Would you pay to receive a phone call from me?

In a follow up to my post the other day on Jahjah, I spoke to Greg Spector, Chief Marketing Officer of Rebtel today and he explained Rebtel’s model to me in great detail.

There are a number of differences between the two services, the main one being Jahjah requires a software download to work on your mobile. Rebtel has no such requirement.

In essence, what you do with Rebtel’s service is register your numbers (mobile, landline, etc.) on their site, register the numbers of people you want to contact who are living abroad, Rebtel then generates local numbers for you and your contacts. You call your contact and instruct them to hang up and call you back on the local number you just appeared to call them from – then Rebtel connects the two local calls at no charge (other than the $1 per month you pay Rebtel and the local call charges).

The biggest issue I see with this service is, as I pointed out in the title of this post, why would anyone want to pay to receive a call from me? The cost may be minimal, but it takes a hell of a cheek to call someone and tell them to call you back. Unless you know they desperately want to hear from you or they are close enough family that they don’t mind paying for calls from you.

This model may not present problems in the US where people with mobile phones already pay to receive phone calls and have large voice plans for very little outlay (Cingular, for example, on its Nation 900 w/Rollover plan offers 900 minutes per month for $59.99) so effectively they have free outgoing calls.

Compare that to the situation in Europe where on my Vodafone plan, for instance, I pay €49 per month and get 200 minutes. In a situation where I don’t pay to receive calls and outgoing calls are expensive, it takes a bit of neck to ring someone and ask them to call you back even on a local number, unless you know them very well.

5 thoughts on “Would you pay to receive a phone call from me?”

  1. You reminded me of something that happened to me several years ago. A “friend” sent me a text asking me to ring him. Thinking that he was low on credit, or in some horrible situation that he couldn’t make a call I rang him. What was wrong? Nothing, he wanted my advice on buying a PC.
    Haven’t seen him in years since I introduced him to his girlfriend…

  2. I think the basic problem with this business model is explained in your third paragraph Tom.

    “In essence, what you do with Rebtel’s service is register your numbers (mobile, landline, etc.) on their site, register the numbers of people you want to contact who are living abroad, Rebtel then generates local numbers for you and your contacts. You call your contact and instruct them to hang up and call you back on the local number you just appeared to call them from – then Rebtel connects the two local calls at no charge (other than the $1 per month you pay Rebtel and the local call charges).”

    I’m still explaining the basics of Google to my mother, so to introduce this to an end-user with low IT skills would be a total nightmare. There are too many steps that assume a certain level of competence with telecoms and IT. When I call family or friends from the UK to Ireland, they expect a conversation, not a challenge. If Rebtel could drop two steps from their model, or modify it to allow for people to use familiar numbers (they’re all unique, it can’t be that hard?) then that could be a winner.

    As it stands, its too much for a mass audience.

  3. As you and I discussed — it’s your choice to ask your friend to call back. If you do, all you pay is for the local calls. If you don’t you pay a tiny per-minute fee — 2 cents a minute from Stockholm to the U.S., for example. But it’s your call.

  4. Greg, you are absolutely correct and thanks for pointing that out. However, the US is a special case in terms of call charges.

    In the Spanish model we discussed on the phone, if I call my Spanish friends’ mobile and I don’t ask my friends to call me back, then I pay for the local call at this end and I pay Rebtel 22c per minute for their end.

    This isn’t a significant saving over existing models.

  5. Tom,

    The cost with RebOut, ie. when you don’t ask the other person to call you back, depends on your local call rate and the country you are calling to. The savings in this case can still be significant, particularly when you are calling from a mobile phone.

    I live in Europe; if I’m calling a mobile number in Japan or Austrialia from my mobile, for example, I would pay about 0.20 euro for the local call plus 0.20 euro to Rebtel, compared to the 1.05 euro per minute rate of my mobile operator. A 60% saving!

    To me the real disadvantage of the service is the limited amount of numbers you can call and having to provide them in advance.

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