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Facebook Gives Free Voice Calls a Trial Run in Canada 98

Posted by timothy
from the just-being-friendly dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this nice news (for Canadians) snipped from CBC: "Facebook has chosen Canadian users to be guinea pigs for a new mobile feature to make free phone calls. Facebook's new Messenger app for Apple mobile devices enables voice-over-Internet protocol phone calls, which use data instead of eating into the minutes in a mobile plan."
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Facebook Gives Free Voice Calls a Trial Run in Canada

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  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:45PM (#42484453) Homepage Journal

    Does Facebook even have any sense of direction towards monetizing their platform? They seem to keep grasping at straws, though in this case I'm not sure where they see revenue coming from. I certainly wouldn't use a VoIP service provided by them.

    • by gagol (583737)
      I for one would not be upset at all if/when Facebook fails. Another thing to consider: is your data plan advantageous? I tried VOIP on android over wifi once, it was terrible... almost unusable. With ideas like this, I am amazed FB is still in business.
      • by blitzd (613596)

        I for one would not be upset at all if/when Facebook fails. Another thing to consider: is your data plan advantageous? I tried VOIP on android over wifi once, it was terrible... almost unusable. With ideas like this, I am amazed FB is still in business.

        They're certainly proving they are NOT too big to fail. Grasping at straws lately.

        • You need to give this time. The trial here in Canada is just to get the technology working fairly reliably.

          Next, when they expand it to the US, say hello to blackmail.

          Or as Facebook will put it, pre-authorized publication of your phone call, at Facebooks discretion, where you can alter the discretion by making voluntary monthly payments that vary with the content of your call.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Not to mention that they'll digitally analyse your conversation and insert ads while you're talking.
            - people are talking about their drunk friend who passed out on the couch.
            - FoneBook sees an add opportunity
            - the callers are interrupted by an ad:
            "Did you know that Levitz is offering free deliveries on all couches purchased before Jan 11th? Just enter #FBLevitzCouchnCarry17 in the coupon code on the Levitz Facebook page and Like their page, and you'll be redirected to the Levitz couch specials webpage where

            • Facebook could offer blowjobs and it wouldn't make me want to use it more. Their entire purpose it to get you to disgorge the most intimate details of your life to...a giant corporation. Zuck can take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.

      • by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish.infoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @11:07PM (#42484595)

        I use my Android phone+wifi+SkypeOut to ring my folks' landline phones in the States all the time (I live in Sweden), and it works great. Skype video is not as good as when using my laptop with a wired connection, but it does work.

        The tech is not the problem. The problems are twofold:

        1. That space is already well populated (e.g. Skype).

        2. US users in particular are going to get gouged deeply if they try to use mobile data to save on POTS/LDD charges.

        Also, I understand that some major US providers block Skype, which means they'll probably block this as well.

        • Also, I understand that some major US providers block Skype, which means they'll probably block this as well.

          Um, first time I've heard of this - which do?

        • by ciotog (1098035)

          1. That space is already well populated (e.g. Skype).

          One data point isn't well populated :P

          There's also Dell Voice [dellvoice.ca] and Google Voice [mobilesyrup.com] might be coming soon, but I imagine that Facebook is piggybacking on Vonage Mobile [vonagemobile.com] to beat Google.

          I think there's plenty of space in the market.

          • There might be room for some bit players, sure. But I think Skype (and FaceTime, which I should have mentioned earlier) are already 800-lb. gorillas.

            • by ciotog (1098035)
              That's what they say about all the landline ILECs as well, but luckily there are enough CLECs who disagree and provide choice in the marketplace, driving costs down. Of course phone service is still over-priced in North America, because of the influence of the gorillas.

              Calling small, competing companies "bit players" is a bit disdainful.

        • by Zemran (3101)

          I take out a Skype subscription when I am away for phone calls. You cannot beat their price but for video you should should try Oovoo. It is not popular yet but the quality is a lot better than Skype. Oovoo do not charge for group video chat either like Skype do. I have Google Voice, Skype and Oovoo (and Yahoo and MSN) and Oovoo is by far the best. Google are often cheapest for phone calls if you do not have a current subscription with Skype. Skype are getting worse now. I had thought that M$ were ru

        • by crossmr (957846)

          Unfortunately due to Skype's idiocy we still can't get skype-in numbers in Canada. Despite the Canadian Pension plan being an investor in Skype. They keep whinging about E911 regulations, but other VOIP companies don't seem to have any trouble getting around that.

