Skype Launches VoIP to Phones

SkypeOut has launched, allowing subscribers to make cheap calls to phones around the world. Customers sign up for an account and pre-pay for voice minutes. Accounts can be topped up with between US$12 (€9.85) and US$62 (€51).

The cost of calls depends on where the subscriber is and where the call ends, but are generally considerably cheaper. Calls between Skype clients are still free, of course.

The Skype client runs on the subscriber’s computer (and a Linux version is avaialble) and for best results needs a broadband internet connection.

Skype’s 17 million downloads make it quite a force in the communications world, yet it doesn’t need massive amounts of infrastructure to be able to offer a service to its customers as the customer provides uses their own hardware and internet connection.

As Michael Powell, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, said to Fortune Magazine this year: “I knew it was over when I downloaded Skype,” “When the inventors of KaZaA are distributing for free a little program that you can use to talk to anybody else, and the quality is fantastic, and it’s free – it’s over. The world will change now inevitably.”


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?