Milestone in the telecomms revolution
May 15, 2006 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Skype now provides free calls to all landlines and cellphones in the US and Canada. A milestone in the telecommunications revolution.
posted by bobbyelliott (51 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
NSA will be monitoring those calls BTW.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2006


This would be really cool if I ever used the phone.
posted by ryoshu at 11:30 AM on May 15, 2006


Is this one of those things which requires electricity to operate? The bitrate is agonizingly slow, but I've been getting most of my DSL service by way of waxed string attached to soupcans. Potatoes and pickles have saved me the trouble of investing in laptop batteries.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2006


So if you have a SmartPhone and an EVDO connection you can make free cellphone calls from anywhere with their PocketPC software. Yeah, phone companies are going to love that.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:35 AM on May 15, 2006


...if by 'milestone' you mean 'feature that was provided by several companies back in 1999', then yes, I agree.
posted by Jairus at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2006


Aha! It's a limited offer, as the service runs until the end of 2006. See bobbyelliot's links for more.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:40 AM on May 15, 2006


AFAIK, the wholesale rate for long distance voice minutes in the US hasn't dropped in the last few weeks, so this is just a loss-leading promotion.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2006


NSA will be monitoring those calls BTW.
If these calls are being made over Skype the conversations are being encrypted by 256-bit long Skype encryption keys are a length that at least in theory, would take a literal eternity to crack. The National Security Agency may not be able to intercept them. (source)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:52 AM on May 15, 2006


The milestone is that someone has figured a way to shift all the capital costs of running a phone network onto the users and off of the operators.
posted by GuyZero at 11:52 AM on May 15, 2006


The National Security Agency may not be able to intercept them.

Because the person receiving the calls will get nothing but the static noise of strongly-encrypted bits being played over their telephone handset.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2006


Except for the fact that a regular telephone company will be at the receiving end. Whoops! That's where there going to at least track what's going on as to who called whom.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2006


If these calls are being made over Skype the conversations are being encrypted by 256-bit long Skype encryption keys are a length that at least in theory, would take a literal eternity to crack. The National Security Agency may not be able to intercept them.

It's irrelevant what kind of encryption they have while they're part of the Skype network. They have to interface with the phone network at some point, at which they can get shuffled off to the NSA along with everything else.
posted by Jairus at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2006


DAMN YOU GUYS
posted by Jairus at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


The milestone is that someone has figured a way to shift all the capital costs of running a phone network onto the users and off of the operators.

Can someone explain who is paying for the network infrastructure? (Or point me to somewhere that can.)
posted by biffa at 12:02 PM on May 15, 2006


I can see where this would rock for some people, but I get unlimited LD from my telco (ATT/SBC) for $15/month. Why should I use Skype when I can just pick up my phone and dial?
posted by mrbill at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2006


Can someone explain who is paying for the network infrastructure?

I was being facetious... The idea that a $1000 computer and a $40/month DSL line gives you "free calls" is a bit silly. I already get 1000 minutes of Canada/US long distance calls for $5/month with my normal phone.

Skype builds a bunch of hype, while users bring the intelligence (PCs) and the old-fashioned telcos bring the network infrastructure (for which end-users pay more than the cost of basic phone service). Skype rides the same network infrastructure as every other IP-based service on the planet.

Not having to pay Skype any money hardly makes their service free.
posted by GuyZero at 12:14 PM on May 15, 2006


GuyZero, who gives you 1000 minutes for $5, and are you absolutely sure there are no bundled services or extra fees?
posted by Chuckles at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2006


biffa ....
Best to come from the horses mouth rather than my opining ...
The business model of Skype is completely different. Skype has a software business model. We don't have any distribution or marketing costs for each user -- our software is spread virally. And when we have a new user, we have zero cost for serving that user because they're using P2P software and their own bandwidth. So we have zero costs of getting new users and zero costs of running traffic. Our costs are only business development and software development.

So in other words ... YOU are paying for the infrastructure, at least on Skype's network. What's not clear is who's paying the connection costs to connect to the telephone network. Here's my educated guess as to what's going on with that (I work in Telecommunications and VoIP systems, but I have no connection to Skype). I'm guessing they are doing this for two reasons. One, as b1tr0t mentioned above, marketing. The second one may be to gain subscribers. If Skype can gain a sufficient following, they can turn the connection costs onto the carriers. In other words, if more people call Skype than call the telephone network, then Skype has more value than the telephone network. It's kinda like the telecom's version of WMDs. Once you have sufficient mass, you become a "player". But, just like WMDs, you can expect the incumbents to come out heavy and hard.
posted by forforf at 12:26 PM on May 15, 2006


Lovely. Works good too. Anything that flips Verizon the bird is righteous in my book...and this looks like it might be more like a solid right jab. Sweet.
posted by Skygazer at 12:34 PM on May 15, 2006


guyzero: The idea that a $1000 computer and a $40/month DSL line gives you "free calls" is a bit silly. I already get 1000 minutes of Canada/US long distance calls for $5/month with my normal phone.