          I use skype out as well, but I'd kill to have a nice skype in number that was actually served up by skype. originally when I bought a package from them it included a free skype-in number, but it was useless.

          • by crossmr (957846)

            Obviously skype got mod points.
            It's easy to check:
            1-Many companies large and small offer dial-in numbers to tie into VOIP services in Canada
            2-Skype has Skype-in in many countries, Canada is not one of them
            3-The Canadian Pension Plan is an investor in Skype (try a google news search)
            4-Searching skype-in Canada shows forum posts, blog posts, new stories in print news papers going back years and years about this and the same stock answer from Skype being trotted out each time despite it being complete and utte

        • 2. US users in particular are going to get gouged deeply if they try to use mobile data to save on POTS/LDD charges.

          That's going to happen in Canada, too. Most people who have a cell phone with enough data where this would actually be feasible to use it as a cell phone (instead of on wifi) have enough local minutes that it wouldn't really serve any point at all. My own plan, for example, has effectively unlimited minutes because it's unmetered from 5pm-8am and I rarely, if ever, use it while I'm at work.

          You *might* be able to use it to save on domestic long distance because the 3 major carriers don't include domestic lon

          • ... but how many people make international calls on their cell phone?

            Come to Europe, and you'll find lots of people who do. Many of them don't even have landlines.

            (Yes, I am one of these.)

        • 1. That space is already well populated (e.g. Skype).

          Facebook uses skypes for calls actually. It was announced time ago, and MS and facebook are buddies.
          Also, the Skype logo appears on facebook's videochat page:
          https://www.facebook.com/videocalling/ [facebook.com]

      • by Auroch (1403671)

        I tried VOIP on android over wifi once, it was terrible... almost unusable.

        I believe you're lacking adequate data points. I've tried it several times and found that the quality of the call is directly related to the quality of the connection.

        • by ls671 (1122017)

          Exactly, it works fine with your dedicated or other not congested WiFi router. You may as well forget about it in busy hotspots.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        I for one would not be upset at all if/when Facebook fails. Another thing to consider: is your data plan advantageous? I tried VOIP on android over wifi once, it was terrible... almost unusable. With ideas like this, I am amazed FB is still in business.

        I don't know that i've ever tried it over wifi, but i've used Skype over 3G to the UK (from Australia) and it was clearer than a regular mobile call.

        • I don't know that i've ever tried it over wifi, but i've used Skype over 3G to the UK (from Australia) and it was clearer than a regular mobile call.

          I'll have to try that next time I'm there. When I try to use 3G for Skype here in Stockholm, the quality's terrible and the calls invariably get disconnected after 2-3 minutes. (I suspect skulduggery by Telenor, but have no way to prove this.)

        • by Zemran (3101)

          A lot of people have this strange idea that regular phone calls still go down wires to other countries but they do not. For decades the phone companies have been economising by routing all international calls over the internet.

      • by Zemran (3101)

        I think that Facebook is like the modern day version of AOL. It has a collection of things in one place for those that are not computer literate to use easily. It does nothing well but it tries to do everything. My son wants to chat with me on FB and I tell him, switch to Skype but he finds FB easier??? I cannot understand this but I see it a lot (please, I am not saying Skype is the best, just better than FB). People now use FB instead of email but it only works with FB users (like AOL) and they can c

      • I for one would not be upset at all if/when Facebook fails. Another thing to consider: is your data plan advantageous? I tried VOIP on android over wifi once, it was terrible... almost unusable. With ideas like this, I am amazed FB is still in business.

        I use VoIP from my cellphone all the time (SIPDroid on a Samsung Captivate Glide connecting to my Asterisk server). It works extremely well over both Wifi and 3G using the Speex codec. Using my (PAYG) mobile data to make calls from my landline is certainly a lot cheaper than paying per-minute charges, although the main advantage is that it ties in with my home and office phone numbers so I can get those calls wherever I am without messing about with call redirects.

        I did try this many years ago when I firs

    • Since Skype is already available on Android and iOS, and brought with it a sizable existing customer base and mindshare built up over some years,... Yep, it's gonna be uphill all the way.

