Skype Announces Unlimited Long-Distance Calls to 34 Countries

A big announcement today by VoIP services provider Skype. The eBay-owned company unveiled unlimited calling to 34 countries including Australia, China, Germany, Japan, and the UK, essentially covering a third of the world’s population. Skype’s version of “unlimited” is 5 hours a day every month, which for most people is effectively unlimited.

Skype is one of eBay’s biggest divisions and caused the online auction company to take a $1.4 billion writedown last year when it purchased Skype for $4.3 billion. The issue was an inability to monetize largely free Internet calling. However, with 309 million users, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. Mark Evans has more to say:

“Consider Skype’s first-quarter results: another 33 million users came on board…year-over-year revenue climbed 61% to $126 million and Skype-to-Skype minutes rose 30% to 14.2 billion. So, what you’ve got is a high-growth business that will likely have sales of $500-million in 2008.”

With those growth prospects and owner eBay looking to recoup some of last year’s losses, there’s growing speculation that a Skype spin-off or telecom acquisition could be in the works. From iLocus:

“In the meantime, which direction should Skype pursue and what should be the eBay criteria in deciding the future of this business unit? I think the criterion should be future growth of Skype itself…So I think the first choice should be to spin off Skype as an independent company rather than selling the asset at a substantial loss to some other company. If, however, selling Skype to another company is the only choice, I think a telco acquisition could make sense for Skype…Through Skype acquisition, not only does a telco get the most popular telephony interface on the Internet, it also inherits a large pool of developer partners that a telco could only dream of.”

We’ll keep a close eye on Skype and its tremendous growth. This could be the year that it all pays off.

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