by August 21, 2002 0 comments



Making an ISD call using an IP telephony card is a simple process. What you need is a PC with a full duplex sound card, a modem and an Internet account. You’ll also need a headset with a mic and earphones if you want to keep your conversation private. Else, you could use a plain microphone and speakers. All ISPs have their own dialers that either have to be downloaded from their website, or used directly from their website. Once you’re connected to the Internet, take your calling card and scratch it to determine the user id and password. Enter these details in the dialer and dial to login to the ISP’s IP telephony service. The dialer will indicate that you’re connected. After that, simply dial the ISD number you wish to reach and you’re ready to roll. Here, we checked out five such cards to find out what users can expect from them. 

We used a pair of Labtec Axis-002 Headphones, which had a noise-reducing microphone for making the phone calls. These cost Rs 2,799 and are available from Aditya
Infotech. E-mail: navinder_chauhan@
adityagroup.com
 

Caltiger net2phone 
The net2phone calling cards from Caltiger are available from Rs. 100 to Rs. 5000. To use the card, you have to first download the dialer from their website, which is about 1.8 MB in size. The dialer detects whether you have a sound card installed or not. When you launch the dialer, it first asks you to enter your Account id and pin number. Once you’re connected to your ISP, you can dial the telephone number. What’s good about the dialer is that it provides a drop down list of all countries you can call to from it, along with their ISD codes. It took us about 15 seconds to connect. Initially, the voice was jittery at the end of every dialog. However, this went away after some time, and the conversation was smooth after that, with a voice delay of about 3 to 4 seconds. Calling charges are Rs 5 a minute to the US for regular calls, and Rs 1.8 for toll-free numbers in the US.

Once connected to the ISP, you can dial the telephone number

Indiatimes valuefon 
This calling card service is provided by HCL InfiNet. The ISP has presence in 43 cities across the country. The calling cards are available from Rs 100 to Rs 750. The Valuefon dialer is the same as the one used in Caltiger, except for a change in the logo. It took about 20 seconds to establish a connection. After that, the communication was pretty clear with very little jitter and delay. Call charges to the US are Rs 5.95 per minute.

Netvoiz 
This is a calling card from Estel Telcom. The company is not an ISP, but a service provider to telcom carriers and large corporates. Its calling cards were available during the time we were testing them, but the company won’t be selling them in the near future. 

Phonewala.com 
This is a calling card from Net4India. The ISP has a wide range of calling cards available from Rs 50 to Rs 1,000. Its dialer is about 2 MB in size and doesn’t load unless you have a sound card that’s installed and working. The dialer might give a “msvcp60.dll missing error” on some machines. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get the file. We downloaded the missing file from www.dll-files.com, and the dialer installed without a hitch after that. The dialer took about 25 sec to connect. Once connected, there was a delay of just 2 to 3 seconds in the communication. We did experience some amount of echo and jitter in the conversation though. Call charges to the US are Rs 4.95 per minute.

Once connected, there was very little delay of just 2 to 3 seconds 

Zybertalk 
This calling card is from iServ India, an ISP and a part of the Escorts Group. Calling card packs are available for Rs 200, 500, and 660. The last offer is for those using Zyberway Zones, which are basically the ISP’s own Internet cafes. It includes Rs 500 worth of talk time, 11 hours of Internet access, and a set of headphones and mic. The service is currently available in New Delhi and surrounding areas; UP, Uttaranchal and Kerala. We used Zyberway’s Internet account for making the phone call. The ISP doesn’t provide any dialer for download, and offers a browser-based dialer instead, which launches in a separate window. This saves you the time of having to first download a dialer and then connect, but on the flip side, the time taken by the dialer to load depends upon your Internet connect speed. It also installs a component called MediaRing Starlite Component before launching the dialer. Using the card is pretty simple; as you just have to open the Zybertalk website and launch the dialer. The good thing about the dialer is that you can enter your account details and the number you wish to dial at the same time. This saves you the time to first login to the ISP’s IP telephony service, and then dial the number. That’s why, it only took about 5 seconds to login and make the call. The voice quality of the call was clear with a little bit of jitter, and a delay of 4 to 5 secs between dialogues. Call charges to the US are Rs 5 per minute.

Zyberway offers a browser based dialer

Which one to go for?
Our experience with all the calling cards was similar as they all gave similar performance. That’s because today, the quality of an IP call depends upon the quality of your Net connect. If you get good connect speed, you’ll get decent voice quality. However, one important factor while buying calling cards is the ISPs they will work with. If you already have an ISP account, you need to check whether the calling card you buy will work with it or not. For instance, none of these calling cards worked with our existing Satyam Internet account. The other factor is ease of availability. Most of these cards can be purchased online from an ISP’s website, else they provide a list of their dealer network online that can be checked. 

The Bottom Line: Overall, you can save with IP telephony cards depending upon where you’re calling. If your calls are primarily directed to the US, you can expect to save some money. However, if you plan on calling some other relatively unknown country, you’ll be charged much more. To call Zaire, for instance, call charges are Rs 34 per minute. 

Anil Chopra and Sanjay Majumder

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