I mentioned earlier that our US cell phones are forwarded to us here in the Bahamas. We wanted to make it as simple as possible for people to get in touch with us. Our cell numbers were already well known and we wanted to avoid changing our contact information. We also wanted to avoid high international rates charged by most carriers, both for ourselves and ourcallers. To meet these goals, we forwarded our US (Verizon) cell numbers to a US Skype number which is then forwarded to a Bahamian cell phone. So far it is working very well. Details can be read below for those interested.
Our cellular plans have plenty of minutes and forwarded calls count against them, but they also allow us to provide a set of numbers that are airtime-free and the Skype number is one of these. The downside is that we are continuing to pay for a US cellular plan that we aren’t using. If we had better planned ahead we could have “ported” our cellular numbers to Google Voice, which could forward those calls to Skype for free, and we could have then suspended the cellular plans. Oh well. I'm also the guy paying $10/month for Tanya's old email address from an ISP we haven't used in (best guess) 11 years.
The Skype number costs $18 for 3 months. Calls to it can be answered anywhere in the world with a Skype “phone”, which is generally an Internet-connected computer, though other devices do exist. We usually have Internet access to some degree. I use it for work, we use it for email, news, weather, etc. But since we are often hitting Wi-Fi hotspots that are miles away it is seldom good enough for Skype, and we have never been fans of VoIP to begin with. Local cellular networks offer better call quality and greater coverage area, so we bought a Bahamian SIM card for $15 and forwarded the Skype number to that.
The Bahamas is one of those places where the caller pays for calls to mobile phones, so the phone only incurs costs when we make local calls from it. But since we’re forwarding from Skype, we are the caller, and have to pay an international rate to boot. Fortunately, this is what Skype does best and the rate is only 24¢/min. Further, Skype has subscriptions that let you buy a block of minutes at a lower rate. A block of 400 minutes to the Bahamas is only $14/month which drops the rate to 3.5¢/min.
Outgoing calls to the US are a little trickier. Skype doesn’t currently have any facilities that would let us call the US cheap without using VoIP, and we certainly didn’t want to dial internationally from our Bahamas cell phone. Initially we would call using Skype and struggle through the first few minutes of the call before asking the person to call us back. Google, however, has a nifty callback feature that helps out here. We can initiate a call via Google Voice on either the website or through an app on my US cell phone. Google first calls us, then calls our party and connects us. An Internet connection is required in either case, so we can’t initiate calls from remote areas.
We expect that this strategy will work equally well in other countries.