Google has announced the expansion of its audio and video calling services, in its first step towards taking on market leader, Skype, in the international arena.
The impending showdown will have traditional telecommunications providers worried, as the competition is sure to drive the uptake of VoIP calling as the giants try to outdo each other on rates and service quality.
In a post on the Google blog earlier this week, the company announced it was expanding its Gmail-based calling programme outside the US, allowing users to purchase credit in four currencies (Euro, British Pound, US dollar, Canadian dollar) and offering access in 38 different languages.
Although Google hasn’t confirmed which countries will receive the upgraded service, it has reportedly begun rolling out in New Zealand, and should be accessible to all Google users within the next few days.
Initial call quality reviews range from flawless (for a call to a landline) to very poor (for a call to a mobile).
The bigger news is what the expansion means for traditional telecommunications companies. Having two giants compete for customers is sure to force prices down, making internet-based calling more and more appealing compared with the traditional telephone.
Audio calling can be augmented with video, and the services can be bundled with other offerings like email and social networking. Furthermore, the services can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Have you tried Google Voice? Post your first impressions below.