How to set up a foreign phone number for your mobile phone

July 7th, 2012

Skype’s “Online Number” service allows you to link a phone number in a different country with your UK-based mobile phone.

If you want to make it easier for your friends or relatives in a different country to get in touch with you or if you’re looking to give your business a more professional presence in a different country, Skype’s “Online Number” service is a great way to get a foreign phone number which patches through to your current UK-based mobile phone. There are no additional charges to receive phone calls – you just need to pay a monthly fee of £3.35. To set it all up, you’ll need a 3G-capable smartphone that runs the Skype mobile application. You’ll also need to be a customer of Three, O2 or giffgaff – the networks that allow Skype to be used over 3G.

Skype’s Online Number service costs £11.50 for 3 months or £40.25 for 12 months. This works out as £3.83/month if you’re paying on a quarterly basis or £3.35/month if you’re paying on an annual basis. Incoming calls on your foreign number are included in this price providing you are using the Skype mobile application to receive them. If you are receiving them through a redirection, additional charges will apply.

How does ‘Online Number’ work?

Skype is a internet-based telephony service from Microsoft. Although it’s best known for its PC application that provides free Skype-to-Skype calls, Skype can also be an incredibly powerful tool for liberating your mobile phone when used in the right way.

This tip makes use of two advanced Skype features. The first is the Skype “Online Number” service which assigns a phone number in the country of your choice to your Skype account. Any phone calls to this number will be patched through to your Skype account. The second advanced feature that we use is the Skype mobile application. This allows you to receive Skype calls on your mobile phone.

The combination of these two advanced Skype features gives you a cost-effective way to receive calls on a foreign phone number using your UK-based mobile phone. It should cost no more than £3.35/month to add a foreign phone number to your smartphone, providing you sign up for 12 months.

Will I still be able to receive calls on my UK number if I set this up?

Yes. You will continue to receive calls on your UK mobile number in the normal way. Calls to your foreign number are connected using the Skype mobile application. This does not affect your UK mobile tariff or mobile service.

What countries can I get a phone number in?

‘Online Numbers’ are available in most European countries.

You can get a Skype Online Number in any of the following countries: Australia, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In most countries, a selection of different geographical area codes are offered. Note that some countries impose additional restrictions on the purchase of Online Numbers. For example, South Korean phone numbers are only available to residents of South Korea. Whilst South Koreans can use our trick to receive calls on their phone number regardless of where they are in the world, British residents would not be able to register a Korean phone number using this method. Most countries including the United States do not have any restrictions on who can purchase a number in that country.

Do I need to have a smartphone and 3G?

For this approach to be cost-effective, you’ll need to have a 3G capable smartphone that is capable of running the Skype mobile application. The Skype mobile application is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone platforms. You can download the relevant application from the Skype website.

If you do not have a smartphone which is capable of running the Skype application, it is still possible to use your mobile phone to receive phone calls on a foreign number. However, you’ll need to make use of Skype’s ‘Call Forwarding’ feature – simply set it up to forward all phone calls to your UK mobile number. It costs 1.6p/minute to forward a call to a UK landline and 17.1p/minute to forward a call to a UK mobile number. Be aware that charges can add up quickly using this method – receiving 100 minutes worth of phone calls on a foreign number would cost you £17.10 in call redirection fees. This would be in addition to the fixed monthly fee for your ‘Online Number’. For this reason, we recommend using a 3G-enabled smartphone and the Skype application whenever possible.

Which UK networks allow Skype calls to be placed over 3G?

In the UK, customers of Three, O2 and giffgaff are permitted to use Skype over a 3G connection. It may be possible to do this on other networks too, but it may be in breach of your mobile operator’s terms of use agreement. See our detailed guide to using Skype on your smartphone for more information on which networks permit Skype usage over 3G.

If you are likely to receive phone calls on your foreign number on a regular basis, we recommend opting for giffgaff. Giffgaff’s £10/month goodybag will give you 250 UK minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet (unlimited data is ideal for receiving your Skype calls). Combining giffgaff’s unlimited internet with Skype’s mobile application and the Skype ‘Online Number’ service, you should never run into any additional charges for using your foreign number. We’ve got a detailed review of giffgaff or you can grab a free SIM card here.

What happens if I lose 3G connectivity on my phone?

Unlike a normal phone call, Skype phone calls require data connectivity. This means that you will require a data plan and a stable 3G connection in order to receive phone calls on your foreign number. You can also receive calls over your home wi-fi network. If you regularly lose 3G coverage on your phone and often fall back onto 2G coverage, you may experience a large number of missed and dropped calls when using your foreign number and Skype.

One way of receiving Skype calls without 3G coverage is to set up Call Forwarding on your Skype account. Any calls that don’t make it through to your mobile due to lack of data connectivity will automatically be forwarded to your mobile phone as a standard voice call (which will also work over 2G and without a data connection). You’ll need to pay Skype a fee for any calls that are forwarded in this method – it costs 1.6p/minute to forward a call to a landline and 17.1p/minute to forward a call to a mobile phone.

Where can I get a Skype Online Number?

You can get an Online Number from the Skype website.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. davemack said:

    Does this new Skype service provide a means by which UK users can now set up and use Google Voice?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Dave,

      I do not believe it is possible to use Google Voice with this method… I believe they assign you a new number and you need to be US-based?

      Ken

  2. jTemplar said:

    You say "You’ll also need to be a customer of Three, O2 and giffgaff" however I'm sure you mean 'You’ll also need to be a customer of Three, O2 or giffgaff' ;-)

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks for the heads up jTemplar – it's just me that has a SIM card on every single network I think ;-)

      Ken

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