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Skype Offers Unmetered Worldwide Calling Plans

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eBay's Skype service has launched a new set of rates for unmetered regional and worldwide calling through its SkypeOut system that allows you to call "real" telephone numbers. Skype is associated with Internet telephony, but has full support for incoming calls that originate on and outgoing calls that terminate on the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN).

The new service extends Skype's flat-rate U.S. and Canada calling plan - which costs $2.95 per month - to landlines in 34 countries. These 34 countries are typical of other VoIP calling plans; those countries also currently feature among the lowest per-minute call rates when paying Skype by the minute. For $9.95 per month, you can make unmetered calls to landlines in all those countries.

Calls to landlines in three cities in Mexico - Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara - is $5.95 per month, with "discounted rates" to landlines and cell phones everywhere else in the country.

Skype oddly doesn't yet include its per-country pricing on its main subscription page; they show these prices only in a press release denominated in euros. Unmetered calling to landlines in a single choice of 20 European nations costs about $3.50 per month, or to landlines in any one of the 14 other countries for about $5.95 per month. Unmetered calling to all 20 European nations is about $5.95 per month. There are special offerings for Asia and Brazil, too.

These plans are comparable to offerings that are part of existing Internet telephone services such as Vonage, but Skype has unbundled them from other voice service requirements. My office "landline," for instance, is a VoIP service that runs about $30 per month from Speakeasy Networks (now part of Best Buy) that includes unmetered calls to a similar set of 30-odd countries' landlines, but it cannot be purchased as a separate plan.

Cellular carriers are excluded from unmetered service outside the United States and Canada, because operators in most countries typically charge ruinous rates even within the same country for calls that start on a landline or VoIP system (which uses landline interchanges) and are placed to a cellular caller.

You may note I use the term "unmetered" instead of Skype's preferred use of "unlimited" with an asterisk. The footnote for this service says that unlimited means a "fair use" of no more than 10,000 minutes per month. That would not be unlimited. Verizon Wireless settled a complaint over the misleading use of the term unlimited with the New York Attorney General's office in 2007 in conjunction with its cellular broadband service. The company rightly no longer uses that term, and has a well-written explanation of limitations, too.

Use of Skype requires the installation of a free client for Mac OS X, Windows, and other platforms, or the use of Skype-enabled VoIP phones or software installed on mobile phones that allow third-party VoIP applications for Wi-Fi-based calls.


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