Skype overhauls VoIP offerings

Skype is fiddling with its VoIP offerings. The Internet telephony outfit has introduced a monthly subscription service which kicks off at just 69p a month and introduced video conferencing for up to five people at once.

The firm reckons users can save up to 60 per cent compared to the pay-as-you-go model it currently operates. That'd be if you managed to use your monthly allowance exactly. How likely is that? More likely is that you'll pay for minutes you'll never use, just like on your mobile phone.

"Skype's new monthly subscriptions lower the cost of international calling and make it simple to choose the plan that best meets your needs," trumpeted Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype's Consumer Business Unit. "People around the world can now have the simplicity and flexibility to call almost any phone in the world for less," he flannelled.

Skype has also introduced a video-conferencing service that allows more than two users to gang together in one big naked online fest. Or maybe they'll be wearing suits and talking about serious stuff. Yawn.

The group chat service will allow up to five people to video conference at the same time. The service will be offered as a free trial, when it launches next week. Thereafter, you'll pay a fee to use it.

Despite the moves, Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype's consumer business reckons: "The service will remain free for years to come but [we] will look into expanding its paid premium services, including paid subscription plans, group video calls and pay-as-you-go Internet Wi-Fi access".

Skype will also launch pay plans for users making calls to mobile and landlines abroad. The service will initially be available in 170 countries worldwide.

"That feature particularly targets those who make calls into developing nations, where the cost of making calls through traditional carriers can still be quite high", said Stevens.