Skype Offers Unlimited Calling Plan

Skype, EBay’s Internet phone service, today announced an
unlimited calling plan for SkypeOut users. The new option comes as a
year-long free
period nears an end.

Details of the flat-rate annual plan for calls within the U.S. and Canada
include a $14.95 introductory rate until Jan. 31, 2007. After that, Skype
unlimited calling costs $29.95.

Skype-to-Skype calls remain free and calls outside of the U.S. and Canada
are 2.1 cents per minute.

As part of the introductory offer, subscribers to the new flat rate SkypeOut
plan receive credits for international calls, plus a $50 discount on
Skype-certified hardware. In November, Skype announced the latest
handset enabling users of the Internet calling service to untether
themselves from a PC.

“We want to give Skype customers convenient options for choosing either an
unlimited calling plan with a flat annual rate and or staying with our
pay-per-minute offering,” Don Albert, Skype’s North America general manager,

Skype said as a result of its year-long promotion of SkypeOut, usage, number
of subscribers and revenue figures all increased.

In North America, the number of SkypeOut users tripled to 11.9 million, a 122 percent increase compared to 2005. Worldwide, Skype reports 136 million registered users.

Subscription rates weren’t the only figure boosted by the free SkypeOut
promotion. Worldwide revenue for the Luxembourg-based Skype was around $195
million, three times the IP voice company’s 2005 income.

As reported in November, analysts have expressed
over Skype’s numbers. Though SkypeOut subscribers have tripled, the company didn’t release numbers, which IDC analyst Will Stofega said could be used as a benchmark of Skype’s success.

And though there is an increase in subscribers, mass-market adoption for Skype isn’t here yet, said Yankee Group VoIP analyst Jennifer Simpson.
Simpson said Skype’s gains in subscribers will likely come at the price of
Vonage , which she said is having trouble retaining users.

When the free SkypeOut period expires, there will be an upswing in
PC-to-PC calls, which will remain free. “PC-to-PC people are very
price-conscious,” according to the analyst.

Skype could continue the increase in international calls if it offered
a service allowing cell phone users to place free calls. However, because of
the tight control demanded by mobile carriers, such an option is not on the
horizon, Simpson said.

Online auctioneer EBay paid $2.6 billion in 2005 to acquire Skype.

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