Skype intros new mobile calling plans to 170 countries

Skype quadruples the number of countries you can call when phoning a landline or mobile phone, and introduces cut-rate plans to do so.

Skype's VoIP calling service has been synonymous with free computer-to-computer calls for so long, it's easy to overlook the company's calling plans to landlines and mobile phones.

Those who do buy Skype Credit and use Skype plans to call phones rather than computers know that making calls to a mobile phone can easily cost 25 cents per minute. That's a steep fee compared to rates as low as 2 or 3 cents per minute to call a landline, depending on the country in question.

On Wednesday, Skype introduced what we consider a light version of its monthly unlimited subscription plans. The new plans will cost less than the current unlimited offerings, and will still ring both landlines and mobile phones for a flat fee. For subscribers, the new plans--which represent smaller chunks of calling minutes per month--could offer a better value on volume calls to mobile phones than the usual pay-as-you-go prices for those who don't need to talk for hours each month.

In addition, Skype is now offering its subscriptions for 170 countries rather than for 40; more than quadrupling the amount of lines a caller can reach.

The subscription details themselves get a little hairier at this stage. Skype is offering 60-, 120-, and 400-minute-per-month packages for 1-, 3-, and 12-month durations. Prices start at $1.09 per month for some countries. You can learn more about Skype's new subscription rates here. Skype's new plans are cross-platform and will work anywhere you use Skype.

Lest the traditional PC-to-PC users feel left out, Skype is also gearing up to release a new beta of its Windows software. Skype's vice president and general manager of global consumer products, Neil Stevens, told CNET in a briefing that next week's Skype beta will feature video conference calls for up to five callers. Right now video calling works between two people. We plan to test group video calling out for ourselves when the beta emerges on May 12 or May 13.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.