      • by Auroch (1403671)

        Since Skype is already available on Android and iOS, and brought with it a sizable existing customer base and mindshare built up over some years,..

        Yes, but this is "Mom" friendly. And (un)fortunately, I already see many 12-and-13 year old kids using cell phones (paid by their parents) before they've learned cell phone etiquette. Now they don't need either a plan or software/VoIP knowhow - just a wifi connection.

        This might be news, but I'm not convinced this is progress.

        • Now they don't need either a plan or software/VoIP knowhow - just a wifi connection.

          But this is not a new thing at all--my 9-y-o daughter proved perfectly capable of installing and using Skype all by herself on her PC.. (And while I like to think she's remarkable, I realise that she's not THAT remarkable.)

    • by Auroch (1403671)

      Does Facebook even have any sense of direction towards monetizing their platform?

      Facebook (unlike many other products) has focused on delivering a scalable platform and pleasing user experience. While the web has been around for awhile, there is no standardized business plan for social media. Each "successful" platform has grown (or not) based on a unique combination.

      I'm happy with their attempts to monetize - especially considering the more obnoxious attempts are easily ignored with adblock and/or noscript.

    • by dos4who (564592)
      What they will get out of this is your biometric voice samples. Right now, if the go'vt wants to track (spy on) you and you don't have a sample already in their database, they have to go through various sources to see who you are. ie. Pix from Facebook and voice samples from either Google (voice) or Apple (Siri). This way, FB can offer up themselves as a one-stop-shop for any 3-letter homeland-security agency wanting to track you via video (pictures to run against video tracking) or audio (a verified voi
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:45PM (#42484457)

    Data plans are just so mch cheaper than minutes.

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      You jest, but for a lot of people, data is a lot cheaper than voice minutes. I chose my current low end plan ($20/month) has only a relatively small number of minutes (since I'm not a heavy phone user) but 1.5 GB of data per month. 1.5 GB is LOT of VoIP time. I make Skype or Facetime voice calls from my phone far more often than I make actual phone network calls.

      Not only that I can bolt on additional gigs of data for just $5 or $10 extra a month, which gets me a lot more than a $5/$10 more expensive voice p

      • Re:That'll be great (Score:4, Informative)

        by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @11:45PM (#42484805) Homepage

        You jest, but for a lot of people, data is a lot cheaper than voice minutes.

        Where is this mystical plan in Canada? Last I looked, and that was recently it didn't matter what plan it was. At all levels the screw over level was so high, that you were getting so badly fucked that you might as well go looking for a pay phone(we still have those in Canada).

        • $10/month for unlimited web browsing.

          Combined with a bit of expertise, this is effectively unlimited data.

        • by Maow (620678)

          You jest, but for a lot of people, data is a lot cheaper than voice minutes.

          Where is this mystical plan in Canada? Last I looked, and that was recently it didn't matter what plan it was. At all levels the screw over level was so high, that you were getting so badly fucked that you might as well go looking for a pay phone(we still have those in Canada).

          Well, it just finished but will be back, but Wind just had a $40 / m unlimited talk & SMS (both North-America-wide), unlimited MMS, global SMS, voice mail, call display, conference calling, call waiting, and data (throttled after 5 GB).

          That's the plan I'm on but the recently expired Unlimited Wish plan also included World Dialing Package: global dialing from 1c / minute. 2c / minute to Hong Kong.

          So, not sure if that's a "cheap" data plan, but hard to beat. And, when my ISP failed for 9 days prior to x

        • by mirix (1649853)

          you might as well go looking for a pay phone(we still have those in Canada).

          Not around my parts... They're vanishing at a pretty fast rate. I can't really think of the last ones I've seen, other than at airports, maybe a couple at malls. Convenience stores seem to have lost theirs, by large.

        • You can do it with Koodo, but it works out to a little more than he's claiming... $20/mo for the base plan, yes, but then you have to add on the data usage on the flex data plan, and that adds another $20/mo for 1GB or $30/mo for 3GB. At the end of the day, you'd be better off just buying their $50/mo unlimited minutes plan (local & long distance, call display, voicemail and SMS/MMS included) rather than futzing around with VOIP, and if you want data for other stuff, spend the extra $6/mo to get 2GB of

        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          Sorry, I was responding to the general assertion that data plans are more pricey than minutes, saying that it's not true for everyone. But in case it wasn't clear, I didn't mean Canada specifically. I'm in Australia, FWIW.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        You jest, but for a lot of people, data is a lot cheaper than voice minutes. I chose my current low end plan ($20/month) has only a relatively small number of minutes (since I'm not a heavy phone user) but 1.5 GB of data per month. 1.5 GB is LOT of VoIP time. I make Skype or Facetime voice calls from my phone far more often than I make actual phone network calls.

