Homesick, but can’t afford to call home?
Forget about phone cards, you need !
What Is It?
Skype is a very clever, very simple idea; instead of using telephone lines as a way to communicate, it uses the Internet. The technical term is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
The software was created by Niklas Zennstroem and Janus Friis, founders of KaZaA (a file-sharing application, where the P2P (peer-to-peer) technology was first widely implemented and popularised). The company is headquartered in Luxembourg and is expanding its offices in London and Tallinn.
You don’t need to understand the technical jargon; what Skype means for you the consumer is that you can make free or very cheap and quality voice calls anywhere in the world.
Who Uses It?
Skype has been downloaded more than 100 million times already since its launch in August 2003. There are already 31 million registered users and more than 155,000 new users are joining every day. On average, 2 million people are simultaneously using Skype to connect with friends, family members and colleagues. ‘Skypers’ have now talked for approximately six billion minutes.
Is It Any Good?
The sound quality can be better than the old-fashioned telephone line! With normal telephones you can only hear sounds from 300 Hz to 3 kHz. Skype works across the entire sound spectrum, from the lowest hum to the highest screetch. As Skype puts it, “In other words: ‘F’ and ‘S’ will sound like the two different letters they were meant to, and in the end you will be able to have a much more natural conversation.”
How Do I Get It?
You can download all the available versions of Skype FOR FREE at www.skype.com.
The site is in 20 different languages, it is very user-friendly, and it really is very easy.
Skype works with Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and PDAs using Pocket PC. You can use Skype as follows on:
- PC or Laptop, with headset or microphone, and speakers. Check the Skype website for system requirements.
- Pocket PC, Skype can be downloaded for any Pocket PC supporting Windows Mobile 2003 OS. Check the Skype website for system requirements.
- Cyber phone which looks like a regular phone and is connected to a computer via a USB port. You can buy such a phone on the Skype website.
- Mobile phone which is either already Skype enabled (such as iMate, HP iPAQ or Qtek 9090) or is Skype compatible meaning that it is Wi-Fi enabled (IEEE 802.11b) and supports Windows Mobile 2003 standard. Phones which can support Skype are also called ‘smartphones’ and include:
- Nokia 9500
- Rover PCS1
- Rover PCS2
There are others, and a good mobile phone shop will tell you which phones support Skype. If you are in the market for a mobile phone, we think that you should be thinking more about making sure it works with Skype, than if it’s fashionable.
What this means is that you can use your mobile phone even without a cellular network, as long as you are in a WiFi Hot Spot. You can sit in a cafe or restaurant, have coffee or business lunch, and call everybody you know!
Yandex has the biggest network of WiFi Hot Spots in Moscow, and you can easily identify the participating places by the advertising stickers that they have on the door.
Is It Secure?
Yes, calls are highly secure with end-to-end encryption. You don’t even need to configure your firewall or router or any other networking stuff.
What Does It Cost?
Calls from computer to computer or to Pocket PC’s are FREE. Skype also has a s ubscription service called SkypeOut which allows Skype users to prepay online at the Skype website and use their computing/mobile device and Internet connection to call landlines and mobile phones anywhere in the world. There are two tariffs:
SkypeOut global rate pricing is 1.7 Euro cents per minute (approx USD$0.02). The following countries are included in this rate:
Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Canada (mobiles), Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico (Mexico City, Monterrey), Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg), Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States (except Alaska and Hawaii), United States (mobiles) and last but not least: the Vatican.
Unless it is specifically mentioned, the SkypeOut Global Rate is only for calling regular landline telephones. Calls to mobile phones are more expensive.
For all other destinations you just need to go to the Skype website and there is a rate list.
But no matter where you want to call, Skype is cheaper than any phone card!
Motorola and Skype are working together to offer ‘Skype Ready’ Motorola products in the first half of 2005. The initial focus of the collaboration will be on the co-marketing of optimised Motorola products such as Bluetooth® headsets, dongles, and speakerphones, as well as select Motorola mobile phones.
At the moment you have to decide if you are going to make a call either using Skype or cellular (which means knowing if you are in a WiFi Hot Spot or not), but a number of companies are planning to offer a phone which will automatically switch between the two.