Roaming Free

Skype keeps expensive international phone bills at bay for business travellers.

They live in different time zones every other day of the week yet they have to go about their business and be accessible to colleagues, clients, family and friends round the clock. But as any business traveller will testify, travelling abroad and being connected all the time can be at odds, with network operators charging exorbitant rates for international roaming and of course, there might not be cell phone coverage in the “exotic” hotel the convention decided to hole you up in. This is where logging on to Skype can help touch base with its inexpensive options to make and receive calls.

Initially, Skype was just an Internet Messaging service. However, with the advent of software like GoToMeeting and GTalk, Skype began tweaking its applications and now provides free Skype to Skype calls, calls from Skype to Phones (SkypeOut), Phones to Skype (SkypeIn) and video conferencing. Skype has also created custom apps for smartphones that allow people to use any available Wi-fi connection to make either a SkypeOut or Skype to Skype call. Says Terrence Joshua, a business systems analyst at Tesco, “I travel a lot on business to the United Kingdom, and my phone bills shoot through the roof. Skype is a far more cost effective option for businessmen who need to be connected at all times, even when they’re travelling.”

Light On The Pocket

Keeping with its thrust towards a corporate clientele, Skype has introduced Skype to Go tool, which allows users to call from and to any mobile phone or landline number even if there is no internet connection or 3G coverage. This is done by assigning a Skype to Go number to the number that has to be contacted. After that, the user has to just dial the actual number to make the call. The calls are treated as local calls, and billed as per Skype’s rates, which are significantly lower than those offered by cellular network operators. This can be reversed as well – Skype To Go lets users assign a number abroad to a number in their home country and call the former – again on local call rates.

While Skype to Go is not available in India, business travelers can use it while abroad.

The ‘Pay As You Go’ option lets users make regular calls to phone and add features such as SMS and Call Forwarding at fixed rates per minutes, starting from 2.2¢ per minute. For instance, calls within India are 10.6¢ and calls to the US start at 2.6¢ per minute. The money can be put in using Skype Credit, which is increasingly being used by companies to allocate credit to their employees’ Skype account and top up their accounts when they run low. In India, Skype Credit can be bought using Paypal, Diners, Mastercard and Visa cards, moneybookers.com, and PayByCash.

Frequent business travellers can also subscribe packages such as Unlimited World, which allows unlimited calls to landlines in 40 countries for US $16.54 per month, and Unlimited World Extra, which offers calls to 41 countries plus US $16.20 of Skype Credit every month for US $21.5980 per month.

WiFi Access

Rather than ancient monuments, business travellers are attracted to public WiFi hotspots for instant and cost effective Internet access. They can log in to Skype Access, which offers pay-per-minute Skype service, which can be availed using Skype Credit.

Sharing Information

Business travellers often face a major problem – discussing figures, statistics, and plans with limited or no access to what the other person is viewing currently. Skype’s screensharing feature allows the user to view the other person’s screen (after taking the user’s permission) during individual and conference calls. Sunil Anand, a marketing consultant and a frequent traveller, says that this service has been very helpful. He opines, “Skype allows me to share my strategies with clients overseas, without the hassle of multiple emails flying back and forth. There is nearly no room for error or communication gaps.” Also, those who have installed the most recent version of Skype can opt for Group Video Calling with three or more people with Skype Premium at US $9.93.

The GPRS disadvantage

Despite a whole lot of utilities, the one area where Skype doesn’t score is accessing it via 3G on GPRS. The reason is that Skype requires steady bandwidth to function constantly. This sort of bandwidth isn’t possible on GPRS as of now. However, forums across the Internet claim that the minds at the Skype headquarters in Luxembourg are currently at work, thinking of a way to overcome this.

Serious Business

Skype was once perceived as a social networking device for youngsters. But after the introduction of its corporate-friendly features, it’s quite clear Skype means business. Chandan Kumar Jha, the founder of Gateforum, a preparatory firm that aims at providing classroom and online coaching classes, agrees. “Skype is an efficient way to stay connected at little or no cost. It’s quick, easy to use and has a wide reach. The corporate world is realising its benefits, and it’s poised to become a fixture in most organisations.” With Skype having 663 million registered users as of late 2010, his prediction will definitely come true.

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