NEW YORK – The Internet phone service Skype is introducing new domestic calling plans for 24 countries, plus Hong Kong, where users will pay a monthly subscription and a connection fee but no per-minute charges.
The monthly fees for the new Skype Pro plans have not yet been finalized, but they were expected to be set at less than 5 euros, or about $6.50, an executive told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The per-call connection fee for Skype Pro calls within a given country to a regular phone or mobile device within that same country will be 3.9 euro cents, or roughly 5 U.S. cents, said Stefan Oberg, general manager for Skype Telecoms.
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Skype calls are dialed over a high-speed Internet connection using either a personal computer, a cordless handset configured to communicate directly over a broadband modem or certain cell phones with Wi-Fi capability. Each user can call other Skype users for free.
The new options were being launched a month after Skype, a subsidiary of eBay Inc. (EBAY), introduced a North American service offering unlimited calls within the United States and Canada with no connection or per-minute fees for about $30 per year — or less than half as much as Skype Pro appears likely to cost.
The company took a different approach in North America largely due to technical issues that prevented storage of credit card information for monthly recurring charges, Oberg said. The Skype Pro approach is preferable, he said, because consumers are more familiar with paying monthly fees for telephone service and connection charges are common in many nations.
The Skype Pro plans also will include free voice mail, a service for which Skype charges 15 euros ($19.40) per year. Subscribers also will be offered an as-yet-undetermined discount on a "SkypeIn" number that can be given out to receive calls from regular and wireless phones. That service currently costs 30 euros ($38.80) per year.
In tandem with the launch, Skype said it is also reducing its per-minute international rates up to 65 percent, to 1.7 euro cents (2.2 U.S. cents), for calls to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, and Malaysia, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii in the United States.
The countries where Skype Pro is being offered are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. It will also be offered in Hong Kong.