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5 steps to create a VoIP-based calling card business

5 steps to create a VoIP-based calling card business

Starting a calling card business provides a great opportunity for those who have the drive and know-how to make it work. We’ll give you a 5-step overview of what it takes to create your own calling card business from scratch using open source platforms like A2Billing™ and Asterisk™ PBX.

Prepaid calling cards provide callers a cheaper way to make long distance calls. To make a phone call using calling card, customers dial a local access number or dials a toll-free number which gives them access to a provider’s phone card system which authenticates the caller and terminates the call to their desired destination. Today, VoIP (voice over IP) is the preferred method of terminating calling card calls due to the tremendous cost savings.

Starting a calling card business provides a great opportunity for those who have the drive and know-how to make it work. We’ll give you a 5-step overview of what it takes to create your own calling card business from scratch using open source platforms like A2Billing™ and Asterisk™ PBX.

Step 1: Prepaid Billing/VoIP Server

One of the most important pieces needed to build a calling card company is the prepaid billing and VoIP server. A prepaid VoIP platform typically combines the features of a VoIP switch and an inline billing and call control server. The VoIP switching functionality handles the call routing, call control, and SIP trunking. There are several paid and open source (free) versions available depending on your requirements and technical aptitude. One of the most commonly used open source platforms that are designed specifically for prepaid calling cards is A2Billing™ (www.asterisk2billing.org). A2Billing is free and open source software for Asterisk™ (from Digium Inc.) that is designed specifically for the deployment of prepaid calling cards as it includes flexible inline rating and billing of calls in real time with the ability to disconnect calls based on available credit. Deploying A2Billing requires a little bit of technical ability, but is pretty straightforward as there are plenty of setup guides and installation instructions available online. Commercial installation and support are also available from Star2Billing (www.star2billing.com).

Step 2: Hardware or Hosted?

Another decision you’ll have to make is to manage your own servers (in-house) or go hosted (cloud). With a cloud solution, all the hardware management is handled by the service provider. In contrast, an on-premise (hardware) solution requires that you install and maintain the servers yourself. On-premise gives you more control but requires far more hands-on attention. Keep in mind, that if you choose to manage your own hardware, you absolutely must put great thought into redundancy, backups, and PBX security (see 11 Steps to Secure Your Asterisk PBX). Hosting your servers allows you to concentrate on your business, rather than your network.

Step 3: Processes and procedures

After you have your prepaid billing server up and running, you’ll want to take some time and create processes and procedures for account tracking, card pin generation, usage fees, card registration, and management of expired cards. If you plan to distribute physical calling cards, you’ll also need to hire a company that specializes in card printing services.

Step 4: Select a VoIP Origination Carrier

Once your calling card server and software is set up and secure, you’ll need to purchase phone numbers from a SIP origination carrier or DID number provider that will allow your calling card users to call into your server. When selecting a phone number you basically have two choices, toll-free phone numbers or local access phone numbers (DIDs). A toll-free phone number provides nationwide access to your server. However, while the cost of the incoming call is free to your cardholders, the toll-free inbound call actually costs you a couple of cents per minute. In contrast, a local DID (or direct inward dial phone number) gives your cardholder a local number in their city that they can dial into for free. Best of all, it typically doesn’t cost you (the card provider) anything per minute. The one catch is that you will have to purchase a number and calling capacity (SIP lines) in each local calling area you service. DIDs offer the largest overall cost savings while toll-free numbers provide the largest coverage area for your callers. Typically, here at IPComms, our customers choose a mixture of both local origination (IPDID) and toll-free origination (IP800) numbers. Pushing their users to use the local numbers, but making a toll-free number available if all else fails.

Step 5: Select an Outbound VoIP Carrier

Now that your callers can dial (be it local or toll-free) into your calling card server (whether it is open-source or commercial), and that is safe and secure (be it on-premise or hosted), you’ll now need to be able to terminate their call to their desired destination. This is where an outbound SIP trunking carrier comes into play. Once the caller reaches your server, they will dial a destination. Your system will need a connection to a SIP trunking provider who will be able to terminate those call to their required destination at reasonable wholesale prices. You may even choose to have multiple outbound SIP trunking providers that will allow you to complete the call to the cheapest route.

Once you’ve completed these five steps, the real work begins - marketing and selling your cards to your customers. Calling cards can be sold and distributed virtually anywhere. You can even take them globally by simply purchasing international DDI’s. Sell calling cards in any region or regions you choose.

 

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Written by : ipcomms