It may currently be limited to North America, but Skype’s decision to offer its SkypeOut service free to US and Canadian residents within their own countries has sent shockwaves through the global telecoms market. Here’s the skinny…
If you live in the US or Canada you may call any standard landline or mobile number located within either country without charge. There are no caveats, no minimum Skype Credit must be purchased and Windows, Mac, Linux and Pocket PC versions of the software all qualify. Furthermore, the offer works in conjunction with all call forwarding so, to quote Skype:
If you have call forwarded to your US or Canadian phone or cell number and someone calls you from the US or Canada, it gets forwarded to your phone or cell and it costs you nothing.
Skype has guaranteed that the offer will run until at least the end of 2006, but admitted it is as yet undecided what to do beyond this time. By contrast, if you live outside North America normal SkypeOut charges remain, including any calls you may make through Skype to US or Canadian landlines and mobiles.
Now while Europeans (or half in/half out Europeans if you’re English, like us), South Americans, Asians, Indians, Africans, Antipodeans and so on and so forth don’t qualify for the free calls we must all sit up and take note of the precedent. Skype has just landed the mother of all uppercuts to the US telcos and where one VoIP company goes others are bound to follow.
Currently the company claims it has no plans to extend the free service to elsewhere in the world and the likes of BT, Vodafone, O2, Orange, TIM and more must be thanking their lucky stars for this. A change is clearly coming, however, and if I were you I’d start ditching any shares I had in telcos. They’re beginning to look like the next post office…