Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hatin' on 0844

So, last month the university residence people here (Heriot-Watt) upgraded the phone system to a VOIP carrier with much cheaper rates. However, they neglected one thing: they didn't check to see if international incoming calls worked. I can't receive calls from Canada. Apparently, according to the tech support guy, and some information held on the second page of a googling, not all service providers in all countries allow calls to 0844 numbers in the UK. Carriers of particular to note: ones in Canada and Australia. Hm. Crap.

Now this may seem surprising at first, but this is more common that it seems. No UK service provider I have have had access to seems to allow me to call 1-800/866/etc numbers in North America. Presumably, this is because they can't collect their money for the collect calls. Apparently if I call the international operator I can do the 1-800 calls but at great expense to the receiver. If they accept the call. But what chance is there of that on the computer automated system on my bank. So I make due by paying the cost out of my own pocket the few times I've needed to call.

But back to the 0844 issue... what possible reason is there not to allow a call to such a number? And who's problem is it? Is it my new UK service provider (Freewire)? Or is it my girlfriend's calling-card company and my parents provider (Telus)? Or is it all Canadian carriers? Or is it the UK phone system? Or is it my university's residence manager who decided to change to the cheaper system without proper due diligence? From my perspective, even though my call rate is cheaper, the service provided to me is technically worse.

Every provider I've emailed has either not got back to me, or just said that the problem is with the provider in the other country. Can this seriously be a problem that hasn't been widely considered int he telephone-o-sphere?? Seriously?


Kathleen Duncan said...

Hey! Right, so I have a few suggestions for you that may/may not help.
1. Re: 1-800 issue. I can call these numbers from my mobile - I just dial 001-800-rest-of-number and presto, I am through. It says it'll charge me at local rates (or something), but it never amounts to very much. This may be because I have a really cheap plan or because it is actually free. I haven't solved that one yet, but there you go.

2. Re: 0844 numbers. Sometimes they have local equivalents (e.g. 0131 in our case) which can be used instead and will still come through on the same line. Try calling whoever is in charge of your number (the university maybe?) and seeing if there is such a number that exists. If not, is there another number they can call and be transferred through? It's a pain the butt, but it's better than nothing.

3. Worst case scenario - join the wonderful world of skype. It's free (well sort of, as you already have an internet connection) and you can see each other too.

I hope some of this will help!

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