Best free conference call services in 2020
Is a free conference call service right for your small business? If so, which one? Let’s break down the top seven free web conferencing providers in the UK
As the old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. But, as it turns out, there is such a thing as free web conferencing.
Sure, it’s no long-term solution. And let us be the ones to break it to you – we don’t recommend free web conferencing to anyone but the very smallest of businesses. Free conference call services limit the amount of calls you can make, the length of those calls, and the number of participants that can be involved.
Yet still… they’re free. And, particularly with everything that’s going on right now, there’s a lot to be said for that.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at our top seven free web conferencing services for UK businesses. You can also skip to our FAQs, or – if you’re short on time – compare quotes with us now.
What is the best free conference call service 2020 has to offer?
Let's have a look at our top 7 free web conference services ranked:
Rounding out the rest of our list is Google Meets (formerly Hangout Meets), Zoom, Skype, FreeConference, and PowWowNow.
We've ranked each supplier, based on our own ratings out of 5. These scores are based on a blend of research, comparative analysis, and user testing. When assessing each supplier, we took into consideration each provider's cost to upgrade, ease of use, features, customer support, and the limitations on storage and call participants imposed.
Learn even more about how we chose our favourite free web conferencing providers below.
As we mentioned before (and as you’ll find out as you keep reading), free web conferencing comes at a cost. Not monetary, sure – but when it comes to features, call duration, and the number of participants you can invite, you don’t have much wriggle room.
Unless, of course, you choose PGi GlobalMeet.
With unlimited video meetings for up to 125 participants (the most generous limit for video meetings we came across), PGi GlobalMeet really does offer something for nothing. Screen sharing, call recording, and online support are all included free, as is seamless integration with your Outlook calendar and Microsoft’s own web conferencing solution, Teams.
Better still, PGi GlobalMeet doesn’t make it expensive to upgrade. £9 per user, per month gets you 24/7 phone, email, and chat support. You’ll also benefit from file presentation and storage, plus the ability to customise your web conferencing solution with your logo, and stay on top of things through an admin portal.
An £18 per user, per month plan buys you access to 20 international markets for dial-out and toll-free calls.
If any company should be applauded for its reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s Cisco. Not only is it committing $225 million (£184,500,000) to combating the spread of the virus, but Cisco has also increased the limits of its free conference call service, Webex, for the next few months.
Meetings that were capped at 40 minutes are now unlimited, and up to 100 participants are allowed (up from 50). Cisco has also done away with restrictions on the number of calls you can make on its free plan, while adding file and whiteboard sharing options to its desktop and app-based offerings.
The catch? This offer will run out (although Cisco hasn’t yet said when). You’ll also have to upgrade to get more storage, access 24/7 customer support, and to unlock Webex’s call recording capabilities (with Skype and Zoom, recording is included).
Even without this limited time offer, Cisco Webex is still a free conference call service with plenty of benefits. And, if you’re willing to shell out for some of Cisco’s best in class video conferencing equipment, you’re looking at a powerful, industry-leading remote work set up.
Just as Teams gave Microsoft fans something to celebrate, Meet offers a ray of light for the Google enthusiasts out there. Once a part of Google Plus (remember that?), Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) became a stand-alone product in 2013, and completed its rebrand in 2020.
Semantics aside, Meet is a dependable choice when it comes to free video conferencing software. Its sound and video quality aren’t winning any awards, nor is its connectivity – particularly when it comes to meetings with multiple participants.
There’s also another caveat – while Google Meet is always free for consumers, it’s only free for businesses until the end of September 2020. After that, it’ll cost you $10 (£8.20) per user, per month, as part of Google’s ‘G Suite Essentials’ package for businesses.
Yet, it’s also being part of that G Suite that gives Google Meet its key selling point. Meet offers seamless synergy with your G Calendar and Gmail, which – providing your business already relies on Google’s software suite – offers undeniable convenience.
Zoom’s fortunes of late have been mixed.
On the one hand, COVID-19-imposed restrictions have seen Zoom’s daily user base balloon from 10 million to over 300 million in just half a year. Yet Zoom has also spent the last few months lurching from one crisis to the next, with a spate of ‘zoombombings’ exposing the flaws in its privacy settings.
Yet when you look past the media storm, Zoom’s free plan has a lot to offer. With whiteboarding, screen sharing, breakout rooms, and call recording all included as standard – not to mention unlimited calls – it’s as powerful as some paid tools.
If there’s an Achilles Heel here, though, it’s the stingy 40 minute time limit Zoom imposes on all calls you make through it. You’ll also have to pay to invite more call participants, unlock more cloud storage capacity, and benefit from Zoom’s tasty video webinar hosting capabilities.
Do you already use web conferencing software?
Skype has been facilitating video conferencing since… well, before video conferencing was ever really a thing. It’s hardly surprising, then, that Skype’s seasoned software delivers a service on par with the best – despite costing nothing at all.
