The Phone Bill

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

The government has gone loopy and is threatening to cut everything in sight so we, here in TheLab™, though it might be a good idea to do a consumer advice piece for the struggling dancer/dance company trying to save some money.

As you all probably know the internet has made communication a lot easier but even with the advent or Twitter, Facebook et-al one of the most popular ways to communicate is still via the telephone and every organisation that we ever deal with has a land line telephone number.

So how does the cost compare between using a traditional land line provider, like BT, and an online telephony provider like Skype?

Misconception

First of all let's dispense with some of the common misconception about Skype the most common one being that you can't call normal telephones.

Skype, subject to either a subscription or "pay as you go" credit, can call any telephone number anywhere in the world, just like a normal phone line. The cost of these calls is usually far lower than via a normal provider.

You can also get an incoming telephone number, called SkypeIn, so anybody on a regular phone network can call you. As well as this you also have voice mail, call forwarding, call waiting, conference calling, instant messaging, file sharing, video calling and numerous other toys not available with regular phone providers.

Also, a lot of this stuff is completely free of charge if you are conversing with another person on the Skype network. Bizarrely, Skype will also work on most smart phones across a wide range of mobile phone networks

Unlike a "normal" phone however, to use Skype you do need an active, broadband internet connection for any of these services to work. Most mobile providers will not allow Skype to work on their 3G networks, you may need to use a wireless internet connection.

If you have never made a phone call using an online service like Skype then you are not in for a surprise. It's indistinguishable from using a regular phone line. In TheLab™ we have been using Skype exclusively for years now and find it to be just as reliable as a regular phone service.

The Quick Sheet

Here's a quick breakdown of the competing services and what they provide. Different special offers, promotions and other discounts may apply depending on your specific requirments or location. Costs may be higher dependant on individual usage

BT

Cost Per Year: £587
Minutes Landline: 5000
Minutes Cell: 300
Coverage: Worldwide
Portable: No
Devices: Handset
Contract: 24 Months

Skype

Cost Per Year: £88
Minutes Landline: 10000
Minutes Cell: None
Coverage: Europe
Portable: Yes
Devices: Handset, Computer, Cell
Contract: none

Skype requires a broadband internet connection to operate the cost of which will vary depending on the supplier. Allowances for minutes are per month.

Comparison

To compare prices we looked at yearly cost of using a BT business line and a regular Skype account matching the services available to the user as closely as possible.

Skype does have business user services but these are usually unnecessary for a small to medium scale dance company or an individual.

A single BT business line, with a 24 month contract, will cost you £587 per year absent any additional call charges and includes all taxes. For this money you get "unlimited" calling to UK landlines and cell phones and what BT describes as "major international destinations". Of course "unlimited" means the exact opposite because you are limited to 5000 minutes to landlines and 300 minutes to cell phones (regardless of the service provider).

There are international locations excluded from the overseas calling list but they are mostly remote islands and Antarctica so you should be fine. Call waiting and 3-way conferencing are not included unless you buy a monthly add-on package (which we have done) at an extra cost of £5.50 per month.

Go Skyping

To set up Skype for use as a regular phone first of all you have to buy a SkyepIn number. At the moment the cost for the number is just £20.13 for 12 months if you also sign up for a call subscription which you will be doing, at least for this article.

You can also pay every three months for the number which, over a 12 month period, is more expensive.

The call subscription is £68 per year and gives you "unlimited" calls to landlines in all major European countries. Again the unlimited claim is not really true. Skype restricts you to 10,000 minutes per month and a maximum of 6 hours per day. There is also a limit of 50 different number that you can dial in one day. Voicemail, call forwarding, call waiting, conference calling and fee Skype to Skype calls and video calls are all included along with numerous other services.

Calls to cell phones are not included. If you want to call cell phones or international locations outside of Europe then you have to purchase additional Skype credit on a "pay as go" basis.

Charges for international calls are, on average, about 1.2p per minute for landlines and cell phones, domestic or otherwise. Skype do offer a worldwide subscription service for £110 per year but if you rarely call overseas or outside of the EU then pay as you go is better. This charge is instead of the £68 mentioned above, not in addition to.

So, total cost for a SkypeIn phone number is just £88.13 for the year including all taxes. You will of course need a broadband internet connection.

Call Me A Caveat

Of course with these kind of savings there are some caveats when using internet based phone services.

Although you can buy a traditional looking handset to use Skype most people use it directly on their computer and that takes a bit of getting used to. It's a little bit strange when you're computer starts ringing with an incoming call the first few times it happens.

You can use built in microphones and speakers but it is better to have a separate headset because this makes things much clearer for you and the person you're calling depending on your work environment.

If you're internet provider is not a cable company, like Virgin Media for example, then you will have to pay for a redundant phone line to go with your internet service. Companies like BT don't (or won't) provide internet only services.

To actually receive calls your computer or other device must be turned on and signed-in to the Skype service. If not, calls will be re-directed to the provided answering service. Separate Skype handsets do not have this issue.

Addendum, Proviso, Etc

Although the Skype terms and conditions say that a Skype account is for personal use only we found no technical restriction on the number of people we could sign in to one Skype account.

In fact we made three simultaneous calls from three separate devices from the same account with no issues.

Skype do offer business services so if this issue is of concern to you then you may want to check those out in more detail if your organisation is larger in size. There are almost certainly significant costs savings to be had over traditional phone service providers.

The icing on the cake is that there is no minimum contract term with Skype subscriptions. You can turn it off whenever you want and then re-activate it. You can also use your Skype phone services from anywhere in the world to make and receive calls and the people you are talking to will not know the difference. Good for dancing folks and good for international spies!

There is little doubt that if you use multiple business phone lines or a cable internet provider that you will be able to save significant amounts of money by using online phone services.

These services may not work for everybody but, with budget cuts looming, perhaps you should look closely to see if they can save you some money.

[ Skype ]
[ BT ]

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