Skype Expands Service with Paid Voicemail Option

Skype, which offers computer-to-computer Voice over IP (VoIP) service, yesterday added voicemail to its repertoire.

Skype Voicemail service costs US$19 a year or $7 for three months, pre-paid, and allows subscribers to leave unlimited messages for all Skype users and receive messages from any caller. Customers can also send pre-recorded voice messages.

“This is the next step toward generating revenue and evolving toward more complete voice service,” Kate Griffin, program manager for Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “They are adding features that are starting to bring it more toward a local phone replacement and becoming more useful to the user.”

Doesn’t Replace Phone

Griffin emphasized that Skype is more of an add-on to traditional phone service.

“Skype is a different type of VoIP service,” she said. “It doesn’t try to be local phone replacement. It is a PC-to-PC service.”

Last year, the company launched SkypeOut, a paid service that allows users to call anyone, not just other Skype users. About 42 million people worldwide use the free service. SkypeOut has 1.5 million paid users, according to the company.

About 1.1 million households in the United States now use VoIP calling instead of traditional wireline phone service. Vonage and Comcast are the biggest providers, and they are positioning themselves differently. Vonage plays up the differences in its service and offers lower prices, while Comcast bills itself as a seamless replacement to wireline service and does not offer as large a price differential.

New Industry

Griffin said Yankee Group predicts growth in the market, but that the industry is still in the awareness and education phase. VoIP services were first offered in 2003.

“The determination of quality for all these services is the broadband connection. It’s a very personal decision. Every consumer needs to make it for themselves,” she said. “The biggest draw is the potential for price savings.”

Skype also released Skype for Windows Version 1.3, which adds tools for importing new contacts to contact lists from desktop applications including MSN. It can now also automatically grab exact matches from Microsoft Outlook. Skype has also streamlined user interfaces, added emoticons for instant messages and improved notices about upgrades and premium services.

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