But then you're not buying a $1000 computer and a $40/month DSL solely to use for phone calls. You have them already (granted, at the margin the extra bandwidth use may incur a cost but that's not really relevant). The incremental costs of Skype to you are zero.
posted by patricio at 12:35 PM on May 15, 2006


So we have zero costs of getting new users and zero costs of running traffic. Our costs are only business development and software development.

Obviously this is true for PC to PC talk, but it must cost them something to maintain (and use) internet to telephone connections. Claiming that it is solely software is highly misleading..
posted by Chuckles at 12:42 PM on May 15, 2006


Netgear is all prepped to start shipping their standalone WiFi Skype phone on June 30th. Amazon.com is accepting pre-orders now, with the phone going for a fairly steep $250, but at least it's marked down $50 from the $300 list price.
posted by airguitar at 1:00 PM on May 15, 2006


As somebody who lives in Seattle and spends every morning on the phone with London, I must say that Skype rocks the house.
posted by donovan at 1:20 PM on May 15, 2006


who gives you 1000 minutes for $5, and are you absolutely sure there are no bundled services or extra fees?

Bell. And yes, you have to have multiple bell services to get this deal but there are no extra fees (other than having landline & mobile from the same company). But regardless, if you're just looking for domestic long distance plans, there are plenty of options that are cheaper than paying $40 for DSL.

but it must cost them something to maintain (and use) internet to telephone connections

Same as every other VOIP provider out there. I do not know how it's done, but there are enough companies doing it that it isn't something proprietary to Skype. Normally they offset this cost by charging for SkypeOut. As others have mentioned, it's a marketing cost. Skype's service could be considered "freemium"

The incremental costs of Skype to you are zero.

For the appropriate definition of "incremental". Yes, if you have already have a PC & DSL, but if you lack either of those two things, you're at a totally different point on the curve. I may simply be bitter because while I have DSL, my computer is only barely powerful enough to run Skype (a P3 500!).

Once you have sufficient mass, you become a "player".

The Network Effect. Don't hate the player - hate the game.

Anyway, it's no more a milestone than getting a free hat at a baseball game. Skype's free PC-to-PC calling is the real threat. SkypeOut is just a bridge until they have enough mass to cut traditional phone companies altogether. Then the real bloodletting will begin.
posted by GuyZero at 1:25 PM on May 15, 2006



...if by 'milestone' you mean 'feature that was provided by several companies back in 1999'


Yup, sure miss those good old days before the high tech bust of 2000.
posted by MD06 at 1:39 PM on May 15, 2006


Didn't Arthur C. Clarke (facetiously?) "predict" in 2061 that all telephone calls would be local on New Years day 2001?
posted by porpoise at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2006


This is great for me, as I've already cut SBC out of the loop and gone to Vonage. I can probably go Skype only and drop Vonage out of the loop (if my wife lets me), saving $15 per month.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:09 PM on May 15, 2006


So what do I use the rest of my SkypeOut money on?
posted by bjork24 at 2:14 PM on May 15, 2006


Wait, wait...you can get free hats at baseball games?
posted by 235w103 at 2:15 PM on May 15, 2006


Yah if anyone can figure out what I'm supposed to do now that I just paid the fifteen euros for Skype out and I never call outside the US please let me know!
posted by daHIFI at 2:45 PM on May 15, 2006


Does anyone else giggle like a school girl at the idea of running voip on a cell phone? It's so absurd it has to be good.
posted by ryoshu at 2:45 PM on May 15, 2006


Yah if anyone can figure out what I'm supposed to do now that I just paid the fifteen euros for Skype out and I never call outside the US please let me know!

Maybe you can sell your account on e-bay and make a new one.
posted by Packy_1962 at 2:59 PM on May 15, 2006


So a company based in Europe (where calls are decidedly not free) gives free phonecalls to the US and Canada, where many companies already provide free calls.

Great, guys. Thanks. I'm uninstalling Skype and going to Vonage.
posted by Hogshead at 3:26 PM on May 15, 2006


As long as this service remains free, it will save me money. I've only kept my second land line because I don't like bringing out my cellphone to make calls at a desk. Now I can dump it and still have the convenience of a speakerphone on my desk. That's $15 per month off my bill.
posted by QuietDesperation at 4:09 PM on May 15, 2006


Now all I need is a stupid looking headset.
posted by I Foody at 5:09 PM on May 15, 2006


Yah if anyone can figure out what I'm supposed to do now that I just paid the fifteen euros for Skype out and I never call outside the US please let me know!

You should just have Skype credit that you can apply towards a SkypeIn number, or something. Read the website before asking dumb questions.
posted by cellphone at 5:10 PM on May 15, 2006


So let me get this straight: any Skype user from anywhere in the world can call US and Canada numbers for free?

COOL. I have plenty of relatives there and Skype's going to be great for this!
posted by divabat at 5:10 PM on May 15, 2006


Cool, but kinda useless for my purposes. I have a cellphone. I have no landline. I don't even want a landline. To me, a phone service that I can only use when I'm next to a computer more or less amounts to a landline. Even Netgear's WiFi cellphone won't make this useful to me. So I need to be near a WiFi hotspot? Great. So that means I either need to be at my home or office (no better then a landline), some coffeeshop or something (no privacy), or waste my time hunting around the neighborhood for unencrypted WiFi networks (no thanks).

However, if you have a use for this, more power to ya.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:24 PM on May 15, 2006


So let me get this straight: any Skype user from anywhere in the world can call US and Canada numbers for free?

From the link: "If you’re in the US or Canada and calling any other country, OR if you’re in any other country and calling landline or mobile numbers in the US or Canada, the standard SkypeOut rates apply."
posted by breath at 6:05 PM on May 15, 2006


Anyway, it's no more a milestone than getting a free hat at a baseball game. Skype's free PC-to-PC calling is the real threat. SkypeOut is just a bridge until they have enough mass to cut traditional phone companies altogether. Then the real bloodletting will begin.

Bingo.

The business I work for uses Skype all the time for PC to PC calls. We're a small company in three different countries, so it's a handy little service for us. (Except for the stupid looking headphones.)

Mostly, this is for the reasons listed above. We already HAVE computers and broadband for the other aspects of the business. Why should we pay for off peak calls to HQ in Australia, too?

Also, am I doing something wrong, or is this not working on the Mac yet?
posted by generichuman at 6:26 PM on May 15, 2006


Ok am i the only one who can't get it to work? I downloaded the new version, logged in, and it says i need to buy credits to make outgoing calls.

So i go to page and it says i need to buy a skypeout number

doesn't feel free to me!
posted by spacediver at 7:31 PM on May 15, 2006


"If you’re in the US or Canada and calling any other country, OR if you’re in any other country and calling landline or mobile numbers in the US or Canada, the standard SkypeOut rates apply."

Oh, bummer.
posted by divabat at 8:34 PM on May 15, 2006


So i go to page and it says i need to buy a skypeout number

SkypeIn number, or SkypeOut? One or the other.
posted by oaf at 8:56 PM on May 15, 2006


I dunno it's all confusing - the way it's phrased it makes it seem like skypeout is a separate piece of software.

Can someone tell me what exactly I need to do to make phone calls?

I don't need a credit card do I?
posted by spacediver at 9:34 PM on May 15, 2006


Dunno. Upgraded to the newest build, clicked the buy link, didn't buy anything then dialed away. Test call to my home phone worked a treat.
posted by Samizdata at 12:46 AM on May 16, 2006


Although talking to myself was weird, mind you...
posted by Samizdata at 12:46 AM on May 16, 2006


Can someone tell me what exactly I need to do to make phone calls?

You need to do nothing - except ignore the warning messages and remember to put the country code (+1) in front of the number you're calling. It works.
posted by bobbyelliott at 12:50 AM on May 16, 2006


I have been using Voipstunt which offers free landline calls to the US, UK and about 40 other countries. They are closely related to Voipbuster , who used to have the same offer. The quality is not as good as Skype, can't find any encryption and it took me a couple of days to sign up to their beta, but recommended if you phone international landlines
posted by bluefin at 4:13 AM on May 16, 2006


Hmmm looks like I can't post links again.... which I could work that one out
posted by bluefin at 4:14 AM on May 16, 2006


You need to do nothing - except ignore the warning messages and remember to put the country code (+1) in front of the number you're calling. It works.?

Not for me - i've tried calling my own cellphone (i'm in canada) and it says you need skype credit to call standard telephone numbers (this message is separate from the popup warnings which you can close). I left it for 5 minutes but my cellphone didn't ring.

Perhaps it's the way i'm doing it? There are three tabs:

contacts...dial...history

i clicked on dial to get to the dialing interface - should i do it through some other method perhaps?

Do i perhaps need to re-register with a different name (as my old name was registered before this new deal)
posted by spacediver at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2006


I'm outside of the States for at least the next month. Is there a way to do this through a North-American proxy server or is that not feasible?
posted by nobody at 12:10 PM on May 18, 2006


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