Skype is a software program that now delivers almost 25% of the world’s international calling minutes. Skype has become a brand name, and even a verb, associated with making free or low cost calls over the Internet.
Personal calls to keep in touch with families spread out around the world; business calls to build and sustain a business operation with employees, suppliers and/or customers across continents and oceans.
Skype has become the world’s leading real time communications service; over 170 million people used Skype in the first quarter of 2011. Skype supports free voice, text and video conversations amongst Skype users worldwide, whether on PC’s, mobile smartphones and tablets or other devices such as Internet-enabled TV sets .
Skype overcomes geographical barriers while facilitating romances, overcoming natural disasters, building collaborative business teams and enhancing business productivity. Skype video calling resulted in the mass adoption of the video calling concept first demonstrated in AT&T’s exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair; today video is used in over 35% of Skype calls.
In addition Skype supports low cost voice calls to conventional landline and mobile phones worldwide as well as sending SMS messages. For a small per-minute charge plus a connection fee you can call landlines (and mobile phones in Canada, U.S., China, Hong Kong and Singapore) in over 170 countries. Calling Plan Subscriptions are available for calling to as many as 42 countries. In 26 countries you can obtain an “Online” number such that friends and customers can call you from a standard landline or mobile phone.
In some ways, think of Skype as an “uber” telephone service that allows you to make calls worldwide independently of carriers. All you need is either:
- a broadband Internet connection and one of a (Windows, Mac or Linux) PC, a PC-Free Skype phone or a Skype-enabled TV, or
- a WiFi or 3G/4G wireless connection and one of several Skype-enabled wireless devices, including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, that are configured to provide Skype access.
Skype calls can also be made to/from many mobile phones. A carrier-agnostic Skype client is available for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android phones and Nokia phones. A carrier-specific Skype service is available on certain models of Android and BlackBerry phones offered by Verizon in the U.S. and 3 in six European countries, Hong Kong and Australia.
Recently Skype has also become available on Internet-enabled models of Samsung, Panasonic, Sony and Vizio TV sets as well as Panasonic and Sony BluRay players.
And, a key to Skype’s wide adoption and acceptance: Skype calls can be made between any Skype-enabled platform such as from a mobile smartphone to a TV set. Or from a Mac PC to a Windows PC. Or between an iPhone and an Android phone. Or between an iPhone and a Windows PC.
More About Skype
Skype has also overcome many technical challenges that have lead to its reputation for high quality voice and video conversations. Some unique features of Skype communications software include:
- A SILK technology that provides crystal clear voice conversations between Skype-enabled devices. More about HD Voice….
- Echo cancellation ensures a PC’s speakers don’t “echo” back into its mic during a call. More here…
- Skype Video Calling: with the appropriate webcam and Internet connection, have a real life video call experience: More about High Quality Video and HD Video calling
- Security – ensures only you and your conversation parties participate in your conversations.
Skype, Landlines and Mobiles
While calls to other Skype users are free worldwide, Skype offers several services for connecting with PSTN numbers worldwide as well as a basic voice mail service (more details):
- Skype Online Numbers: provides a personal online phone number via which users can call your Skype account from any phone; available for 25 countries
- SkypeOut: allows you to make outbound calls to PSTN numbers worldwide. Rates per minute vary by country
- Skype’s Calling Plan Subscriptions provide flat rate calling to phones (i) within your home country code, (ii) within your continent or (iii) worldwide, with discounts on SkypeIn numbers as well as free voice mail and call transfer.
- SMS Messaging: send an SMS message anywhere worldwide
Skype for Business
Skype also forms the basis for several business services that either enhance the Skype feature set or support communications enhanced business processes (CEBP) such as collaboration, conferencing, and customer relationship management. One of these services provides a “fax anywhere, anytime” capability that is especially useful for road warriors.
Downloads of the Skype client for your particular devices or PC along with more complete information and pricing are available at the Skype Website.
HD Voice (High Definition Voice): Skype has always been associated with providing excellent voice quality. Skype’s HD Voice results in a much clearer and crisper conversation, especially between parties who are on Skype itself. If you use a stereo headset you would say the other party is almost “in your head”. Voice quality is reduced when making a SkypeOut call to a PSTN landline or, even worse, to a mobile device due to limitations imposed by the audio infrastructure design parameters of the PSTN and mobile networks. More about HD Voice….
Echo cancellation: Audio systems, such as included in a PC, that involve a microphone and speakers may cause the microphone to pick up the audio from the speakers and send it back to the originator; this annoying and distractive behavior is called “echo”. When using a PC this issue was originally addressed by requiring a headset where the “speakers” are directly attached to the head in a way such that the headset’s microphone does not pick up the conversation coming out of the speakers. Skype has not only developed “echo cancellation” techniques that eliminate the need for a headset or phone handset to avoid this echo but also taken measures to reduce background noise. More ….
Skype Security: Skype is not only unique for its ability to provide free calls amongst Skype users but also for the level of security it provides during conversations. With an ability to traverse firewalls and routers in a highly secure manner, both Skype voice calls and Skype chat messages are encrypted to prevent unauthorized access while traversing the Internet. Additional measures have been taken to authenticate users in establishing a call. Users themselves have the ability to limit who may contact them (from anybody on Skype through to only your authorized contacts). More on security….