Do free conference calls mean scrimping with tin cans and pieces of string? Or are there high quality, reliable options (that are genuinely free to use)? This post examines the best free conference call services for UK participants.
Truly free conference calls
Over the last few years many conference calling services in the UK have marketed themselves as ‘free’ – offering a simple call-in service where no payment details are taken from the conference organiser, and participants only pay for the cost of their phone call.
However, some services can lead to extreme bill shock when it comes to paying your network provider for the phone call itself.
“Roll up, roll up, get your free conference calls! We won’t charge you a penny!” A common claim, but what’s the catch?
Many businesses and organisations are extremely sceptical about ‘free’ teleconferencing – and for good reason. Not all conference call services are made equal. But if you know what to look for, you can certainly make conference calls for little (even zero) cost.
Here’s some clarification…
When it comes to ‘free’ conferencing services many can be used without any upfront cost or subscription charge. There’s often no sign-up fee or payment for setting up and scheduling your conference call. But, when the time comes to dial in, you need to be careful about the phone number you’re provided with.
It’s often the phone number you dial when accessing the conference call that you need to worry about.
- 0800 and 0808 numbers – Are free to call from UK phone networks.
- 03 numbers – Are usually free to call because they’re included in any bundled minutes you have on your phone contract. If you don’t have any minutes, you’ll only ever pay your standard network rate.
- 084 and 087 business rate numbers – Carry two charges. A service charge and an access charge. The service charge is set by the telephone conference provider, and the access charge is set my your phone network. Together these form your per minute rate – which can be very high, especially from mobiles.
- Mobile shortcodes – Carry a flat charge and are designed as a cheaper alternative to calling 084/087 numbers from mobile phones. However, shortcodes are not included in mobile contract minutes like 03 numbers.
Which is the best free conference call service?
We’ve compared some key features of some of the most popular providers so you can explore your options. Many of these providers market themselves as ‘free’ but as you can see, the real costs vary dramatically when you compare like with like…
*Information up to date as of Aug 2020. Page originally published Jun 2018.
|Service||Free to set up?||Free to call?||Dial-in number||Features||Trustpilot score|
|WHYPAY?||Yes||Yes (if you have bundled minutes) or charged at your standard rate if not.||033||Calendar integration, call recording, scheduling, speed dial, moderator controls, custom branding.||4.8/5|
|Con-Flab||Yes||Yes (from mobiles with minutes available).
No from landlines – Access and Service charges apply.
|03 / 0843||Calendar integration, call recording, moderator controls.||N/A|
|Conferencecall.co.uk||Yes||No – Service charge and Access charges apply.||0843 / 83000||Calendar intergration, call recording, muting controls.||4.8/5|
|ConferenceNow (.co.uk)||Yes||No – Service charge and Access charges apply.||0844 / 8545505 (mobile short code)||Calendar integration, moderator controls.||N/A|
|Powwownow||Yes||No – Service charge and Access charges apply.||0844 / 87373 (mobile short code)||Calendar integration, call recording, moderator controls.||3.3/5|
As we can see, the numbers provided by different conferencing platforms vary, and this causes great variation in the cost of using the facility.
Although the set-up process is almost always free the charges you see on your phone bill will differ depending on which teleconference provider you go with.
We couldn’t find any ‘free’ conference call facilities which included a free-phone 0800 number for accessing the conference. This is because free-phone dial-in numbers would cost too much to provide for free. They would need to be included in some kind of subscription plan or per-minute pricing.
03 is the way to go
03 numbers on the other hand are provided by some platforms including WHYPAY? and Con-Flab, and these offer the best bang for your buck as most UK callers have some kind of minutes package provided by their phone network. These conference call facilities are the best option for anyone looking for free UK conference calls.
084 numbers are probably the most common type of UK conferencing number, however these are never free to call. From mobiles, the access charges for calling 084 numbers can be extremely high and can result in very high per minute charges.
Calling from your mobile?
Avoid 084/087 conference numbers like the plague!
Just look at the access charges for calling an 084/087 conferencing line from the UK’s most popular mobile networks – and remember the access charge is only part of the full per minute rate. You’ll also pay the service charge too which is set by the conference provider.
|Mobile network||Access Charge for 084, 087, 09, and 118 numbers (pence per minute)|
*Information taken from mobile providers’ websites in August 2020
As mentioned, some conference call services provide mobile shortcodes as an alternative to dialling the supplied 084/087 number from a mobile phone, but even mobile shortcodes can’t beat 03 numbers, because they are always charged, and are not included in phone contract minutes.
Generally, 03 is the way to go – but check customer reviews and find out the features included before choosing your conference call provider.
One of the best ways to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to conference call providers is to look at genuine customer reviews. At WHYPAY? we’re proud of our reputation for excellent support, value for money and conference call quality. We think our reviews speak for themselves.
Audio conferencing vs video / web conferencing
Simple telephone conference calls are trusted as the most reliable, user-friendly and accessible way to hold a virtual meeting, but many situations call for more than an audio experience.
If you need a more visual conferencing experience – including video calls, screen sharing – you might be wondering which conference call software is the best choice. Take a look at this review so you know what to look for: