How would you like to call anywhere in the US or Canada, at any time, for any duration, for absolutely free? Believe it or not, you can!
Skype (subsidiary of eBay) is a very popular (and until now, almost exclusively the territory of geekdom the world over) phone service that consists of a piece of software that is installed on a computer, to which you connect a telephone or headset, and then use as you would any standard home telephone. The service runs on VoIP technology and is very similar to that offered by Vonage, Packet8, Lingo, and others.
Skype has been around for ages, offering Skype-to-Skype calls anywhere in the world, free of charge. They also offer Skype-to-standard telephone (landline or cell) calls, originating in the US, to any US or Canadian number for about two cents per minute. Rates for Skype-to-international calls are also remarkably inexpensive. A call originating from the US to Sydney Australia, for example, runs $0.021 a minute. At that rate someone in New York can call a friend in Sydney, talk for an hour, and only spend a whopping $1.26. What’s even better than the price is the fact that since the service is IP based, you can take it with you wherever you go. Suppose you and your spouse both have Skype accounts and you’re off to Poland for a conference. You can still have that Skype-to-Skype telephone call for as long as your hearts desire, for absolutely nothing.
What I like about this service, however, is the lack of a monthly contract. Instead, the service is offered on a pay-as-you-go basis, which truly makes alternative phone service a viable option, not only for folks who make a lot of long distance calls, but even for the folks who don’t.
So where does the big FREE that I opened with come in to play? Well, in an effort to reach a wider audience, Skype has announced that they are offering 100% free calling within the US and Canada through the end of 2006. This means that the $0.02 charge that is normally applied to Skype-to-standard telephone calls, will not be applied.
One other interesting note, is there will soon be an option to use this service without a computer. For many, the computer dependence is a big problem. The idea of giving up your traditional landline, in exchange for having to be tethered to your computer, isn’t an attractive exchange. Later this year, Creative (the same folks who make Sound Blaster cards) is planning to release a phone that will plug directly into your Broadband router, which will free you from that dependence and will make Skype and your traditional phone user experience, virtually indistinguishable.