Friday, May 29, 2009

More on Staying in Touch


In an earlier post I talked about how much easier it is to be in touch with home than it was in the days before email when phone calls were expensive. The mechanics of keeping in touch depend on the base, but here are my preferred methods.
1. SKYPE. Skype is an internet phone service that allows video to video communication with other Skype users as well as direct dial to land line and cell phones. It costs about $100 per year for unlimited Skype to Skype calls whether video or not. I don't use the video very often here because we have limited internet bandwidth and the video eats up all the bandwidth I have--and then some. But the voice to voice is pretty reliable and effectively free. I have called all over America and Europe (from Germany to San Diego) in the three week we have been here for about $10 in phone service charges. Most of the calls are free. The average is a penny or two per minute. I call from my room, so it's convenient and fairly reliable.
2. Every base here has trailers (CHUs) with a dozen phones on each wall. These AT&T calling centers allow phonecard and credit card calls to America. The phone card can be as low as 20 cents per minute. The great thing about the AT&T phones is they are clear and reliable. When I really want to talk without interruption or repeating words, I walk over to the AT&T call center. Also, AT&T cards make great gifts for soldiers--they work everywhere and are cheap and fast to mail--just in case you were looking to buy a soldier a gift.
3. There are call centers with free phones on post, computer centers that have a 4-cent-per minute internet phone service called SPAWAR, that you can use from call centers. The free phones are time limited and go away without warning. I haven't tried SPAWAR because I am happy with Skype.