FREE PHONE TRENDS

skype_logoWe got six wrong numbers in a row yesterday, when people calling a Mrs. Reese were automatically rerouted to our landline. AT&T told us that problem was fixed now, but when we tried calling the mysterious Mrs. Reese from another phone, it still rang our number. Meanwhile, no one is able to call us.

If you’re also tired of paying for this kind of non-service, rest assured: you’re not alone. The number of people who use Skype, which lets you make free phone calls as long as you have an Internet connection, is growing. Skype’s share of international calling minutes climbed to 12 percent in 2009, compared with 8 percent in 2008, according to the research firm TeleGeography.

New data from TeleGeography also show that the growth of international telephone traffic has slowed slightly, while Skype’s growth has accelerated. Over the past 25 years, international call volume from telephones has grown at a compounded annual rate of 15 percent. But in the past two years, international telephone traffic growth has slowed to only 8 percent.

The Internet and its consequent ability to permit free phone calling has completely changed the telephone business. Cell phone now accounts for most local calls.  AT&T, America’s oldest phone company, said recently that it wants to get out of the “landline” business. Landlines refer to the copper wiring that connects older telephones to large switching systems that physically transfer calls between numbers. This used to be done by actual operators seated at switchboards and you can see this sometimes in old movies. It’s too expensive now.

The deep recession has had a marked impact on many routes. Traffic to Mexico, the world’s largest calling destination, declined 4 percent in 2008, and aggregate traffic to Central America has declined 5 percent. You can get more information about Skype and sign up at Skype.com. By the way, you can also make Internet phone calls with Apple’s new iPad.

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