Primus has two new phone plans, Passport Easy 50 Countries and Lingo 50 Countries, that offer "unlimited" calls to international numbers in 50 countries. Are they good value? We've crunched the numbers and checked the conditions.
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Passport Easy 50 Countries is available as a $25 per month add-on for customers who already have a Primus home phone connection. Lingo 50 Countries offers the same service but doesn't require the Primus account, but costs $39.95 a month. You'll also need Primus' dedicated VOIP conversion box, which costs $111.95 if you're not signed up for a contract. You can see a list of the supported countries on the Primus site (most of Europe, the USA and large chunks of Asia are covered).
So what's the catch? Firstly, you're using a VOIP-based service rather than conventional landlines. That's invariably true when it comes to bargain calling providers — the same applies to cheap calling cards — but it could prove a nuisance in practice if you can't get a good connection to the numbers you ring regularly.
You also need a decent-speed broadband connection in the first place; Primus recommends a minimum of 512/128Kbps. Data used for the service isn't counted against your broadband allocation if that connection is through Primus, but will be otherwise. You'd have to do an awful lot of talking for that to be a problem on most reasonable broadband plans, but it's something to consider if you're on a super-cheap monthly broadband plan with a small cap.)
Finally, and again like most other similar products. the free calling option only applies when ringing landlines in the applicable countries. If you need to get in touch with people on mobiles (which is, let's face it, a very likely option these days), you'll still have to pay full calling rates.
So from that point of view, it comes down to simple maths. If you're spending more than $40 a month on international calls to landlines and don't want to spend so much time stressing over the length of the calls, it could be a good option, though I'd go for the no-commitment contract option. If your spend isn't near that level, sticking to existing cheaper options (Skype, using your mobile credit, or calling cards) might make more sense.