Since the EU has stepped in prices for mobile phone calls to and from the home country of a subscriber while traveling have fallen to (almost) usable levels. A nice move for people like me who travel a lot. But prices for calling from one country to another are still very high, even with a local SIM card. The same is true when you want to call a friend in another country (who has a SIM card of that country) while you are mobile. This is where Rebtel comes in.
Rebtel’s idea is based on the fact that national mobile calls are usually a lot cheaper than international calls. So instead of calling an international number you create a ‘national’ number in Rebtel which then forwards your call to the person in the other country. An example: You are in Germany, have a prepaid SIM card and want to call somebody in Austria. If you do it directly, this will cost you around 1.5-2 Euros a minute. The alternative is Rebtel. Once registered you can use their web page or their mobile site to create a local number for your friend abroad. Calling that number costs around 5-15 cents in countries where competition among mobile operators is healthy. Rebtel then charges around 2 cents to connect to a landline or around 14 cents (VAT included) to a mobile number.
The method also works the other way round. You can give your friend a local Austrian number he/she can call for little money which then connects to your mobile in the other country. Rebtel charges you for the incoming mobile call (again around 14 cents a minute, depending on the country of course).
And the best is that the local numbers follow you! Rebtel allows you to configure up to 5 different mobile phone numbers. When you go to another country, say Italy, and you have a local SIM card you can switch to that SIM card in Rebtel. All contacts you have created will then automatically get an Italian local number. In case you use the local SIM card for Internet access things are very easy since the contacts on the mobile web page which you can access from the mobile phone are automatically updated to the Italian numbers.
I’ve given it a try over the last couple of weeks and have to say that I am very happy with the service. It works most of the time (o.k. it’s still beta) and voice quality is usually excellent. The only negative thing I can really report is that a connection is established even if the other end is not available or does not pick up. Consequently you always have to pay the local mobile operator for the first minute. This aside, however, Rebtel has saved me tons of money already.