        This is Canada. Where $50 gets you a 2GB/month plan unless you buy your phone when the next iPhone is released, where carriers will offer you 3GB f

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Point of fact, some service providers provide 'FREE' access to certain social platforms, Facebook amongst them, so yes, this could be quite a lot cheaper. Of course, wait up people, this is bloody Facebook we are talking privacy invasive psychopaths extraordinaire, seriously do you want them listening and recording your phone calls and using computers to analyse the content for future the manipulation of you and your callers.

    • by ADRA (37398)

      There are a LARGE number of unlimited (practically) plans here, that even on some top tier carriers it may be cheaper for internet calls than voice.

    • by Zemran (3101)

      My neighbours wifi is much cheaper than minutes...

    • Data plans are just so mch cheaper than minutes.

      Well, yes... they are.

      My PAYG plan gives me 150MB "free" (expires after 45 days) every time I credit my balance with £5, and I can buy a 2GB bundle (expires after 30 days) with that £5 credit. Out-of-bundle data is 31p/MB (obviously you'd be nuts to use this). Voice calls are 26p/minute. This basically means that if I were to use the phone for nothing but data, I'd essentially get as much bandwidth as I need for £5 every 30-75 days (depending on how quickly I eat up the "free" 150MB - i

      • Data is nowhere near that cheap in Canada, though... a quick check reveals that the big 3 providers price it at $25/mo for 500MB. One of them has a $30/mo for 1GB price point as well. That's on their prepaid plans.

        By contrast, my post-paid cell plan has unmetered minutes from 5pm-8am, 250 daytime minutes, unlimited incoming minutes, unlimited long distance, call display/voicemail/international SMS included, and 6GB of data for $60/mo. If you work normal business hours (which I do), that 5pm unlimited minute

    • In Argentina, most plans have unlimited data.
      I'd say we're better than the US, except that speeds are so bad that voice calls are but a remote dream. Heck, our speeds are about as fast as a 56k connection.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      I know you're just trying to be funny, however if you do most of your calling while at home, and you have wifi... Then it could be something that is worthwhile. Of course it also depends on how well it works, and how easy it is to use also. However I do see it as limited, as for when you are not on a wifi, and on your cell data plan, you are right, it doesn't make a lot of sense right now. However if cell plans change over the next several years (ya I know, ya right!)...

  • What's the catch? Nothing really is free...

    • ... or at least the catch would be obvious here in the U.S.!

      Mobile data costs so much more than phone minutes these days, people probably won't save anything.
      • by balise (82851)

        Yes Jane. In Canada it is even worse. This is not even a headline.

      • by DogDude (805747)
        No way. I'm an an unlimited everything plan (Sprint). I couldn't care less which I use. Lots of people have unlimited everything plans.

        The catch is data mining, of course. They'll be mined the same way Google mines email.
        • by AaronMK (1375465)

          Does that unlimited plan include international calling? Voice over data can be much more cost effective for that, even without unlimited data. I have gotten good performance even with mobile networks on both ends.

          Also, there are apps for that with better track records on user privacy than Facebook.

      • by Auroch (1403671)

        Mobile data costs so much more than phone minutes these days, people probably won't save anything.

        While this might be an attempt to troll the canadian population regarding the high price of mobile communications, I'm quite happy with my $40/month unlimited nation-wide calling and data. It's not free, but it's quite reasonable.

        Although, why I'd need VoIP when I've already got unlimited minutes and decent coverage, I can't imagine ...

        • International minutes, maybe? But given a choice between "free" with Facebook and calling card rates, I'll take the calling card.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        ... or at least the catch would be obvious here in the U.S.!

        Mobile data costs so much more than phone minutes these days, people probably won't save anything.

