Skype Lowering Prices, Unveiling Group V-Chat

Once Skype becomes reliable enough and the quality is consistent enough — it’s getting pretty close — it will begin to eat into carrier voice revenues. I don’t have the most recent data but it must be destroying international long distance. As of the end of last year, Skype had well over 500 million users globally.

The company today revealed cheaper and more flexible calling plans:

Starting tomorrow, Skype is rolling out calling plans to more than 170 countries that provide customers with a savings of up to 60 percent compared to Skype’s standard Pay As You Go rates.

Customers will also have more choice with subscription plans available in 60-minute to unlimited packages, and the ability to buy 1-month, 3-month and 12-month calling subscriptions.

Skype’s range of subscriptions start from as little as €0.89* ($1.09/£.69) per month and offer effective rates as low as €0.01 ($.01/£.01) per minute to almost any destination around the globe.

Basically you can now get an unlimited calling plan for the US and Canada (landlines and mobiles) for $36 per year. That’s effectively the cost of one month of domestic landline service from AT&T with no long distance.

The only thing that keeps people from defecting from traditional carriers is the quality issue (and/or their lack of awareness). And with more WiFi and soon WiMax/LTE coverage people may feel increasingly confident about considering not subscribing to a mobile voice plan.

T-Mobile in the US now has data only and AT&T’s iPad plans are data only as well. My iPad and iPod Touch devices are both phones using Skype. The separation of data from voice subscriptions means that voice revenues will decline over time. The barrier for Skype adoption on mobile devices is reliability and quality.

Skype is also unveiling a group video chat capability next week that will be free at first but cost money over time. Depending on the quality of that service the question needs to be asked: why would you pay for dedicated screens or expensive video conferencing functionality — ever again?