Skype’s video call quality is excellent, while screen sharing, messaging, and call recording features are all thrown into the bargain. Better still, Skype boasts compatibility with Amazon Alexa, while its lack of a hefty (or any!) price tag allows you to wave goodbye to the bulk of your calling costs.
That said, Skype suffers from the same limitations most free tools do – primarily by restricting the amount of users you can have making calls. Though that just about rules Skype out for larger SMEs, it might just fit the bill for businesses fresh out of the blocks.
Want to learn more about Skype, and how it stacks up against big rival Zoom? Check out our Zoom vs Skype comparison, where we weigh up each provider's features, pricing, customer support, and more.
FreeConference does just about what it says on the tin. Free video conference calls for businesses… what’s not to like?
With screen sharing, meeting summaries, and scheduling tools all included (plus up to 100 audio participants), FreeConference will tick all the boxes for businesses on a shoestring. There are no limits on call volume or duration, either, while the software even supports private meeting rooms (unlike a few other conferencing tools available gratis).
As with most other free web conferencing services, though, that’s where the features end. You’ll also have to make do with a maximum of five video participants – one of the stingiest limits of all the free conference call services we reviewed.
Upgrading to FreeConference’s cheapest plan gets you 15 web participants, plus auto-transcription and meeting lock features. You’ll also receive audio call recording, though video calls are only available with the next plan up ($24.99 per month).
For hosting free calls with multiple members of your team at the same time, PowWowNow is a solid option.
Unlike Zoom, you’ll get unlimited talk time, while PowWowNow’s lack of limits on call participants blows all the competition out of the water. You’ll even get calls to 54 international numbers thrown in – though service fees are applicable to the host.
That said, you’ll be making a few sacrifices. PowWowNow isn’t particularly user-friendly, and (unlike Skype) you’ll have to download an app before you can get started. And, though its desktop version supports video chats, its mobile app doesn't.
However, PowWowNow is currently offering a free 60-day trial of its ‘Pro' service, which includes up to 20 video call guests and unlimited call participants. You'll enjoy recording, screen sharing, chat, and post-meeting summaries for two months, free, with a fee of just £10 per month thereafter.
How we selected the best free conference call services for small businesses
Cost to upgrade
As your business grows, you’ll want a conference call solution that does that same. Basically, you’ll need to upgrade – whether that’s for more features, more storage, or the flexibility to host longer, larger calls.
The providers here aren’t only free – they also all offer the option to upgrade for a relatively low cost, and with ease.
Call participant limit
Even if you’re sticking with just the free version for now, you’ll still need web conferencing software that can accommodate the size of your team.
In other words, you’ll need a system that offers enough call participants. Most free solutions on this list offer at least 50 (some up to 100), so we’ve got you covered here.
Ease of use
Even free tools aren’t valuable if you don’t know how to use them. All the free conference call services above are simple to set up, and even more straightforward to get the hang of.
If what we’re saying about this software’s user-friendliness holds true, you shouldn’t need any customer support. But if you do, you’ll want it to be decent.
And, by and large, it will be – all the providers on this list offer sufficient web-based customer service. However, you get what you pay for… and you’ll almost certainly need to upgrade to a paid plan to receive support from a real person, or get round the clock service.
Find the best free conference call service for your business
As with many things, choosing the right conference call for your business comes down to where your priorities lie. If making international calls is at the top of your list, pick Skype or PowWowNow. Cisco Webex and Zoom are the most feature-rich solutions, while Meet is, of course, best for Google-dependent businesses.
Your priorities should also come into play when deciding whether or not to use a free conference call service at all. Remember, all of these options impose some kind of limits on the service you’ll receive – whether that’s call duration, participants, or features.
As a good introduction to the world of web conferencing, they’re great – and they’ll certainly help you get to grips with the software, and decide whether it’s something you’ll require long-term. But free web conferencing services won’t scale with you, and pretty soon, you’ll want to look at a system that will.
That’s where we can help.
Click on the microphone to answer a few questions about the kind of business communication tool you’re looking to implement. You’ll then receive quotes from leading web conferencing software suppliers, who’ll be able to offer services and advice tailored to your business’ needs. It takes just 30 seconds, and it’s free.
Free conference call service FAQs
What is the best conference call app?
From our own testing, we found Google Meet to have the best mobile app for conference calls. Easy to use and aesthetically pleasant, Google Meet just edged out second-favourite Skype; this has the most dynamic interface, and combines calling with file sharing and instant messaging.
Does Google have free conference calling?
It does, although its one hour limit on call duration and maximum of 100 participants means that this version is targeted more at individuals, rather than businesses.
Google Meet’s paid plan (G Suite Essentials) vastly expands these limits, and adds 24/7 customer support. It’s free until September 30th, 2020.
Jump to: Google Meet Review
Is Zoom really free?
It is, to an extent. Calls on free Zoom plans are limited to 40 minutes, with a maximum of 100 participants allowed. Once you’re signed up to Zoom, you’ll be able to increase the number of system users and data storage allowance by upgrading to a paid plan.
Jump to: Zoom review