In a world that is getting smaller by the day thanks to the great leaps being made in global telecommunications technology, the race to bring the cheapest possible international phone calls to the marketplace is intensifying. Currently, leading the race to bring cheap calls to Australia, China and the rest of the world to customers in the UK is Skype.
Released in 2003, Skype started out as a simple way for people to make voice calls over the Internet. The advent of smartphones and Android technology means that Skype has now made its way onto mobile handsets such as the new Samsung Galaxy Ace and HTC Gratia which has brought the cost of cheap calls to Pakistan, Brazil and beyond plummeting down in the UK.
Skype offers its customers completely free Skype-to-Skype calls anywhere in the world, but the money-making arm of the company is Skype Credit, which allows mobile users to top up a credit account or subscribe monthly to get fantastically low call rates. Cheap calls to India via Skype can be made for as little as 1.65p per minute for example.
Going head-to-head with Skype is the Internet behemoth, Google. The free, web-based email service Gmail now allows users to make calls to land lines and mobiles. Customers in the United States can make free calls within the US and Canada, while calls to the UK, France, China and Germany cost just two cents per minute.
The cheap international call service is expected to be rolled out in Europe in 2011, bringing further competition to the wide range of companies already offering cheap calls.Google faces a battle to gain market share from Skype. Such is the popularity of Skype’s service, the company’s name, much like Google’s, has been turned into a verb. Just as people now say they are “going to Google it” when about to search on the web, they also refer to “Skyping each other” when talking about getting in touch. Whether Gmail will be able to differentiate its telephone service enough to win some customers from Skype, which boasts over 8 million paying users and over 550 users in total, remains to be seen.
A range of other telephone companies are entering the market for cheap international calls, having taken advantage of the advances in mobile and broadband technology in recent years. The difficulty facing people in the UK looking to make cheap calls to Australia, India or wherever they wish is not finding cheap rates – it is choosing between the huge range of operators who are all offering very reasonably priced services.