Free Group Video Calls Now On Skype
April 29, 2014

Skype Makes Group Video Calls Free

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Microsoft's Skype just moved group video calling from a premium service to free of charge for certain platforms and is now available on Windows desktop, Mac and Xbox One.

Video calls with multiple people are akin to video conference calls. The service is useful for business meetings when all participants can't make a meeting in person. Families, friends and other groups can use group video calling on Skype to discuss plans or catch up. Skype introduced the change on its blog on Monday.

One example of how group video calls can be useful is to coordinate training for an athletic team. Phillip Snalune, GM of Consumer Marketing at Microsoft's Skype division in the UK, illustrated the example in the blog post. "When not in the office at Skype, I’m part of a cycling team with a group of four local friends. We’re training for a coast-to-coast charity cycling event but spend our weeks in separate parts of the world on business. As planning for our training days is a challenge, we often rely on Skype group video calls to stay connected. Now that Skype group video calling is available to everyone, free of charge, it makes our group conversations even easier! Group video calling enables so many important shared experiences, like my cycling team’s regular training check-ins and catch-ups," wrote Snalune.

While Windows desktop, Mac and Xbox One platforms will be able to host group video calls with no charge, the service is not available free for other platforms such as Android or iOS. The blog post says that Microsoft plans to increase the service to more platforms going forward. Windows RT is one of the platforms that will not get free group video calling at this time, SlashGear reports.

While Skype-to-Skype video calls have been available for free for some time, as well as audio conference calls with multiple participants, video calls involving more than two participants has only been available for premium members of Skype who pay for a subscription. Premium rates for video calling and other features typically cost users $8.99 per month on Windows and Mac desktop and laptop accounts, as well as the Xbox One, Computer World reports.

Group video calls can have up to 10 people, Computer World reports. However five participants is the recommended number for Microsoft, to get the best audio and video quality on the call.

"The calls are subject to a fair usage limit of 100 hours per month with no more than 10 hours per day and a limit of four hours per individual video call, according to Microsoft. Once these limits have been reached, the video will switch off and the call will convert to an audio call, it said," wrote Computer World's Mikael Ricknäs.

Now that Skype offers group video calls as a free service, it can compete with Google Hangouts, TechRadar reports. Google has offered the Hangouts service free, where Google+ users can arrange to meet for a video conference on the platform.

Premium subscribers to Skype will see some relief from their monthly rates. TechRadar reports that those who currently pay extra for group video calling will no longer be charged. Users with a subscription that includes group video calling will see a transition in the subscription to a residual calling element.

"We felt that the time was right," Phillip Snalune, general manager of consumer marketing at Skype, told TechRadar. "We feel there's a healthy use case for group communications and it's something that we wanted to refresh and renew our commitment to. If you think about what else is free on Skype - IM, one-to-one video calling - I think there's an underlying expectation that there's a significant use case for free communications associated with the Skype platform."