally more expensive as you would expect from a closed system.

The SIP option is very straight forward and in some cases you can get hardware which comes pre programmed if you feel nervous about the setup.

I have not used Callcentric but have heard good things about them. The ones I have used are which works well.

One provider I can highly recommend is which offers incoming numbers in the US and in several other countries from around $5 a month (you will need to check your area code) and very cheap calls along with a calling card linked to your account which you can take with you when you travel and continue to use cheap calls at no extra cost.

Advice about UPS is also good if you dont plan on having a cell phone.
posted by london302 at 2:57 PM on November 25, 2009

In Europe, ISPs often offer combined internet, cable TV, and VoIP with unlimited inbound, unlimited national outbound, and cheap international for 20 to 30 euros per month. ISPs usually ensure the call quality is quite high on these services. So you should check all the local ISPs before buying a separate VoIP line.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:03 PM on November 25, 2009

jeffburdges, unfortunately that seems to be unique to Europe. My brother lives in Oregon (I live in France, like you) and the best deal on an internet/TV/VoIP phone bundle he can find costs... $100/month. For the first six months. Then it goes up to its "regular" price of $130/month. I don't know what the heck's going on in the US, but it seems like telecoms providers are taking every pound of flesh they can out of subscribers. (For pete's sake, in France I pay 30 euros/month for ADSL that, in addition to TV [but I don't watch it], gives me free phone calls to the most of the world! *And* it's free for people in France to call me!)

Like others in this thread, he's found that the only viable solutions (still more expensive than in Europe) are Skype, Google Voice and SIP. Skype has really been wonking out on us when I call him, though. In addition to only being able to speak one at a time (otherwise neither of us can hear the other), every minute or so it will just drop all voice for a few seconds, then come back on. My brother and I have been joking that it's like using a walky-talky with a bad battery.
posted by fraula at 11:56 PM on November 25, 2009

I should add that we know it's Skype because he has similar troubles with it on his other calls, and because I never have that type of problem in any of my international calls to non-Skype numbers.
posted by fraula at 11:59 PM on November 25, 2009

Skype isn't really a replacement for a landline. I was using it for a while (need to purchase a SkypeIn # so people can call you- $6 a mo.), and it's a hassle keeping a computer(s) online/awake depending on where you want to answer.

If you want to save money, I'd recommend something like Ooma. Lifetime free phone service (no monthly charge) via you internet connection, just buy the unit which is around $200-250. You use your existing phones.

You can also pick your area code/number like other VOIP options.

Buy it from Costco- they have a lifetime return policy in case the company goes under.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

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