In spite of the recent pricing announcements, Skype has always been known for its free Skype-to-Skype calls. This not only covers calls between two parties who are simply using Skype but also to those parties in a conference call who are on Skype. And international borders do not exist for these calls.
Seems like the larger telcos and cablecos are starting to catch on:
Andy at VoIP Watch reports on AT&T’s announcement of Unity, a plan where any AT&T cellular customer can call any AT&T landline customer without incurring additional usage fees or using their wireless minutes. This extends AT&T’s program for its wireless customers who apparently can already call each other free. Andy makes the bigger point:
For all the VC’s and investors who thought the idea of minute stealing and the prospect of millions of customers flocking to cheaper calling by VoIP services like Packet 8 and Vonage making their investments the next Amazon, Google, Yahoo, eBay or even Microsoft what may be their worst possible nightmare is now unfolding before their eyes.
To quote AT&T’s press release:
The AT&T UnitySM plan, which is available beginning Sunday, Jan. 21, brings together home, business and wireless calling, creating a calling community of more than 100 million AT&T wireless and wireline phone numbers.
At home here in Canada, Rogers, which has dominate cable and wireless services within the Canadian consumer market, is starting down a similar path with its Home Phone service. From their website:
With My Home Connections, Rogers Home Phone customers get FREE Long Distance calling to all Rogers Home Phone or Rogers Wireless customers, anywhere in Canada. Talk for as long as you want, whenever you want without any Long Distance charges.
Call over 5 million people for FREE!
When it comes to long distance to non-Rogers (Bell Canada and Telus) customers within Canada or to the U.S., Skype’s North American plan still wins out at C$17.50 per year vs Rogers C$19.95 per month. More justification for those USB dual phone products, such as the VoIPvoice UConnect and RTX Dual Phone, as well as the PC-Free dual phones that were announced at CES to be entering the market. Now if Rogers could just figure out how to make calls amongst their wireless customers across Canada free!
However, overall, combined with 3 Group’s new X-Series services in the U.K., it appears that Skype’s concept of creating calling communities is becoming infectious. But Skype remains the only fully featured voice service with a truly international calling community of any significant size.
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