        In Australia we typically pay flagfall + cost per minute (or part thereof) for mobile calls. Sometimes it's per 30 seconds (or part thereof). Data charges are exactly what you use, so for short calls the data charges are probably cheaper. Is the US anything like that?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Like Skype, Yahoo, AIM, FaceTime with different options- its the next level of tracking and lock in.
      You dont exit the walled garden to another app/back to the OS.
      The value of your contacts list becomes more real to advertisers as you are making 'calls' to friends/family.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      What's the catch? Nothing really is free...

      It's Facebook.

      Hmmm, free phone service combined with Facebook privacy protections... what could possibly go wrong?

    • by mvar (1386987)
      I'm so concerned about my personal data & privacy that anything comes from the likes of facebook, google etc and is marked as "free service" is a no-thanks
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Between data and minutes on cell phone plans, data has become the more scarce/expensive resource. Why would I want to use my data for phone calls when I don't have to?

    Can they flip it around? I'd like to use my (otherwise vastly under-utilized) minutes for internet access.

    • by AaronMK (1375465)
      Dial-up access... there is an app for that.
      • by fa2k (881632)

        Dial-up access... there is an app for that.

        I couldn't find one in the Google store though. Would be interesting if you could bring up a PPP dial-up connection on the phone, but on the other hand I'm happy that nobody have wasted their making it. And I suspect it would require root.

  • by koan (80826)

    What better way to take a voice sample to go along with your facial data, geographic data, political leanings, buying habits and what ever other banalities people they need to "share".

  • My God will this be annoying. Canada has the worst rates when it comes to data. 6GB often costs $40+ ON TOP of a required minutes plan of some form. Most of the time people are getting 1-2gb and many (like myself) have only 250mb.

    VOIP over mobile here is way to expensive to be economical. This will only be useful in a wif-fi area.

    • by ADRA (37398)

      Switch to Wind/Mobilicity if you have good coverage in your area. Sometimes plans come as low as $25/mo for unlimnited EVERYTHING. I got mine for $40 and it has unlimited US/canada calling, data, tether, voice mail, unlimited text, unlimited data and I can walk away whenever I want to. The 'catch' is that they don't subsidize the phones, but I find this an advantage.

      • by Maow (620678)

        Switch to Wind/Mobilicity if you have good coverage in your area. Sometimes plans come as low as $25/mo for unlimnited EVERYTHING. I got mine for $40 and it has unlimited US/canada calling, data, tether, voice mail, unlimited text, unlimited data and I can walk away whenever I want to. The 'catch' is that they don't subsidize the phones, but I find this an advantage.

        Gotta agree 100% with this, except that they do subsidize their phones: you can have up to $500 on a tab (WindTab), where they reduce the outstanding amount each month by 10% of your air-time bill.

        After 36 months, they wipe the balance off the tab. For my HTC Amaze, I paid $99, put $450 on a tab, and after 36 months ($144 "paid" off as 10% of my $40/m bill), they will wipe the balance to $0.00.

        Unbeatable.

    • My God will this be annoying. Canada has the worst rates when it comes to data. 6GB often costs $40+ ON TOP of a required minutes plan of some form. Most of the time people are getting 1-2gb and many (like myself) have only 250mb.

      VOIP over mobile here is way to expensive to be economical. This will only be useful in a wif-fi area.

      I think you overestimate the amount of data VoIP uses. Full duplex 11Kbps Speex is going to top out at 165KB/minute (probably lower since its VBR), so thats 1552 minutes of talktime in your 250MB...

  • Given the general anathema towards privacy expressed by Facebook corporate leadership, there is no way I would use a service such as this. Will Facebook deliver targeted ads based on listening to phone conversations? Fuck that! This could be a way for law enforcement to circumvent whatever weak eavesdropping protections still exist.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can see FB phone calls be attractive to people who already use Viber because that will make no difference in the amount of uncontrolled intercept they are exposed to (I have to give Viber credit here, when you ask them they don't sell you any BS - they directly tell you there is no encryption involved in their data transport).

    However, if you handle any kind of personal or confidential information (for instance, if you run a business) you may be barred from using this by law so I'd be very, very careful.

    Pe

  • ...is that this could be the "killer app" that makes Fecesbook indispensible. I am their ultimate hater, but I think I see what they're trying to do. Imagine if they made realtime "free" Fecesbook the "new phone". Right now there some people without cellphones, and some without landlines, but almost nobody without at least one phone number (landline or cell). Today you can still call people via their phone number.

    Imagine a future where "free" Fecesbook voice service kills off phone companies as we know them

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